Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday is for Fontes: The "anointed one" in 11Q13

I was intrigued in reading through the Qumran Melchizedek scroll with the joining of Isa. 52.7, Dan. 9.25, and Isa. 61.2-3 is such a short space. 

"This is the day of [peace/salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said, [How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: Your ELOHIM [reigns] (Isa. 52.7). Its interpretation; the mountains are the prophets ... and the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit, concerning whom Dan[iel] said, [Until an anointed one, a prince (Dan. 9.25)] ... [And he who brings] good [news], who proclaims [salvation]: it is concerning him that it is written ... [To comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion] (Isa. 61.2-3)."  
- 11Q13 17-20 (Vermes).

By linking together Isa. 52.7 and Isa. 61.2-3 with Dan. 9.25, was the author putting a "messianic" spin on the Isaianic texts? Of course, exactly who the anointed prince(s) of Dan. 9.24-27 are is far from clear, but Fitzmyer regards Dan. 9.24-27 as the only real messianic text in the entire OT! If one says, "yes", then I wonder if Isa. 61.1 could also have a messianic meaning in 4Q521 2.11-12 which could be more likely given the context of 2.1: "heaven and earth will listed to his Messiah".
The IBR Jesus group has nearly concluded it's ten years of study on aspects of the historical Jesus' life. The results should be published in 2009 and is edited by Bob Webb. The contributions include:

  • Baptism by John (Robert Webb)
  • Gathering of the Twelve (Scot McKnight)
  • Exorcisms and the Kingdom (Craig Evans)
  • Sabbath Controversies (Donald Hagner)
  • Table Fellowship with Sinners (Craig Blomberg)
  • Confession by Peter (Michael Wilkins)
  • Triumphal Entry (Brent Kinman)
  • Temple Incident (Klyne Snodgrass)
  • Last Supper (Howard Marshall)
  • Jewish Examination (Darrell Bock)
  • Roman Examination and Crucifixion (Robert Webb)
  • Empty Tomb and Appearances (Grant Osborne)
  • Friday, May 30, 2008

    Latest Tyndale House News Letter

    The latest Tyndale House News Letter is available (here) which has some interesting details about events and people at TH including Peter Head making his film debut (move over Indiana Jones!).

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Masters in Reformed Theology

    About time for some institutional promo. HTC runs a Masters in Reformed Theology which can be done full-time in one year or part-time over two years. The modules are run by week long intensives about six times per year. Modules include:

    Method in Theology & Dissertation Colloquium
    Dr Jamie Grant; Dr Michael Bird.

    Scottish Covenant Theology
    Professor A.T.B. McGowan

    History of Reformed Theology
    Dr Gerald Bray

    Reformed Theology & Pastoral Ministry
    Professor A.T.B. McGowan

    Calvin & Calvinism
    Professor Paul Helm

    Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation
    Dr Nick Needham

    Romans in the Reformed Tradition
    Dr Michael Bird

    It also includes 20, 000 word dissertation.

    You can learn more about the course here. It is possible to take single modules out of interest if you have an undergraduate theology degree with honours already. Students from outside the UK are welcomed to apply! The next cohort of students start 1st of September 2008 so be sure to apply before then.

    Forthcoming Lectures in the North of Scotland

    The following lectures are happening and will be good to attend in Inverness/Dingwall:

    1. Rev. Prof. Andrew McGowan, Inaugural Professorial Lecture

    "Is there a place for theology in a modern university?"
    Tuesday, 10th of June, 7.30 p.m.
    Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

    2. Rev. Dr. Gerald Bray, Annual John Murray Lecture

    "The challenges and promises of biblical interpretation today".
    Wednesday, 4th of June, 7.30 p.m.
    Castle Street Church of Scotland Church, Dingwall

    Be there or be elsewhere!

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    New Commentary Series on the New Testament

    The contributors for a new commentary series have been finalized. It is called, The New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS).

    Craig Keener (Palmer Seminary)
    Michael Bird (Highland Theological College).

    Publisher: Wipf & Stock, USA
    Publication Dates: 2009-2014.


    The New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS) is designed for ministers and students who require a commentary that interacts with the text and context of each New Testament book and pays specific attention to the impact of the text upon the faith and praxis of contemporary faith communities.

    The NCCS has a number of distinguishing features. First, the contributors come from a diverse range of backgrounds in regards to their Christian denominations and ethnic background. Unlike many commentary series that tout themselves as being international, the NCCS can truly boast of a genuinely international cast of contributors with authors drawn from every continent of the world (except Antarctica) including North America, Puerto Rico, Australia, the United Kingdom, Kenya, India, Singapore, and Korea. We intend the NCCS to engage in the task of biblical interpretation and theological reflection from the perspective of the global church. Second, the volumes in this series are not verse-by-verse commentaries, but they focus on larger units of text in order to explicate and interpret the story in the text as opposed to rigorous analytical approaches. Third, a further aim of these volumes is to provide an occasion for authors to reflect on how the New Testament impacts the life, faith, ministry, and witness of the New Covenant Community today. This occurs periodically under the heading of ‘Fusing the Horizons and Forming the Community’. Here authors provide windows into theological interpretation, application, and special emphasis given to spiritual, ministerial, and community formation. It is our hope that these volumes will represent serious engagements with the New Testament writings, done in the context of faith, in service of the church, and for the glorification of God.


    Joel Willitts (North Park University, Chicago)

    Kim Huat Tan (Trinity Theological College, Singapore)

    Jeannine Brown (Bethel Seminary, St. Paul)

    Jey Kanagaraj (Hindustan Bible Institute & College, India)

    Youngmo Cho (Asia Life University, South Korea)

    Craig Keener (Palmer Seminary, Philadelphia)

    1 Corinthians
    Bruce Winter (Queensland Theological College, Australia)

    2 Corinthians
    David deSilva (Ashland Theological Seminary, Ohio)

    Brian Vickers (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville)

    Lynn Cohick (Wheaton College, Wheaton).

    Linda Belleville (Bethel College, Indiana)

    Colossians, Philemon
    Michael Bird (Highland Theological College, Scotland)

    1-2 Thessalonians
    David Garland (George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Texas)

    Pastoral Epistles
    Aida Besancon-Spencer (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Masschussets)

    Tom Thatcher (Cincinnati Christian University, Ohio)

    Pablo Jimenez (Pastor, Puerto Rico)

    1 Peter
    Eric Greaux (Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina)

    2 Peter, Jude
    Andrew Mbuvi (Shaw University Divinity School, North Carolina)

    1-3 John
    Sam Ngewa (Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, Kenya)

    Gordon Fee (Regent College, Canada)

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Pseudo-Clementine Literature

