Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paul Blowers - Rule of Faith 2

"For Irenaeus and Tertullian alike it is imperative to identify the Canon of Truth or Rule of Faith as Scripture's own intrinsic story-line in order to avoid the Gnostics' double-talk, their propagating of one myth on the philosophical level while still trying, on another level, to commnicate it with pieces of scriptural narrative. Thus when Irenaeus expounds the Rule of Faith for his friend Marcianus in his Epideixis, he does it literally by retelling the biblical story and indicating the underlying nexus between its constitute elements as though he were unfolding the sequences of a drama. The story of creation, paradise, and the fall present a prelude. There follows a long exhibition of redemptive history (christological excurses notwithstanding), beginning with the antediluvia stories of obedience and disobedience, then moving on to the patriarchs, the lawgiving, the exodus and conquest, the message of the prophets - all told, a history of promises fulfilled in the recapitulative work of Jesus Christ. Irenaeus completes his exposition in the Epideixis by setting out a host of ancient prophecies fulfilled in Christ, and at last displaying the glory of the new covenant and the prospective new life in the Spirit opened up to the Gentiles" (pp. 212-13).

Last Disciple Series

Over at the SBL Forum is a good article by Margaret E. Ramey (Messiah College) on 'Left Behind' No More? An Evangelical Preterist Interpretation of Revelation in 'The Last Disciple' series, which Hank Hanegraaff's Last Disciples Series which is a preterist alternative to the Left Behind Series. She evaluates the books, pro and con, and concludes:

"Hanegraaff provides a helpful counterbalance within evangelicalism to the predominant premillinial dispensationalism encapsulated in the Left Behind series. Most importantly, he attempts to shift the evangelical focus from rapture to resurrection. Hanegraaff states on his website: "In our view the great and glorious hope of believers is not found in rapture but in the blessed hope of resurrection."[13] If nothing else, perhaps his readers will be encouraged to re-center their faith on what has historically been the hope of Christianity rather than remain captivated by this more recent fixation on being left behind."

Maybe this is something for me to use my gift voucher on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Paul Blowers on the "Rule of Faith" - 1

I'm reading through Paul M. Blowers article "The Regulae Fidei and the Narrative Character of Early Christian Faith," Pro Ecclesia 6.2 (2007) and here is the first of a few quotes to follow:

"My premise here is that at bottom, the Rule of Faith (which was always associated with Scripture itself) served the primitive Christian hope of articulating and authenticating a world-encompassing story or metanarrative of creation, incarnation, redemption, and consummation. I will argue that in the crucial 'proto-canonical' era in the history of Christianity, the Rule, being a narrative construction, set forth the basic 'dramatic' structure of a Christian vision of the world, posing as an hermeneutical frame of reference for the interpretation of Christian Scripture and experience, and educing the first principles of Christian theological discourse and of a doctrinal substantiation of Chrsitian faith" (p. 202).

Vertical-Horizontal Cont'd

Loren Rosson chimes in on the vertical and horizontal elements of justification in Paul. I can follow Loren part way. For instance, I think "righteousness" for Paul can often correlate to the idea of "praise from God". However, I think several passages in Paul just simply go in a forensic direction such as Rom 8.1 and 2 Cor 3.9. Similarly, Phil Esler's Galatians commentary (if memory serves me right) highlights different types of forensic connotations attached to dikaiosyne in the Septuagint. I'm also a little bit more cautious about Paul dumping "covenant" in the mid-50s. Paul does use "covenant" predominantly in the context of discontinuity between the two epochs of Moses and Christ, but that's not the same thing as dumping covenant altogether.

Montonini on "One to Come" Part 2

Matt Montonini gives the second part of his review of my Are You the One Who is to Come?

Interview with Nick Perrin on Gos Thom

Chris Skinner interviews Nick Perrin about his theory of Thomas' dependence on Tatian. A few interesting points to note: (1) This quote: "Will April DeConick ever wake up one day and say, 'You know, that Nick Perrin was right about Thomas all along'? I doubt it." (2) Nick will be responding to Peter Williams' criticisms voiced in a review in European Journal of Theology in a forthcoming article in Vigiliae Christianae.