    I have just read two introductions to the literature of Pseudo-Clementines by Graham Stanton in Jewish Believers in Jesus (pp. 305-24) and by F. Stanley Jones in Jewish Christianity Reconsidered (pp. 285-304). After reading both essays, one comes away with two very different perspectives on the subject and it is on this problem I wish to reflect. The two essays share little in terminology and approach.
    Stanton's essay is cautious and comprehensive dealing with issues of the history of research, an overview of the Pseudo-Clementine literature, its tradition history and a brief survey of its contents. Stanton uses the fimilar terminological designation Grundschrift, which designates the hypothetical source behind the documents of the Homilies and Recognitions. He is less than sanguine about whether it is possible to describe the complier of the Grundschrift as a "Jewish Christian" and believes there is only one clearly coherent Jewish Christian source in the Pseudo-Clementine writings discernable in the section Recognitions 1:27-71, which he labels "an Apologia for Jewish believers in Jesus" which he dates from the mid-second century.
    F. Stanley Jones in contrast discusses what he labels The Circuits of Peter which he believes was composed around 200 C.E. near Syrian Antioch. In the first footnote he states that this text is what others call the Grundschrift, but rather than see this as a complied and heterogenous set of materials, he believes this source was the "first truly Christian novel". It should be pointed out too that Jones, as Stanton, dispenses with the so-called Kerygmata Petrou source hypothesis in his suggestion of the Christian novel The Circuits of Peter. In his essay does not provide an overview of the constitute elements of the Pseudo-Clementine writings in the way Stanton did, but he does assert that The Circuits of Peter was absorbed into the Homilies and Recognition texts which comprise the Pseudo-Clementine wrtings. Furthermore, he believes that The Circuits of Peter can be found in the places where the Homilies and Recognitions share ideas and phrases--much like the synoptic scholars hypothesize Q. Furthermore, he argues for two discernable sources that this hyopthetical source Circuits of Peter depends on: the Book of Elchasai and an "Anti-Pauline Counter-Acts of the Apostles". The former source is known to us through Epiphanius, Panarion 19:1:6 and is discernable in the Contestation (Contestatio) document of Pseudo-Clementines and the latter source is what Stanton referred to as an "Apologia for Jewish believers in Jesus" found in the Recognitions 1:27-71.
    The two essays then present a problem for someone who is trying to understand the literature of Pseudo-Clementines. However, to my mind Stanton provides the better introduction providing a cautious approach both to the literature itself and to the conclusions about early Jewish Christianity that can be drawn from it. Stanton opines the "breathtaking confidence" scholars have in their reconstructions of the sources for the writings as well as pointing to the difficulty of drawing conclusions from the literature about Jewish Christianity since the Homilies and Recognitions in their final form reflect little of the concerns of Jewish Christianity. What's more, he points to the bankruptcy of the hypothetical Grundschrift, Kerygmata Petrou, and avers the use of the documents the Letter of Peter to James and the Contestatio in conjuction with it to reconstruct the Jewish Christian and anti-Pauline source for Pseudo-Clementine.
    Update: Pseudo-Clementine is not a fake citrus fruit!

    The Eschatological Hope of a Twelve-Tribe Kingdom in James and Matthew

    In an essay titled "The Religious Context of the Letter of James" in Jewish Christianity Reconsidered, Patrick J. Hartin discusses the presence of the eschatological hope of a restoration of the Davidic kingdom in the book of James. He states:
    When James addressed his letter to "the twelve tribes," he was doing so against the background of the eschatological hope of the house of Israel. "The twelve tribes" expressed the belief that God was about to fulfill his eschatological promise in sending God's Messiah to establish God's kingdom (p. 207).
    He correctly notes in my opinion the fact that the Abrahamic covenant is incorporated into the Davidic covenant such that "not only does the identity of the people of Israel consist in being God's children from Abraham living in covenant relationship, but this covenant relationship [is] now incorporate[d into] the promise of the perpetual endurance of the Davidic kingdom" (I have revised Hartin's language here). In other words the future fulfillment of the Abrahamic proimses is dependent on the restoration of the Davidic twelve-tribe kingdom.
    Hartin to my delight and surprise, and without an awareness of my work, points to the presence of the same hope in Matthew's Gospel in the phrase "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and links that hope with Psalms of Solomon 17! He asserts: "Matthew's Jesus proclaims the fulfillment of those [Psalm of Solomon] hopes in the reconstitution of the twelve-tribe kingdom" (pp. 209-10).
    A final quote: "Just as Jesus directs his letter to those members of 'the house of Israel', so James addresses his letter to those members of the house of Israel who had been scattered throughout the nations" (p. 210).

    Monday, May 26, 2008

    Judean and Syrian

    I am reading through Stern's GLAJJ and I am intrigued by relationship between Ioudaioi and Syrioi. Consider the following:

    a. "The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine acknowledge of themselves that they learnt the custom [of circumision] from the Egyptians, and the Syrians of the valleys of the Thermodon and the Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macrones, say that they learnt it lately from the Colchians." Herodotus, Hist. 2.104.3.

    b. "And indeed, says, Theophrastus, the Syrians, of whom the Jews constitute a part, also now sacrifice live victims according to their old model of sacrifice". (Theophrastus cited in Porphyry, On Abstinence, 2.26.

    c. "All the opinions expressed by the ancients about nature are found also among the philosophers outside of Greece, some among the Indian Brahmans and others in Syria among those called Jews". Megasthenes cited in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata

    d. "The philosophers, they say, are in India called Calani, in Syria by the territorial name of Jews; for the distrinct which they inhabit is known as Judaea. Their city has a remarkably odd name: they call it Hierusaleme." Clearchus of Soli cited in Josephus, Apion 1.179.

    What does this mean for the debate about connecting Ioudaioi with Judea? Should we connect it also with Syria in some way as well? Or does this link of Syrians with Judeans stem from a European ignorance of the complexity of near eastern ethnic groups?

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Theology in Alexandria

    In reading over the Moore College news letter, I was warmly surprised to read about a new theological college that has been opened up in Alexandria, Egypt. It is called the Alexandria School of Theology and is under the auspices of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. I read this on the website:

    "Our inspiration actually reaches back to the early centuries of Christianity. In the late second century AD, the first Christian school in history was established in Alexandria, Egypt. It was known as the Catechetical School and taught the Christian faith to inquirers, children and new converts. Its teachers wrote works in biblical studies and theology. Among the leaders of the School were Clement and Origen who, with others, were greatly used by God to spread the Gospel both in Egypt and far beyond. Today, we at the Alexandria School of Theology wish to emulate the best of what the early Catechetical School represented. Although almost two millennia have passed and times have changed, our Lord’s great commission to disciple the nations remains unchanged. It is our prayer that AST will be an instrument in the hand of God to spread the Gospel throughout our region and to equip men and women to serve in the Kingdom of God both in ordained and lay ministry."

    Recently, Thomas Oden has said that he's committing the rest of his life to unearthing the great Theologians of ancient Africa. How joyous it would be if Africa was to again become a nourishing well of orthodox theology!

    The Prophetic Nature of NT Epistles

    According to E. Earle Ellis (The Making of the New Testament Documents, pp. 44-45):

    "Traditions in the apostolic letters show similar marks of composition by persons with prophetic gifts, as might be suggested by the high status given there to the prophet and prophecy. They include, in particular, exegetical traditions and hymns. The kind of christological/eschatological exposition that appears in the Gospel traditions recurs in the epistles and is, in the words of E. Cothenet, part of the apostles' prophetic function. The same is true of the revelation of divine wisdom, and of mysteries, which is an important aspect of the exposition, and is ascribed in Eph 3:4f to Christ's 'apostles and prophets.' Examples of such exegetical prophetic traditions are the legei kurios quotations, certain pistos ho logos sayings and the midrashim in 1 Cor 2:6-16 and probably in Jas 2:20-26."

    Paul and the Synoptics: What Kind of Relationship?

    After talking to my co-blogger Joel Willitts by email, I am intrigued about the possible relationship of Paul to the Synoptic Gospels. This is something I intend to get to pursue further one day (but until then it would make a great Ph.D thesis for some brave soul). Usually, Paul's relationship to the Synoptic Gospels goes something like this:

    1. Mark: Pro-Pauline in so far as Mark has a a theology of the cross, believes in the inclusion of the Gentiles, and shares Paul's critique of Jesus' family and the circle of twelve apostles (e.g. Mk. 1.15, 7.19, 24, 10.45, 13.10; see Joel Marcus).

    2. Matthew: Anti-Pauline in as much as Matthew gives a strenuous affirmation of a law-obedient Jesus and affirms the authority of Peter (e.g. Mt. 5.17-20, 16.16; see David Sim).

    3. Luke: Post-Pauline to the extent that Luke clearly venerated Paul but feels no need to slavishly follow him (e.g. Luke has far more on resurrection/exalation than the cross and basically omits reference to justification in apostolic preaching; see Martin Hengel).

    Truth be told this is all a bit simplistic. I know James Crossley would certainly have something to say about the validity of (1) and I myself, with Joel Willitts, would contest (2) and I think even (3) needs a fair bit of nuancing. Of course, if one wants to really boggle one's mind, then a comparison/contrast of Paul and John would stretch the mind as it would be rather like juxtaposing two intergalactic eco-systems.

    Cosmology and New Testament Theology

    This book comes out in July:

    Sean McDonough and Jonathan T. Pennington (eds.), Cosmology and New Testament Theology (LNTS; London: T&T Clark, 2008).

    Contributors include Edward Adams, Steve Walton, Edward W. Klink III, Joel White, Robert L. Foster, Jon Laansma, Darian Lockett, John Dennis, Sean McDonough, and Johnathan T. Pennington. My own contribution is “Tearing the Heavens and Shaking the Heavenlies: Mark’s Cosmology in its Apocalyptic Context,” pp. 45-59.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    New Covenant in Hebrews

    This is out from Princeton Theological Monographs and it sounds interesting:

    By Michael D. Morrison

    The blurb reads: "Although covenant is a major theme in Hebrews, Morrison contends all mention of covenant can be deleted without damaging the coherence of the epistle or its christological conclusions. What role, then, does the covenant motif have in the epistle? The arguments in Hebrews are aimed at a Jewish audience—they ignore the needs and religious options relevant to Gentiles. For the readers, the Sinai covenant was the only relevant conceptual competitor to Christ. First-century Jews looked to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants as the basis of their obligations to God and God's promises toward them. Although most Jewish writers merged these covenants as if they were one, the author of Hebrews does not—he retains the Abrahamic promises while arguing that the Mosaic covenant is obsolete. The covenant concept supports the exhortations of Hebrews in two ways: (1) it provides the link between priesthood, worship rituals, and other laws, and (2) it enables the author to argue for allegiance to the community as allegiance to Christ."

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Why, for the Love of Martha, why!

    Sadly, the proposed bill in the British parliament to lower the time limit for abortions (down to 12, 14, or 22 weeks from 24 weeks) was resoundly defeated. I'll probably console myself by reading fire and brimstone portions of the Apocalypse of Peter. But for some irenic pastoral thoughts do read Doug Chaplin!

    McCormack weighs in on Enns

    Bruce McCormack (of Princeton Theological Seminary and a world leader in studies on Karl Barth) has weighed in on the Peter Enns debate at WTS-Philly, with a guest-post over at Arthur Boulet’s blog. McCormack argues that the Westminster report against Enns does not reflect a Reformed christology, but instead a Lutheran or even Eastern Orthodox christology. Do read!

    HT: Ben Myers

    New Online Journal: Crucible

    In Australia there is a new online journal called Crucible dedicated to theology and ministry. It is sponsored by Australian Evangelical Alliance and a group of Australian evangelical colleges. Crucible will have three sections: The Cauldron which will carry peer reviewed articles; The Test-tube which will offer more general ministry resources and The Filter which will have book reviews. This should be a good contribution to the Australian theological scene. We'd welcome contributions to any of the areas.

    The Cauldron articles inlude:
    HT: PTC

    Visiting Lecturers in Australia

    To readers back in Zion, it might interest you to know that:

    At the Queensland Theological College in Brisbane, Australia that Bob Jewett is speaking on the reasons for Romans on 20th of June and Mark Driscoll on 28th of August.

    Bob Jewett will also be at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney, Australia on the 5th of June and Andrew McGowan will deliver the Eliza Ferrie Public Lecture on "C.H. Spurgeon: Lessons from a Reformed Baptist " on the 6th of August.

    Atonement is Too Small

    Over at CT, David Neff has a review of Scot McKnight's book, A Community Called Atonement.

    Trinity in the PCUSA

    I could not resist this (HT: Virtuosity):

    Go UNITED!!

    Manchester United v Chelsea in the first all-England final in Champions League history today in Moscow.

    United, United, United!!
    Update: United are Champions League Winners!! What a great season!

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Baptist Catholicity

    Jim Hamilton gave me a copy of the booklet Building Bridges by David Dockery and Timothy George which, I think, was written to encourage irenic relationships and a co-operative spirit to recent debates in the SBC. It is an excellent guide to the history of the SBC and how to affirm one's baptist identity in the context of a wider Christian orthodoxy. It is a quick and enjoyable read!

    Dockery affirms : "A model of dynamic orthodoxy must be reclaimed. The orthodox tradition must be recovered in conversation with Nicea, Chalcedon, Augustine, Bernard, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, the Pietists, and the revivalists. In sum, our Southern Baptist Identity must be rotted in the consensus fidei of the Christian Church". In terms of mission co-operation he adds: "We need a new spirit of mutual respect and humility to serve together with those with whom we have differences of conviction and opinion. It is possible to hold hands with brothers and sisters who disagree on secondary and tertiary matters of theology and work toward a common good to extend the work of Southern Baptists around teh word and advance the Kingdom of God. We need a like-mindedness on first order issues - particularly on the exclusivity and uniqueness of the Gospel that is found only in Jesus Christ and in Him alone."

    Update: Denny Burk has just notified me of this book by David Dockery which covers a much similar topic.

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Latest BBR

    The latest issue of BBR 18.1 (2008) includes:

    Michael S. Heiser
    Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Towards an Assessment of Divien Plurality in the Hebrew Bible

    Elaine A. Phillips
    Speaking Truthfully: Job's Friends and Job

    Klyne Snodgrass
    Prophets, Parables, and Theologians

    Robert H. Stein
    The Ending of Mark

    Denny Burk
    Discerning Corinthian Slogans through Paul's Use of the Diatribe in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

    Brian P. Irwin
    The Laying on of Hands in 1 Timothy 5:22: A New Proposal

    Robert H. Gundry
    Jesus' Supposed Blasphemy (Mark 14:61b-64)

    Book reviews include:

    "James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark's Gospel," by Mark Strauss
    "Richard H. Bell, The Irrevocable Call of God," by James M. Hamilton
    "April DeConick, The Original Gospel of Thomas," by Nick Perrin.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism by David Goodblatt

    Is it possible to speak of an ancient Jewish national identity or nationalism? Or, as most recent scholars have agreed, is such a perspective anachronistic? And if it were possible to speak of a national identity in antiquity how would such an identity have been constructed, sustained, organized and expressed? What would be the elements of a Jewish nationalism?

    These are the basic questions and issues that University of California professor David Goodblatt seeks to address in his book Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism. Goodblatt’s own understanding of the contribution is evident in his concluding chapter, “Jewish Nationalism – What Rose and What Fell?” Here he articulates how his conclusions can serve to refine the issues raised by the recent contributions of particularly Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism , and Seth Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society . While affirming many of the central ideas of their work, he attempts to “reframe” these ideas by sharpening the focus of the debate and clarifying the questions (p. 210).