For a good overview of Nick Perrin's thesis see "Thomas: The Fifth Gospels," JETS 49.1 (2006) and his short book Thomas: The Other Gospel which I reviewed here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Justification has vertical and horizontal aspects

I've noticed recently how a growing number of commentators maintain that justification has both vertical and horizontal aspects. By that, I think they mean that justification includes, firstly, a verdict of acquittal and vindication by faith in Christ/being in-Christ. Secondly, it establishes the legitimacy of their membership in the people of God. In other words, God justifies the ungodly by faith not works and you don't have to become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Paul is interested in the inclusion of the Gentiles into God's saving purposes and the basis of their inclusion! Consider the following quotes:

"This point advocates of the new perspective are quick to emphasize, and rightly so. But since the justification of which we have been speaking has dealt with both the radical, vertical problem of a relationship with God and the horizontal problem of Jew-Gentile relationships, rather than simply the latter (which is the particular focus on the new perspective), then the solution is more properly based and the assurance is made 'more doubly sure'" (Peter T. O'Brien, "Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?", 291.

"If, as one strand of Luther’s legacy understood it, the phrase 'the righteousness of God' matters most and is defined as the forensic status of 'righteous' that gives people irrespective on their behaviour, then this locus and the letter into which it leads is all about the vertical relationship between an individual and God. Romans becomes a road to salvation for individuals and no more. But if 'to the Jew first and to the Greek' is still emphasized within the locus, a window is left open to consider God’s righteousness as concerned with humanity as a whole and therefore to be both vertically and horizontally understood. For centuries, based on one understanding of how Luther read Augustine, we have been led to believe that the righteousness of God as described in Romans is in the first place about an individual believer’s legal status before God and does not primarily concern how God’s people live out God’s righteousness – or justice – on the earth" (Mark Reasoner, Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005], 5).

"A holistic reading of Romans and Galatians should tie together the covenantal and forensic dimensions of God’s righteousness. The vertical and horizontal aspects of justification need to be appropriately described and weighted in order to provide a comprehensive picture of justification in Paul’s letters. According to Paul, faith alone in Jesus is the basis of vindication; and faith alone marks out the people of God" (Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God, 153).

"Essentially, it is a matter of giving Romans 3:29-30 equal status with 3:27-28: the God who justifies is as such the God of Jews and Gentiles alike. At this point in Paul’s argument, the presence of a 'horizontal' or social dimension alongside the 'vertical' or theological one is unambiguously clear – although it is still routinely missed by the New Perspective’s critics" (Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective, 6).

Note now Dunn and Wright's appropriation of this:

Dunn:"Evidently [from Gal 2.16] the two dimensions are inextricably interlocked - the vertical and the horizontal, acceptance by God with acceptance of others to de-prioritize the horizontal emphasis, as 'sociological' and distinct from 'theological', is to miss and to mistake the high priority which Paul placed upon it, as his later writings confirm" (James D. G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem, 489).

Wright: "Here the normal caricatures of the new perspective (which are sometimes of course richly deserved) simply break down. It is not either 'rescue from sin' or 'easy entry, without circumcision, into God's people.' Nor are these, as is sometimes suggested, merely to be thought of as 'vertical' and 'horizontal' dimensions, soteriology on the one hand and sociology on the other [footnote to Michael Bird saying he's wrong on this!!!]. Part of the point is that soteriology itself, for Paul, is in that sense 'horizontal,' having to do with the ongoing purposes of God within history, while sociology, for Paul, is 'vertical,' because the single multiethnic family, constituted in the Messiah and indwelt by the Spirit, is designed as God's powerfl sign to the pagan world that Israel's God, Abraham's God, is its Creator, Lord, and Judge. In fact, what appear to Western eyes as two separate issues - salvation from sin on the one hand, a united people of God on the other - seem to have appeared to Paul as part and parcel of the same thing. That single same thing included God's dealing with humanity's idolatry, failure to reflect God's image, rebellion andsin, and not least fracturing into different nations and ethnic groups. As we shall see in the next chapter, they are all different ways of saying, ultimatley, the same thing" (N.T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, 126-27).

A few issues:

1. I think some theologians just don't have a grammar or framework for attributing any social, covenantal, or horizonal sense to justification. Here the NPP is a genuine corrective, esp. Dunn's later works, in showing you don't have to abandon Luther if you give Sanders a fair hearing.

2. Does the vertical/horizontal divide go far enough? No doubt these elements are identifiable in Paul's thought (e.g. Rom. 3.21-26 and 27-30). But many will want to insist that vertical is the basis/content of justification while the horizontal is merely the scope/context of justification. Does that downplay the social/horizontal elements? I've struggled with this myself insofar as I've referred to the social side of justification as something that is both an implicate of and yet intrinsic to the justifying verdict.

3. Is Wright's objection to this vertical/horiztonal divide legitimate?

Paul as Apostle to Gentiles and Jews

I have just finished the first draft of an essay entitled, "Paul: Apostle to Gentiles and Jews". Find it here. I welcome any comments, corrections, and feedback!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Accordance and Me, Part 5: Using Accordance for Research

I use Accordance almost every day in my research and study of the New Testament and related literature. One of the great advantages of Accordance over other software packages on offer is their proven commitment to providing tagged texts of all relevant primary literature for the study of the Bible. Competing software packages simply follow Accordance’s lead. For example. recently Accordance has published tagged texts of the Apocryphal Gospels and the Christian Apologists (Ireaneus, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Theophylus of Antioch). These are not available with any other software program of which I'm aware.

I have used Accordance for research in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic Targums, the Mishnah, the Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, the Septuagint, the Apostolic Fathers, Ireneaus, and Justin Martyr. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic Targums, and the Mishnah tagged texts saved me countless hours of time I would have otherwise spent on painstakingly looking up the words in a Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon. In addition, because most of this literature is unpointed, I have been able to work with it much more easily thanks to Accordance. Recently, my research has shifted into early Christian literature and I have used the tagged Greek texts of the AF, Ireneaus and Justin to great effect. While I infrequently conduct detailed grammatical research, Accordance provides the most user-friendly and intuitive search engines out there.

Without getting into a detailed discussion of using Accordance for research, I’ll be content to mention one very convenient feature. If you are working with a Greek text (or Hebrew or Aramaic for that matter) and you want to research a word in the various tools that you have (including Lexicons, Grammars, Commentaries, Bible Notes, etc.) you simply right click the mouse and select “Search All Tools”. A list of all the occurrences of that word in all your tools is generated. You simply select which the tool you want to look at and a new window appears with that tool.

Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

This past weekend North Park Theological Seminary held their annual symposium and this year the theme was Conversion. This symposium results in the yearly publication Ex Auditu published by Wiph & Stock. The list of presenters and respondents was impressive with the likes of Scot McKnight (North Park), Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford), Michael Gorman (St. Mary’s), J. Warren Smith (Duke), Lewis Rambo (San Francisco Theological Seminary), Stephen Chester (North Park), J. Andrew Dearman (Fuller), George Kalantzis (Wheaton) and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (Ashland).

Unfortunately, I was not able to make many of the papers due to teaching and commitments at home, but I did attend McKnight’s, Bockmeuhl’s and Smith’s. Each of these were interesting and enlightening. Scot’s paper was on the perennial question was Paul converted or called. Using social science he argued that Paul was converted, but provocatively he asserted that Paul remained a Jew and probably maintained much of his former Jewish practice, although Scot was reluctant to say to what extent Paul practiced Torah.

Markus gave the kind of paper you come to expect from him. He addressed Peter’s conversion, which is not provided in Luke’s narrative in either Luke or Acts, by attempting to ascertain the footprint left in early Christianity using early Christian art, apocryphal anecdotes from the Gospel of Peter and later New Testament texts. It was excellently written both interesting and informing. I continue to be awed by Markus’ grasp of ancient sources: Jewish and Christian. Michael Gorman gave a very thoughtful response to Markus’ paper that spurred a very good discussion.