    The result of Goodblatt’s sharpening and clarifying endeavor—one which he tells took a decade of research and reflection (p. xiii)—is a convincing argument for not only the use of the term “nation” and its derivatives for ancient societal groups including the Jewish people of the Second Temple period (ch 1), but also for a Jewish national identity and nationalism constructed from the scared text, Hebrew language and priesthood (chs 2—4) and expressed in the names they used for themselves (chs 5—7).

    In the preface, Goodblatt explains that the focus of his work is on the human subjects who reside in “the province of Judah (Yehud, Ioudaia) of the Achemenid, Ptolemic, and Seleucid empires, on (nominally) independent, Hasmonean-Herodian Judah, and on the Roman province of Iudaea” (p. xiii). With the book’s territorial focus one would expect that his use of the term “Jewish” in “Jewish nationalism” has the in view those who are Judeans—making Jewish and Judean synonymous terms. Yet this is in fact not the case. While Goodblatt’s practice within the book is to translate the ancient terms referring to the people of the territory (e.g. Aramaic yehudai) with “Judean(s)”, to persevere the ambiguity of the original languages, he nevertheless opts for “Jewish nationalism” instead of “Judean nationalism” for a specific reason: the phenomenon of the overlapping of Judean and Israelite identities. Because Second Temple Judeans saw themselves as Israelites as well and what’s more invoked the name “Israel” in support of their nationalism, Goodblatt consciously chose “Jewish” because it allowed for a broader field than the narrower “Judean”. Goodblatt asserts that the ambigous“Jewish” can imply either “Judah” or “Israel” or both.

    Chapter one provides the foundation for the book’s six main chapters by establishing the appropriateness of using the terms “nation” and “nationalism” for ancient Judaism. Goodblatt states, “My purpose in this chapter was to justify the use of the concepts of national identity and nationalism in the study of ancient Jewish history” (p. 27). This was necessary because of the consensus of opinion among recent historians of the ancient world calling into question the use of the words “nation” and “nationalism” when writing about Jewish history. It has become commonplace to assume that such terms are a modern invention and therefore inappropriate when discussing ancient societies.

    Through an application of recent social scientific research along with detailed engagement with the ancient sources, Goodblatt convincingly argues that nationalism is not a modern invention as is supposed; rather a national consciousness can be found in the ancient world and especially among Second Temple Jews. What’s more, Goodblatt asserts that the concept of nation should be distinguished, as it is today, from that of a state such that national identity in antiquity does not imply a state. This latter distinction dispels the false assumption equating the possession or dispossession of a political state with the presence or absence of national identity—an assumption that has characterized pervious research. Finally, having shown that the concepts of nationalism and ethnicity are synonymous, Goodblatt offers this definition of national identity and nationalism:

    By national identity I mean a belief in a common descent and shared culture available for mass political mobilization. By shared culture I mean that certain cultural factors are seen as criteria for, or indications of, membership in the national group. Which cultural factors are singled out as criteria or indicators may shift over time. Also, the kinship or the cultural factors or both may not in fact be shared. What counts is that people believe they are and are ready to act on that basis. Finally, by nationalism I mean the invocation of the national identity as the basis for mass mobilization and action (pp. 26-27).

    Chapters two through four deal with the social construction of ancient Jewish nationalism by discussing the role of Scripture (ch. 2), the Hebrew language (ch. 3) and the priesthood (ch. 4) in that creation. While some may wish to expand this list, I can imagine no one criticizing Goodblatt for the elements he has chosen. These no doubt represent some of the most important resources available to Second Temple Judaism for constructing and sustaining a national identity.

    For the first of the three elements, Goodblatt, while entertaining recent critical scholarship’s assertion of a very late composition of the Scripture, side steps these critical issues by addressing the question within the context of the Second Temple period when the so-called “primary history” (David Noel Freedman’s term for Genesis through Kings) had been established for some time. Furthermore, Goodblatt argues for the widespread and regular practice of the public reading of biblical texts based on the preponderance of extant manuscripts from the Second Temple period. This, he believes would explain how ideas of common descent and shared culture could reach a mass audience. Of the latter two elements, Goodblatt first argues that Hebrew served to help construct Jewish identity because it was the language of Israel’ ancestors, the national literature and the national religion (p. 70). Second, the priesthood’s contribution to the construction of Jewish national identity as preservers and teachers of the national literature, their function as rulers of Judah and their provision of an ideology of resistance to foreign domination (p. 75). While one may wish to quibble here and there over details of Goodblatt’s argumentation, all three of these points on the whole are well argued and anchored in the documentary and literary evidence of the Second Temple period.

    Chapters five through seven deal with three names that, according to Goodblatt, played a role in ancient Jewish nationalism: Israel (ch. 5), Judah (ch. 6) and Zion (ch. 7). Of the first moniker, Israel, he points out the curious fact that the term was avoided as a self-designation of the Hasmonean state for whom “the Judeans” was the preferred, although they would have had ample reason to have used it. In contrast, Goodblatt shows that with the use of the term by the rebels of the first and second Jewish revolts (p. 121), their nationalistic ideology was centered on the concept of Israel (p. 138). Within this discussion Goodblatt notes the use of the phrase “house of Israel” during the second revolt; a phrase that Jesus’ himself used according to Matthew’s Gospel (cf. Matt 10:6; 15:24). Interestingly Goodblatt suggests that the phrase may have a technical nuance in this context whose meaning represents a second-century Hebrew equivalent to what we would call the “state of Israel” (pp. 134-36).

    Goodblatt argues that the name Zion was used during the first Jewish revolt, but not in the second. The phrase “freedom of Zion” is found on bronze coins of the late first century. He suggests the interest in Jerusalem and the Temple on the part of the rebels may explain its usage. What is interesting here is that Goodblatt does not perceive the Davidic implications in the name Zion and as a result does not think to inquire whether Davidic Messianism had any role in its usage. Perhaps this is because he early averred that evidence for Messianism in the first revolt is meager (p.137); with the use of the term Zion, perhaps less meager than he images.

    David Goodblatt has made an important contribution to the study of Jewish nationalism in the Second Temple period both in the areas of method and information. No doubt Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism will be useful for specialists in Second Temple Judaism as well as the New Testament. The strengths of this monograph perhaps lie mostly in the wealth of primary source material in the form of epigraphic, numismatic and literary evidence contained in each chapter along with the numerous sub-arguments and discussions he offers in support of his primary agenda. From a New Testament perspective the latter may have the potential to open up new lines of thinking on old questions, not least questions surrounding the Kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Young, Restless, and Emergent - Not!