Warren gave a fascinating paper on Ambrose’s homilies on the patriarch Joseph which form the climax of his catechesis for those being baptized during Holy Week. He showed among other things that Ambrose’s figurative reading of the Joseph story led him to conclude that the Jews would turn to Christ and be saved at the end of the age. Perhaps most interesting was Ambrose’s claim that this would be paradoxically as a result of the person of Saint Paul.

I suppose what was most enjoyable was to see Markus whom I hadn’t seen in a good deal of time. It was fun to have him experience North Park and I even had a chance to show him my small office. I also had the chance to meet Michael Gorman for the first time which was a real treat as I have admired his work for some time. In addition, I had a great conversation over dinner with Andrew Dearman, who was very curious about my views on Paul. Andrew is a great guy and I appreciated how interested he was in my work. It was also good to get reacquainted with Wyndy Corbin Reuschling whom I had met at Tyndale House in 2006 while I was in Cambridge for my Ph.D. viva.

The Politics of Cartography

Teasing Americans about their (lack of) knowledge of world geography is like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, should I really have to explain to people where Australia, a continent for crying out loud, is located? But I enjoyed this clip from the West Wing

HT: Eilidh

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Learn the Biblical Languages

See these clips by Elizabeth Groves on why you should learn the biblical languages.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Notice: Judith Lieu - Johannine Letters

Judith Lieu
I, II, & III John (NTL)
Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2009
Available at Alban Books in the UK and in the US

This is a good commentary on the Johannine letters with fine discussions of classic texts like 1 John 2.2 and 4.8. Lieu is concerned to take the Johannine Epistles out of the shadow of the Fourth Gospel and evaluate them on their own merits. I especially enjoyed the opening paragraph of the commentary:

"The three Letters of John represent a distinctive voice among the epistolary literature of the New Testament; together with the Gospel of John, forming the 'Johannine corpus,' they also contribute to a major thread within New Testament and early Christian thought, one that is to be set alongside and balances the Pauline tradition in influence and importance. Central to this contribution is the understanding of God, of the place of Jesus within any experience and articulation of God's acting, and of the transformation that becomes a lived reality for those who share that understanding and experience. Alongside the general impact of these theological achievements, 1 John is the source of a number of formulations that have become familiar in subsequent Christian liturgy and language, for example, the exhortation to confession and the assurance of forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9) or the lapidary, 'God is love' (1 John 4:8, 16)" (p. 1).

My biggest quibble is that Lieu has failed to mention and interact with another fellow-methodist I. Howard Marshall and his commentary in the NICNT series!!!

Things to Click

Around the blogosphere the Duke NT Ph.D Students have a new blog called Duke NewT. Ben Myers have received a new book with something nice inside. Jim Hamilton interviews Tom Schreiner in audio. Steve Holmes has a great post on "pushing the limits of the atonement". James McGrath wonders if Jesus thought of himself as God (see my chapter in How Did Christianity Begin? for the answer!). And Scot McKnight talks about influential books and authors.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wright and Dunn Video on the NPP

N.T. Wright and Jimmy Dunn appear in a short video about the New Perspective on Paul. A number of interesting things emerge: (1) Wright doesn't seem aware that Dunn has "moved" a bit on works of law since in Dunn's most recent Beginning from Jerusalem he says that it means "works which the law requires" and goes beyond boundary markers, though he is quite right to insist that works of law still has an ethnic signifier. I'm also wondering if it should also be linked to the specific (pharisaic?) halakhah of Paul's opponents in Galatia. (2) Dunn notes that the NPP is not anti-Lutheran per se, but intends to bring the corporate, social, and ethnic issues to the surface which were not properly handled by the Reformers and their heirs; (3) Dunn's comparison of the exclusiveness of second temple Judaism and "American imperialism" was most amusing, and no doubt much annoyance it will cause.

HT: Text, Community, and Mission

Matthew's Use of Luke

Mark Goodacre and James McGrath both talk about the possibility of Matthew's usage of Luke (with varying view points!). Interestingly Martin Hengel (The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, 68-70) took this view. He wrote: "[W]e must reckon that the later Matthew knew the earlier Luke, took over parts which seemed to him appropriate, i.e. the content of which was promising, and in the process of course also altered his theological wishes accordingly. This is already indicated by the fact that as a rule the more original version is attributed to Q-Luke as opposed to Q-Matthew. In addition - and here Papias can put us on the right road - there were certainly also one or more 'Logia collections'. But - as I have already said - we can no longer reconstruct these adequately, especially as we cannot know what the evangelists changed or omitted in the sources, unknown to us, which they probably had in more abundance than we suppose."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Health-Care Debate

Now I'm not one to get involved in the US health-care debate, but I liked this video by Will Ferrell:

I can't resist a few comments (I tried, I really did, but I can't resist):

1. Every western democracy from Norway to New Zealand has universal health care for its citizens except for the wealthiest nation on earth.

2. Putting profit-driven companies in charge of health care sounds like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. You need more than market forces to keep greed in check, if you don't believe me, go apply for a loan at Lehman Brothers.

3. I've lived in two countries with universal health-care and it works great (not faultless by any strech, but it works).

4. Australia has both a public and private system and the two can and do co-exist in peaceful harmony, i.e., there is a safety net for the masses and those who want breast implants and ankle reconstructions on demand can have it. My two daughters were born in private hospitals, but I've also made use of the public system for the most part.

5. To oppose access to affordable health care strikes me as a violation of the golden rule.

6. I can understand the desire not to put government in charge of everything, to encourage a free market economy, to create profit-motive, to foster upward economic mobility, and avoid becoming a welfare state - I'm on board - but you can still have all that with more government involvement in health care.

7. Does anyone know of any theological reflections on health care?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Martin Hengel on the OT Canon

Here's a thought-provoking throught from Martin Hengel on the OT canon:

"As a New Testament scholar and Christian Theologian, I would like to pose a question in view of the problem emerging here. Does the church still need a clearly demarcated, strictly closed Old Testament canon, since the New Testament is, after all, the 'conclusion', the goal and the fulfilment of the Old? Indeed, does not one face an essential contradiction if one, in an unhistorical biblicism, clings to a limited 'Hebrew', or better pharisaical, 'canon' from Jabneh? Must not the Old Testament remain a degree open to the New? Is not a figure like the eschatological prophet John the Baptist the most important example - in the New Testament itself - of this openness of the Old for the New, the final? ... The origin of Christianity as well as of rabbinic Judaism after 70 CE becomes at all historically interesting and comprehensible only through this literature, which includes in a wider dimension also Josephus, Philo and the Pseudepigrapha. One portion of this literature was preserved, sometimes unwillingly, by Christian tradition; the other comes to light now in the Qumran texts. The great interest that this rich 'post-biblical' Jewish tradition finds among Jews and Christians could perhaps be assessed as a sign of the relative openness of the 'canon' in both directions, given the fact that Jews and Christians parted conclusively only after the destruction of Jerusalem toward the end of the first century CE." (The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 126).

I think it is perfectly valid to recognize that Christian sacred literature was broader than our modern "canon", but does this proposal mean (a) almost de-canonising the Old Testament since it has no limits; (b) making the Old Testament of less canonical weight than the New Testament; and (c) using the Old Testament as background reading rather than as "scripture"?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Accordance and Me, Part 4: Accordance and Learning Greek

I tell my Greek students that Bible software is an indispensible crutch for pastoral ministry and academic research and teaching. The time one saves using Accordance significant and it will perhaps ensure that the exegetical skills gained in seminary will not be lost due to the pressures of ministry.

Yet, I do not espouse the method of teaching Greek, which some schools now offer, that simply teach students to the use software without an adequate foundation in Greek grammar and syntax. I do not advocate learning to use Accordance or any other program in place of the basic study of Greek grammar. This goes for online courses as well. While they can be useful especially for folks who do not have access to a seminary or college that teaches biblical languages, it is very difficult, although not impossible, to gain a sufficient proficiency outside of a classroom experience. Everyone, I realize, will not share this view; but even this semester I have a student auditing my class because they were unprepared for the exegesis course after successfully completing the Greek grammar course online. No matter what Rosetta Stone may say, learning languages is not easy no matter what bells and whistles may come with the product. At the end of the day, it comes down to just grinding it out in study.