    I have enjoyed CT's discussion between Tony Jones and Colin Hansen about the Emergent Church and the Young, Restless, and Reformed. In many ways, this represents two competing evangelical identities in the twenty-first century in North America (that said, I think they are both minorities and the bulk of evangelicals are on neither axis; outside of North America very few would have a dang clue what either are talking about!). Let me offer my musings for the week on three areas:

    1. The Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR).

    This is the group I know the best because, well, I once considered myself one of them. I am glad to say that an American SBC pastor named Joey Huggins (now with the Lord) ran a small Bible college as an annex to a church and he introduced me to the doctrines of grace. Despite some initial resistance, I took to Calvinism like a bird to the sky. For me, total depravity was not a hard doctrine to swallow, I had seen it in myself, in my parents, in other miserable putrid human beings, and I was sold on the whole package from TULIPS to the Five Solas (in fact I taught my then fiance and now wife the TULIPS and Five Solas on our first road trip together). Don't get me wrong, I remain a card carrying Calvinist. But the sum of my Calvinism is this: people suck and God saves them, the rest is commentary. For a bit more detail, in my reading of the New Testament and from observing life in general, God breathes life into the spiritually dead and God justifies the ungodly not the just. Go ye and read Ephesians 1 and Acts 10:48, preordained election is just there. To quote my sister-in-law, "if ya don't like it, build a bridge and get over it". What I appreciate about the YRR is their love of God's sovereignty, their passion for God's glory, their love for the Scriptures, and their submission to the purpose and plan of God in all things. However, one thing I do regret as an ex-YRR type is that my love for Reformed theology often surpassed my love for others. I was convinced that not only had God preordained salvation, but he had preordained myself and others to convince the ignorant semi-pelagian masses that they were wrong. In seminary I regret to say that I was more known for my love of Calvin than for my love of Jesus. I was more known for my love of theology than for my love of people. What I have learnt is that, while they are not incompatible, the Jesus Creed trumps the Confession! There are several reasons why I no longer consider myself among the YRR: (1) The YRR crowd (esp. the neophytes) seem to forget that there was a church before Luther and there was a healthy amount of diversity in the Reformed tradition over soteriology and ecclesiology. In other words, the YRR have forgotten the catholic vision of the church and become ignorant of the diversity of the Reformed tradition itself. (2) Many of the idols and icons of the YRR have turned into a magisterium of Reformed mega-pastors and speak as if they are the gate keepers orthodoxy. What is more, they all gravitate strongly towards Systematic Theology and anything that leads people to question the hegemony of the "system" (like biblical theology - don't get me started on that one) is attacked. (3) In terms of theological essentials, I am not convinced that one particular expression of biblical authority (inerrancy) and one view of gender (complementarianism) are the twin pillars of orthodoxy. Biblical authority matters immensely and having a biblical view of male and female relationships in creation, redemption, marriage, ministry, and the church is crucial too; but I'm not sure that CBMW and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is exactly what Jesus and the Apostles had in mind (and the same holds for the opposite poles of CBE and Errancy).

    2. Emergent Movement (EM).

    Let me say that I'm no expert on the EM. I have never read anything by Brian Maclaren nor Don Carson's critique of the EM. My exposure to the EM is limited to reading Scot McKnight's blog Jesus Creed, Daniel Kirk's blog Sibboleth, visiting an Emergentesque church in Sydney in 2005, and this week we had an extraordinary lecture by John Franke of Biblical Seminary here at HTC. In fact, Franke's chapel address and lecture on the EM was absolutely brilliant. And as he argues in his recent book, there is indeed an irreducible plurality in the early church and a diversity of voices in the biblical canon. I used to think that all the first Christians were red head Reformed Baptists with an Australian accent and I had been chosen to convert the pagans to Christianity with the gospel and to convert Christians to the Reformed Baptist faith (sadly "gospel" and "Reformed Baptist Faith" were near synonyms). Let me say about Franke that from our conversation it is crystal clear that he believes in the ecumenical creeds of the church like Nicea and Chalcedon, he believes in inerrancy (as long as he gets to define it), he eschews relativism, and he belives in heresy too. I think the call to embrace the plurality of the Christian tradition is a good thing. For instance, the other day I told my students that Methodists came into existence because the Reformed churches of the UK failed to develop proper small group ministry and failed to develop a biblical doctrine of sanctification. The Methodists came along with their small groups, methodical study of the Bible, and their focus on holiness - so thank God for Methodists. Another good thing about the EM is that it recognizes that all theological systems and theological claims are conditioned by their cultural setting, historical location, and their own theological tradition. We have to admit that evangelicalism has been too closely wedded to Modernity and we have wrongly adopted the epistemology of the age without self-critically thinking about how it has impaired our theological activity (e.g. foundationalism). Of course, I'm not saying that postmodernity (which is really hyper-modernity) is necessarily the answer since postmodernism rejects all meta-narratives and is equally hegemonic and authoritarian. When I think of the EM I'm reminded of the chorus, "These are the Facts as We have Received Them". We are dealing with theological truth and doctrine - i.e. facts - but we have filtered them through our own fallible experience and our imperfect attempt at theologizing - i.e. as we have received them - so we need a self-critical approach to our theology. We can know theological truth, but all theological truth is condition by our production and reception of it. I also like the new ways of doing church in the EM. We have to admit that Christendom is over, and training ministers to be chaplains of Christendom is no longer an option, we need to re-think church and mission in the West. Yet what I am concerned about in the EM is: (1) There is a recognition in the EM that orthodoxy has boundaries, but those boundaries are rarely identified and never enforced. I understand the reluctance to do so since the boundaries are more often than not defined very narrowly; but the New Testament itself invests alot of time and energy in the task of discerning truth from falsehood. (2) With the EM I am cautious and critical of an over estimation of the value of Systematic Theology, it can impose a priori concepts and distort the biblical data, but at some point we have to enter into the task of offering some unifying statements about the biblical materials. In fact, this is part of biblical theology itself since biblical theology includes the task of synthesis after analysis (see Carson's article in BBR 1995). If not, you can end up in theological schizoprenia. If someone asks, "what must I do to be saved?". You cannot reply, "Well, Moses says X, Matthew says Y, Hebrews says Z, take the one ya like and run with it". It is precisely because we have a diverse canon that we need to offer some unifying statements that does not flatten out the diversity of the texts and does not priviledge one particular corpus.

    3. Evangelical Catholicism (EC).

    One area that I find myself gravitating towards is EC (though I'm not "there" yet). This is perhaps best represented by persons like Markus Bockmuel and Christopher Seitz. EC retains the evanglical emphasis on the authority and role of the Scriptures in the Church, the Christian life as prayerful, liturgical, and confesssional; but recognizes that the Church is defined outwardly by its ecumenical creeds. In other words, I believe in the Reformed Confessions but I also recognize that the definition of a Christian given in Rom. 10.9-10 is broader than the Confessions itself. I wonder if EC can accomodate the theological passion of YRR and the missional concerns of EM in the context of historical orthodoxy.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Pentecost Sermon: The Mission of the Church

    Last Sunday I was privileged to speak at a joint service of the Baptist Church, Church of Scotland, Free Church, and Kingway Fellowship in Culloden, Inverness. My text was Acts 2.1-47 and I spoke on the mission of the church. This is available on-line thanks to Culloden Baptist Church. This was a great joint service, a true spirit of fellowship was evident, the worship was great, and I think the sermon wasn't too bad either (of course I initially found it hard to concentrate since it was outside, it was cold, and the wind kept trying to blow my sermon notes away; so it finishes better than it starts).

    The outline of the sermon is:

    The Church is a Community of God's Promise and Power
    The Church is a Missional Community
    The Church is a Community of Spirit, Word, and Sacrament.

    IMHO the secret to the church is the "M" of SMEAC! If you've ever served in the military you'll know what SMEAC is, if not, listen to the sermon to find out.

    Josephus' Adiabene story and Acts 15

    Anyone wanting to get a grip on the diverse beliefs within Judaism about conversion and adherence to Judaism by Gentiles (did Gentiles have to be circumcized in order to becom Jews?) have to read Josephus' account in Antiquities 20 on the conversion of the house of Adiabene. This provides an excellent background to the kind of disputes you find in Acts 15 and Galatians. A good discussion of the debate and comparison of Luke and Josephus can be found in Google Books at. Is Paul versus the Proselytizers in Galatia another version of Ananias vs. Eleazar in Adiabene?

    Daniel R. Schwartz, ‘God, Gentiles, Jewish Law: On Acts 15 and Josephus’ Adiabene Narrative.’ In Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Edited by J. Frey, D. R. Schwartz, and S. Gripentrog. AJEC 71, Leiden: Brill, 2007., pages 263-281.