Returning to my “crutch” analogy, I also tell them “one must break their leg, before a crutch is useful or necessary. This course will break your leg! After you complete it you’ll be ready to use a crutch".

Simply put, the long term effectiveness of Bible software for teaching and preaching is related to the extent of one’s basic grammatical knowledge.

Accordance and Me, Part 3: Accordance and other Premier Products

As I continue posting on the benefits of Accordance, I want to make perfectly clear the extent of what I am able to say about Accordance with respect to the other premier software products on the market. I have not had first-hand experience with BibleWorks and therefore I am not in a position to speak about Accordance’s advantages in comparison. I have mentioned that on more than one occasion colleagues and professors who have had experience using both have told me that Accordance is better. It is true that on the whole these folks have also been big Mac people. My perception is people who love Accordance also love Mac. While I am no PC basher, I do find Mac has advantages over the PC. I have had the opportunity to use both for extended periods of time (PC = 10yrs and Mac = 3yrs) and I think Mac is the way to go if one is contemplating the purchase of a new computer.

I am aware that Logos has made significant strides to gain a market share in the high-end Bible software arena. Logos historically had been not much more than an electronic library with little to no primary source modules. About five years or so ago, however, Logos rolled out a new product and it looks pretty good. I surveyed their website recently and it appears that Logos can provide scholars and pastors with solid resource for biblical studies. While I would not invest in it myself for a number of reasons, I think it would be an adequate program. Logos has many ministry-oriented modules (even magazines apparently) that Accordance and BibleWorks don’t and this may appeal to some. I am personally not interested in collecting a bunch of books and magazines in an electronic format. I am still “old school” enough that if I’m going to read something, I don’t want to read it on a screen. For me the benefits of Bible software are the research capabilities: the ability to have at one’s fingertips lexicons, commentaries, grammars, etc; as well as the ability to have vital linguistic information available with the move of a mouse or a click. As best I can tell Accordance does this better than any other product on the market.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Aussies vs. Kiwis

If you want to understand how far the Australia vs. New Zealand divide goes, watch this clip.

Note: Unless you can tell an Aussie accent from a New Zealand one, this simply won't make sense. Since most Americans can't tell an English accent from an Australia one (I'm thinking particularly of Tom Schreiner here) you might want to skip past this clip and just focus on finding where Australia and New Zealand are on a map!

In honour of the Kiwis, let me just say that NZ has the best rugby team in the world three years out of four!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Martin Hengel on the "Centre of Scripture"

The late Martin Hengel wrote: "In view of the use of the Old Testament in early Christianity, one could speak, if one wished, of a - tacitly assumed - eschatologically determined 'centre of the Scriptures' (Mitte der Schrift), that of fulfilment in the gospel. One could also say that it was determined by Christology, soteriology and the new righteousness or - in a phrase - by the 'justification of the ungodly' (Rom. 4:5; 5:6), and that it thus essentially excluded the possibility of an external delimitation of 'the truth of the gospel' (Gal. 2:5-14) through a firmly defined collection of 'canonical' Scriptures, although one primarily concentrated on relatively few, very specific well-known Scriptures [i.e., Psalms, Isaiah, Deuteronomy]" (The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of its Canon [trans. M.e. Biddle; London: T&T Clark, 2002], 108).

Apocrypha in the LXX

The Apocrypha includes those books contained in the Greek Old Testament but not found in the Hebrew Bible, yet Earle E. Ellis notes: "No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint 'Bible' was ever the subject of discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of Scripture" (The Old Testament in Early Christianity [WUNT 1.54; Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991), 34-35.

Augustine on the Septuagint

I've written on Augustine and the Septuagint elsewhere, but I've recently come across this quote which is interesting:

"But, if scribal error is not involved, it must be believed that, where the sense corresponds to the truth and proclaims the truth, they [i.e., the seventy translators], moved by the divine Spirit, wished to deviate [from the Hebrew text], not in the manner of interpreters [i.e., translators], but in the freedom of those prophesying. Consequently, the apostles, in their authority, when they appealed to the Scriptures, quite rightly utilized not only the Hebrew, but also their own - the witness of the Seventy" (Augustine, City of God, 15.14).

Responses to Paul in the Early Chuch

In Charles Talbert's excellent Romans commentary, he lists responses to Paul in the early church:

(1) In some circles he was ignored and there was a focus on the twelve (e.g., Rev 12:14, Didache, Ep. Barn 8.3; Justin Apol 1.39, 50).

(2) Paul was appropriated by groups deemed heretical in the early church (e.g., Marcion, Valentinus, Nassenes, Sethians, etc.)

(3) There were hostile responses to Paul esp. by Jewish Christians (e.g., Acts 21.21; Ebionites, Cerinthians, Ps-Clementine Recognitions 4.35).

I should note that myself and Preston Sprinkle are editing a book on Paul in the Second Century for the LNTS series.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back from Leuven

I've just returned from K.U. Leuven from an amazing seminar on New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews. From the outset I have to say that I loved Belgium and it was great to be there when Kim Clijsters won the US Tennis Open! Leuven is gorgeous, so European, and best of all it has all the cuisine and culture of France but without the French!! I successfully delivered home a few boxes of Belgian chocolates which is the only reason my wife let me attend. My hosts were very amiable and the interaction with the other seminar participants was great. It was also good to catch up again with Mark Nanos as always and I got to meet Peter Tomson who is another Paulinist. I learnt with some frustration that "H" means mensroom and "D" means the ladies (pictures would have been easier). Some outstanding papers by the exegetes there including William Campbell, Tom Blanton, Michael Bachmann, and Mark Nanos (see photos here).

My paper went okay, though I was a bit out of kilt with the rest of my colleagues. I posit a discontinuity between Paul and Judaism to the extent that Paul is, socially speaking, sectarian. At least at the height of his Aegean mission he's moved his assemblies out of the synagogues and provided an ideological justification for an amiable separation in order to protect the integrity of his Gentile converts precisely as Gentiles. I think Phil Cunningham claimed that he was "disturbed" by my picture of Paul. The problem is that I just don't think Paul has a Sonderweg for Israel and he levels the playing field so that Jew and Gentile both stand condemned under the law (or what law they have) and both find salvation in Israel's Messiah. Moreover, while the church is not a replacement for Israel, the church (made up of believing Jews and Gentiles) is the representative of Israel in the messianic age.

There were two climactic quotes from the conference. (1) Hans-Joachim Sander (Salzburg) said that "[U]nfortunately Christian systematic theology is not George Clooney" - for context see this coffee advert - and he thus established the first piece of proof in modern European history that German theologians actually are capable of humour. (2) One seminar participant (whose name I shall conceal less he be excommunicated from Rome!) made the controverial remark: "Mission is a violation of human rights"! Now if what one means by that is that we should refrain from aggressive proselytizing activity or coercion or from inflaming religious tensions, then fine. But surely freedom of religion entails the freedom to practice and propagate one's own religion, does it not? Freedom of speech means I have the right to tell you what you don't want to hear. My response was that I thank God that 15 years ago my human rights were violated when a Christian community shared the love of Christ with me in telling me the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The concept of Jewish evangelism certainly was a "no, no". Mark Nanos said, "Jews have had more than enough oppotunity to be made aware of Christian propositional truths, including by coercion, and have suffered enough for them, that it is no longer necessary or appropriate to evangelize Jews with the hope that they become Christians. Christianity is no longer Judaism, unlike the case for Paul." The deplorable history of forced conversions to Christianity is just that, deplorable. Still, I know enough messianic Jews (including some in my local church!) that are grateful that those among the goyim shared the good news of Israel's Messiah with them. The Catholic document Nostra Aetate seems to lean in the direction of censuring evangelism of the Jewish people. Although whether this is a pastoral document or a dogmatic one is a matter of perspective. See further the article on mission in the Dictionary of Jewish Christian Relations by Helen Fry which overviews the background, issues, and concerns related to Jewish evangelism. I have to confess that I just don't get the Catholic doctrine here. Granted that we are now living in a post-holocaust age and we want to foster genuinely positive relations between Jews and Christians, even so, how can you forbid propagation of the "One True Faith" when the first bishop of Rome was St. Peter the Apostle to the Circumcision? Maybe Michael Barber and Brant Pitre can help me out on this one. With due respect to my colleagues, during much of the discussion one verse kept going through my head was: "If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing" (Gal. 2.21).