    Jim Hamilton goes to SBTS

    I am elated to announce that my good friend Jim Hamilton has recently been appointed to SBTS in Louisville. There is an announcement from SBTS about the appointment and everything it says of Jim is true (except for the part about him being an athlete who played baseball back in college since"baseball" and "athlete" are mutually exclusive words [cricket on the other hand!]). Congrats to Jim and Jill and his three boys and I'm sure they'll be a blessing to the seminary. If you're at SBTS do take one of his courses on biblical theology.

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Smyrna the Martyred City

    In reading over a recent Ph.D thesis I came upon this moving poem:

    “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelation 1.11)


    Glory and Queen of Island Sea
    Was Smyrna, the beautiful city,
    And fairest pearl of the Orient she—
    O Smyrna the beautiful city!
    Heiress of countless storied ages,
    Mother of poets, saints and sages,
    Was Smyrna, the beautiful city!

    One of the ancient, glorious Seven
    Was Smyrna, the sacred city,
    Whose candles all were alight in Heaven—
    O Smyrna the sacred city!
    One of the Seven hopes and desires,
    One of the seven Holy Fires
    Was Smyrna, the Sacred City.

    And six fared out in the long ago-
    O Smyrna, the Christian city!
    But hers shone on with a constant glow—
    O Smyrna, the Christian city!
    The others died down and passed away,
    But hers gleamed on until yesterday—
    O Smyrna, the Christian city!

    Silent and dead are churchbell ringers
    Of Smyrna, the Christian city,
    The music silent and dead the singers
    Of Smyrna, the happy city;
    And her maidens, pearls of the Island seas
    Are gone from the marble palaces
    Of Smyrna, enchanting city!

    She is dead and rots by the Orient’s gate,
    Does Smyrna, the murdered city,
    Her artisans gone, her streets desolate—
    O Smyrna, the murdered city!
    Her children made orphans, widows her wives
    While under her stones the foul rat thrives—
    O Smyrna, the murdered city!

    They crowned with a halo her bishop there,
    In Smyrna, the martyred city,
    Though dabbled with blood was his long white hair—
    O Smyrna, the martyred city!
    So she kept the faith in Christendom
    From Polycarp to St. Chrysostom,
    Did Smyrna, the glorified city!

    The provenance of this poem (from what I understand) is the genocide of non-Turks in northern Turkey in the 1920s. The Ottoman Turks enacted a brtual policy of ethnic cleansing of Christians and especially Armenians in the early twentieth century which has been mostly forgotten in the anals of modern history. In fact, it is theorized that the international ignorance and apathy towards the Turkish massacres was one of the reasons why Adolf Hitler thought that he could get away with a similar extermination of the Jews in Europe. This is why I'm a Calvinist - human beings suck - O Come Lord Jesus, Come!

    Paul and the Kingdom of God

    Thanks to Jason Hood for pointing me towards this good article by Brian Vickers on Paul and the Kingdom of God from the the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Those who want to read more about Paul and Jesus on the Kingdom should consult either the book by David Wenham or the recent collection of essays edited by Todd Still.

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Jesus' Life and the Proclamation of the Gospel

    What role does narrating the life of Jesus have in gospel proclamation? I ask this for two reasons: (1) I cannot help but notice that in Acts (esp. the Petrine speeches) that the life of Jesus figures prominently in apostolic proclamation of the gospel; (2) I've also been reading a bit of Ajith Fernando's Acts commentary in the NIVAC series where he makes the same point. In fact, in his own native Sri Lanka, Buddhists find sacrificial language repugnant (because they view killing animals wrong) and are more likely to convert from reading the Gospels than from reading Paul. That is interesting. I think we have to stop viewing the gospel as a series of linear propositions, i.e. (a) God is Holy, (b) Man is sinfulful, (c) Therefore . . . you get the drift! If we articulate the gospel as a narrative reaching back to creation, through to the history of Israel, encompassing the life of Jesus, the passion of Jesus, and the out-pouring of the Spirit, then we're going to be closer to the apostolic message than with reducing the gospel to the logic behind penal substitution. In fact, I wonder if a lot of evangelical preaching is actually quite Bultmannesque in being ahistorical and dislocating the work of Jesus Christ from the history of Jesus and the history of Israel.

    Galatiansfest at Southern Seminary

    If you're interested in Galatians then Southern Seminary is probably the place to be given the plethora of Galatians commentaries about to be produced by faculty there:

    Thomas R. Schreiner - One for Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament and another commentary for Zondervan Exegetical Commentary.

    Mark Seifrid - Historisch Theologische Auslegung (written in German with an English translation to follow later).

    Brian Vickers - New Covenant Commentary Series.

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Jewish Interpretations of Paul

    As a follow-up to a recent CBR article by myself and Preston Sprinkle on "Jewish Interpretations of Paul in the Last 30 Years", one of my students brought this book to my attention:

    Riccardo Calimani,
    Paolo, l'ebreo che fondo' il cristianesimo
    = Paul, the Jew who established Christianity
    (Oscar Storia, Mondadori, 2005)

    I once asked Richard Bauckham how was he able to read biblical studies works written in Italian. I shall never forget his reply: "Well, if you can read Latin and Spanish, then Italian is quite easy to manage". I'm sure it is . . . but for us lesser mortals Google Language Tools will suffice in the meantime.

    Maurice Casey Responds

    I received an email from Maurice Casey in response to my earlier review and I have pasted its contents below:

    Dear Michael,

    It was good of you to take the trouble to review The Solution of the ‘Son of Man’ Problem. It was also good that you summarised it at some length, as most of your readers are unlikely to read it, and a lot of the information in your summary is perfectly accurate.

    There are however some serious misrepresentations, which I felt I should write to you about. One is your “implied reader”. His existence is just as mythical as you say it is, but it is you who invented him, not I. I tried to write as a critical scholar. I learnt to be a critical scholar at the university of Durham, where I was taught mostly by Christian scholars. In the preface to this book, I particularly thanked Kingsley Barrett, who supervised my doctoral thesis when he was more famous in the valleys of Durham as a charismatic Christian preacher than as a New Testament scholar. I always respected that, because he is a man of unimpeachable integrity who is never deliberately biased, and who never discriminated against anyone of different convictions, nor attributed to us opinions which we did not hold. Subsequently, I have learnt much from other critical scholars who are Christians, such as Roger Aus, Matthew Black and Ed Sanders, and from critical scholars who are Jewish, such as Alan Segal and Geza Vermes.
    I have never claimed to be more objective than such scholars as these. Objectivity is in any case a limited virtue, unquestionably essential when for example counting how often an author uses any given word, so much so that objectivity in such circumstances needs no defence, because it is never questioned. It is however a limited virtue when trying to understand human beings, whether individuals such as Jesus, or major social events such as the Origins of Christianity, a process which requires more than learning and objectivity. What I do claim is not to be deliberately biassed, but that is something which I share with many critical scholars. On the other hand, I cannot see this quality in many evangelicals, nor in Jewish scholars such as Hyam Maccoby (Jesus was a Pharisee, and Paul never had been), nor in secular scholars such as Robert Price and Barbara Thiering, whom most people are right not to take too seriously. The latter group are more than sufficient to make me wary of claiming to find truth by liberating people from the shackles of theologically loaded interpretations.

    It is quite normal not to discuss these things in scholarly monographs, because they are supposed to stand by evidence and argument. Consequently, one does not always know, where a given author stands on your trajectory, and it generally does not matter. For example, when I finished Martin Karrer’s outstanding monograph Der Gesalbte (1991), I assumed he was probably Christian because he had not been sacked, the fate of Gerd Lüdemann when he left the church, and of many other Christians who have exercised the independence of mind characteristic of all critical scholars. But this was not a matter of concern, because this was an outstanding monograph by a genuinely critical scholar whose work stood up because of his use of evidence and argument, not because of his ideological stance or lack of one.

    Secondly, your comments on what I am supposed to think about the idiomatic use of bar (e)nash(a) and kebar enash in Daniel 7.13 are such a mixture of what I do and do not think, and such a muddle, that I hardly know where to begin. For example, the messianic interpretation of kebar enash is not found in the interpretative section of Daniel 7, or in the Syrian tradition, which preserved most of the original interpretation of the book of Daniel and should have loved it. It was however widespread in the West, a fact which I documented at very great length in my doctoral thesis (much abbreviated for SPCK). This is not however an argument for or against the authenticity of sayings attributed to Jesus which may be thought to use bar (e)nash(a) in general statements which may refer especially to the speaker. I simply cannot relate your comments to what I wrote.

    Thirdly, I offered detailed discussions of cases where I think we know exactly which Aramaic word Jesus used, i.e. when there is only one possible Aramaic word for a given Greek word and we know what it is, and cases where we don’t know exactly which of two or three words but it doesn’t matter, and cases of serious uncertainty. So I do occasionally give the impression that I am providing the actual words of Jesus because that’s when I think I am, whereas at other times we have only a general approximation to what he said. All such claims are falsifiable e.g. by showing that there are more possible Aramaic words for a given Greek word than I noticed, or by giving reasons to believe that Jesus could not have said any given saying in Aramaic at all, or in other conventional ways.

    You have naturally made some other comments with which I do not agree, but I have mentioned these because you could persuade people who will not read this book that I believe some things which I do not believe at all.

    With best wishes,

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Craig Koester on Hebrews 1

    According to Craig Koester:

    "Reading Heb 1 is something like looking at a mosaic that depicts the image of a person. The artist creates the mosaic by selecting various types of stones and arranging them in a way that conveys the subject's likeness. Those who look at the mosaic generally do not ask where the individual pieces came from or how each piece functioned elsewhere, but whether the arrangement of the stones conveys a genuine likeness of the person being portrayed. Similarly, to read Heb 1 on the author's own terms is to ask whether the mosaic of OT quotations is a faithful representaton of the exalted Christ."
    - Hebrews (AB), p. 198.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    The Virtue of Faithfulness

    In doing some sermon prep of my own I came across this illustration that I thought rung true:

    Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. So gifted was he, he could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940’s, he founded a farm in Americus Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for poor whites and poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40’s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folks in town. The town people tried everything to stop Clarence. They tried boycotting him, and slashing worker’s tires when they came to town. Over and over, for fourteen years, they tried to stop him. Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had had enough of Clarence Jordan, so they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia farm, except Clarence’s house, which they riddled with bullets. And they chased off all the families except one black family, which refused to leave. Clarence recognized the voices of many of the Klansmen, and, as you might guess, some of them were church people. Another was the local newspaper’s reporter. The next day the reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smoldered and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting. "I heard the awful news," he called to Clarence, "and I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing." Clarence just kept hoeing and planting. The reporter kept prodding, kept poking, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who seemed to be planting instead of packing his bags. So, finally, the reporter said in a haughty voice, "Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them Ph.D.s and you’ve put fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?" Clarence stopped hoeing, turning toward the reporter with his penetrating blue eyes, and said quietly but firmly, "About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we’re about is not success, but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day." Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia and the farm is still going strong today.
    - Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, pp. 188-189.

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Award for Martyr's Wife

    I will never forget going to the news agents one morning in 1999 and reading the headlines, "Martyred" in the Brisbane Telegraph while I was at Bible College. It reported the martyrdom of Ian Stains and his sons by angry Hindu mob in India. I've had the honour of preaching in the Stain's sending church, a Baptist Church located in Beaudesert. Ian Stains was survived by wife and daughter. The murder prompted much press converage in India and Gladys Stains (Ian's wife) received an award for her family's work among lepers in India. More recently, she was received an award for her writing efforts hosted in the UAE.

    Propositio of Hebrews

    Does Hebrews have a propositio? (Actually, does any NT doc have a propositio, but that is another matter). Recently, Ben Witherington has argued that since Hebrews is a piece of epideictic rhetoric it has no propositio. But if I had to press one passage that certain does fit the function or role of a propositio in Hebrews, it would have to be Heb. 2.1-4:

    1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (ESV).

    I'd love to check out what Lincoln says in his intro to Hebrews but I don't have it on hand. This passage could be no more than a piece of exhortation following the collage of OT quotes about the preeminence of Christ, but it does have a rather programmatic feel for the rest of the letter.

    James Dunn: Christianity in the Making - Vol. 2

    James. D. G. Dunn
    Date: 29/10/08
    Pages: 1392
    Look out for this one at SBL. It'll be at the top of my shopping list.

    Neurotic Churches

    One of my favourite biblical studies lecturers in seminary was actually the pastoral studies lecturer. He had a sociology background and was great at social-scientific approaches to the NT. It was his lectures that led me to transfer from systematic theology to biblical studies (I thereafter took the name Darth Vogel!). Any way the guys name is Jeff Pugh and he's published his Ph.D thesis called Fantasyland Faith- The Redemptive Role of Ethical Lectors within Neurotic Church Systems (VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, 2007). The blurb reads:

    "Organizational decline is often viewed as an inevitable regression. This research, based upon a study of five free church communities addresses the psychodynamic and cultural nature of neurotic groups which underwent healthy transformation. This is significant since the leaders of such churches by definition have little by way of legitimate authority by which to 'levrage' change. The work shows the richness of insight derivable from an interplay of family systems, cultural and psychodynamic lenses including Bion, Kets de Vries and object relations theorists. The narratives show that ethical leaders have a catalytic role in fostering renewed cultures by addressing regressive aspects, especially those suffused within a repressive dogma. Pugh explores the overlap between the ensuing culture and the relational attributes of the Trinity as explicated by Volf and Moltmann. A set of hopeful prescriptions for the leader or intereventionist is proposed. The work has relevance to researchers and leaders who seek to renew all types of organizations, particularly those whose declines stem from deeply embedded and ideologically justified neuroses."

    So if you're pastoring a neurotic church (or if you pastor is plainly neurotic, e.g. like the Rev. Dr. Jim West) then this book should be of interest of you.

    Bob Jewett to Visit Melbourne

    Robert Jewett is due to visit the Bible College of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia) for a day of lectures on Romans and Paul on the 10th of June 2008. If you're in Melbourne try to get yourself to that event.

    On the subject of Romans, in reflection, my top five 'modern' commentaries on Romans would be:

    1. Robert Jewett (Hermeneia). - judicious and thorough in everything from the text of Romans to exegetical comment and background.
    2. Doug Moo (NICNT) - good evangelical commentary with great interactions on theological aspects of Romans and responses to the New Perspective.
    3. James D. G. Dunn (WBC) - the quintessential new perspective commentary on Romans.
    4. N.T. Wright (NIB) - like him or despise him, he writes well and stimulates the mind and heart about Paul, Christ, and God.
    5. C.E.B. Cranfield (ICC) - The strength of Cranfield's commentary is his theological interaction with Barth and that he speaks Greek with a genevan accent.

    Mention in despatches for Kaesemann, Stuhlmacher, Schreiner, and Schlatter. If you're talking ancient commentaries on Romans it is hard to go past Origen, Ambrosiaster, and Augustine. I don't know about Reformed Romans commentaries yet (I'm about to teach a Master's Course on Romans in the Reformed Tradition) but I hope to investigate this in the near future.

    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    The Rhetoric of Hebrews

    What kind of rhetoric is Hebrews? David deSilva argues that it is deliberative rhetoric for those who are considering apostacizing and epideictic rhetoric for those who are continuing on in the faith. Sounds balanced to me.

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    New Blogs 21

    A new blog from my homeland (where the kangaroos roam free and the vegemite is fresh [sigh]) is up and running and it is called The Sola Panel and we ain't talking energy crisis either.

    HT: Justin Taylor

    How Public is the Gospel?

    Another article at CT by Colin Hansen asks How Public is the Gospel? This article enters into the debate abut the nature of the gospel based on the dissimilarities between Mark Dever and N.T. Wright.

    I should also point out (with the help of Jim Hamilton) a short post by Greg Gilbert that argues that the gospel is broader than Jesus' substitutionary death for our sins. As Gilbert points out, such a definition doesn't work in Romans 2:16, Galatians 3:8, Colossians 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:10, and Revelation 14:6 (I would add Isa. 52.7 and Lk. 4.18-21; Lk. 7.22-23/Mt. 11.4-6). I disagree with Gilbert in so far that justification by faith is not the gospel. Justification by faith is Paul's application of the gospel to those who wanted to force his Gentile churches to take on Torah observance. There is no such thing as the "gospel of justification" any more than there is the gospel of redemption, the gospel of reconciliation, or the gospel of saving sacrifice. Justification is not any more or any less important than redemption or the cosmic victory which are achieved by Christ's death and resurrection. The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, it is not the gospel itself!

    Evangelicals and Liturgy

    Over at CT, there is an article by Mark Galli on A Deeper Relevance which asks why are so many evangelicals attracted to this thing called liturgy? I think churches need to maintain a healthy focus on Spirit, Word, and Sacrament in their worship services for three reasons:

    1. If you focus predominantly on the power of the preached Word, but push the Sacraments to the corner and domesticate the Spirit to suit your theology, then you'll turn the church into a Mosque.

    2. If you focus on the experience and euphoria of the Spirit, and have the Word eviscerated into some pop-psychology, and relegate the Sacraments to something too "liturgical" and passe you'll soon find yourself practicing Mysticism.

    3. If you focus on the Sacraments as instruments through which we encounter God, but reduce the Word to sound bites of moral advice, and censure the Spirit as the concern of a few eccentric enthusiasts, then you'll find yourself pushing Magic.

    The "Mystery" and "all Israel" in Romans 11:25-27

    I wish to offer a hypothesis I am currently rolling over in my mind about the "mystery" Paul espouses in Romans 11:25-27. Please keep in mind that I am thinking out loud so be kind. But I would like to hear feedback.
    As I have reflected over the "mystery" I want to suggest that it may consist of two ideas (Jewett representing most scholars I think asserts three ideas). Paul begins with the contention that “a partial hardening has happened to Israel”. This description is merely the flip side of a robust remnant theology grounded in the Jewish Scriptures. To assert the presence of a remnant, as Paul has earlier in the argument, is to say there is also a non-remnant as he has also claimed (11:7). Paul’s mention here in 11:25 of a partial hardening therefore is neither unprecedented in the context of the argument nor in Jewish Scripture. It is then unlikely to be a central aspect of the mystery. What’s more, it doesn’t seem to be a temporary condition as most commentators suppose, but a permanent aspect of the remnant theology Paul has articulated: “Not all from Israel is Israel” (9:6). Paul affirmed the remnant principle of Jewish Scripture at the beginning of the section (Romans 9—11) and has supported it not only with Isaiah’s specific remnant theology, but also with God’s activity generally in his dealings with individuals. Israel’s remnant is what God had intended and this implies the existence of a non-remnant.
    Thus a central part of the mystery seems not to be the expectation of some climactic and remarkable expansion of Israel’s remnant at some future point to include those who formerly were not part of the remnant since that is no longer remnant theology by definition —in addition, the expansion of the remnant seems to be Paul’s hope in his present ministry (11:13-14).
    However what appears to be one of the aspects of the mystery is: [1] that Israel’s remnant in the present, which itself is growing, is being joined by a group of Gentiles before Israel's end-time restoration. The first aspect of the mystery therefore concerns the revision of Israel’s eschatological schema (hand wave to Dunn). In this way, eschatological Israel’s restoration at the end of history has in fact begun in the middle of history and so God’s work in the present involves both the continuing remnant of Israel now defined by Christ-faith and the blessing of the nations in accordance with messianic expectations (e.g. Isa 11). These two groups, Israel’s remnant and the faithful Gentiles, comprise the nucleus of Israel’s future kingdom.
    Once the Gentiles reach their fullness (11:25) then Israel’s kingdom will be restored (11:26). What is temporary then is not so much the partial hardening per se—notice Paul does not address the unhardening directly—but rather the remnant itself: God's remnant is temporary. This innovation is what forms the second aspect of the mystery: [2] according to Paul, Scripture's remnant theology has served its purpose and will finally cease. So the remnant as it turns out was for the sake of the Gentiles and after the fullness of the Gentiles is achieved, then "all Israel" will be saved by the deliverer who comes from Zion. At that point God will forgive Israel’s sin thereby reconstituting the kingdom of Israel (11:26-27).
    It seems to me then that what is in view with the "all Israel" is not the non-remnant's conversion (see most recently Jewett), but the restoration of "all Israel" defined as the reconstitution of the kingdom of Israel in fulfillment of Davidic-messianic expectations in the form of the restored and global kingdom of David/Israel (see the many references to "all Israel" in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles that suggest a hemongeny of Israel beyond the borders of Israel and Judah (1 Kings 4:1, 7, 21, 24; 8:65; 2 Chron 7:8; 9:22-23, 26, 30; cf. 2 Samuel 24:4-9 and Psalm 72:8-11). Note especially 1 Kings 8:65 as it defines "all Israel" to include uncircumcised nations along with circumcised Israel:
    So Solomon observed the feast at taht time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt.
    One additional thought that I would like to suggest for further reflection is the connection between Paul's prayer for Israel in Romans 9—11 and the penitent prayers of Nehemiah and Daniel, chapters 1 and 9 respectively. As yet I have not seen any studies comparing the groups of literature. Just in a general survey though it seems that there would be a warrant for such a study. I think Paul's prayer could naturally be compared with these prayers. It is true, that there doesn’t appear to be as explicit a solidarity in Romans 9—11 between Paul and Israel as there is clearly in Nehemiah and Daniel’s prayer (with the 1st person personal pronouns), although Paul at points readily identifies himself with the Israel who is also an enemy of the Gospel (11:1, 28). Paul does something more than they however by bringing in Isaiah’s remnant theology. This remnant theology is explicit here in Paul while only implicit in the nature of the prayers of Nehemiah and Daniel as they represent the remnant who prays for the rest.

    Latest ExpT: 119.8 (2008)

    The May issue of Expository Times includes:

    Paul Anderson
    Beyond teh Shade of the Oak tree: The Recent Growth of Johannine Studies

    Michael F. Bird
    Reassessing a Rhetorical Approach to Paul's Letters

    Iwan Rhys Jones
    C.H. Dodd and the Welsh Bible: A Fading Influence

    William Loader
    Australia's Day of Apology to the Stolen Generations of its Indigenous Peoples