My final comments at the seminar were: (1) Markus Barth is probably one of the best resources there is for doing exegesis and biblical theology about the Jewish people and more attention should be given to him on this subject. I think Barth can help us appropriate what Paul means when he said: "All Israel will be saved". (2) We should not tie any single view of Jewish-Christian relations to insights from the New Perspective on Paul since the NPP itself is diverse and, what is more, mainline scholarship is now effectively "beyond" the NPP polarities (see works by Robert Jewett, Francis Watson, and John Barclay as examples). (3) We have to remember that Paul's message of the cross was a stumbling block to Jews (1 Cor. 1.18-19) and Paul got himself flogged by synagogue officials he says five times (2 Cor. 11.24). If in our quest to find a Paul congenial to promoting good Jewish-Christian relations we end up with a Paul who is neither offensive nor whippable, then that is proof that we have made Paul in our own image.

Overall, a fine conference, very insightful and learned seminar presenters, a wonderful atmosphere and location, and much to think about as a result.

Lecture on E-Spirituality

For those in north of Scotland, you should take note of this special lecture, 'Downloading our Spirituality: Why Going to Church Doesn't Seem to Matter in this Virtual Age' by Dr. Julie Canlis. Dr. Canlis explores why downloading a good sermon should not, and cannot, take the place of coming together as 'church.' She explores the teaching of Calvin, and draws upon the strengths of the Reformed tradition to combat our contemporary culture of individualism.

Info: Wednesday 23rd September, 3pm, Conference Room, Highland Theological College UHI, High St, Dingwall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Article Published on Matthew and Paul

The friendship of Matthew and Paul: A response to a recent trend in the interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel

Author: Joel Willitts

David Sim has argued that Matthew’s so-called Great Commission (Mt 28:16–20) represents a direct anti-Pauline polemic. While this thesis may be theoretically possible and perhaps fits within the perspective of an earlier era in New Testament research, namely that of the Tübingen School, the evidence in both Matthew and the Pauline corpus does not support such a reading of early Christianity. In this paper, I argue that an antithetical relationship between Matthew’s Great Commission and Paul’s Gentile mission as reflected in his epistles is possible only (1) with a certain reading of Matthew and (2) with a caricature of Paul. In light of the most recent research on both Matthew’s Great Commission and the historical Paul, these two traditions can be seen as harmonious and not antithetical in spite of the recent arguments to the contrary. My argument provides a further corrective to the view of early Christianity, which posits a deep schism between so-called Jewish Christianity and Paul’s ostensibly Law-free mission to the Gentiles.

You can find the article here at HTS.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catholic Approaches to Paul?

I'm reading the new book by Magnus Zetterholm Approaches to Paul: A Student's Guide to Recent Scholarship. It is an excellent summary of the dominant approaches to Paul today. I highly recommend it. Zetterholm identifies three approaches that are currently found in Pauline studies, especially with respect to Paul's relationship to Judaism as: (1) traditional, Reformational perspective; (2) the New Perspective; and (3) the "radical new perspective".

One question that comes immediately to mind however is where does Catholic scholarship fit within the discussion? Zetterholm doesn’t deal with Catholic scholarship. He does deal with a Catholic perspective only to the extent that he provides a historical overview of the church’s interpretation of Paul and Judaism before the Reformation. (ch 2) But after the Reformation and the introduction of Lutheran readings with the stress on “justification by faith”, Zetterholm doesn’t deal with the continuing Catholic tradition.

Would then the Catholic tradition represent a fourth approach in addition to the three Zetterholm identifies? Or does modern Catholic scholarship merely reflect the dominant categories and questions? If the New Perspective is largely a critique of Lutheranism, what is its relationship to Catholic scholarship? I would assume that Sander’s new view of Judaism has some influence on Catholic scholars, but wouldn’t his critique of the Lutheran Paul have been largely relevant to Catholic scholarship?

I suppose one way to look at this from Zetterholm's perspective is that insofar as Catholic scholarship’s questions are primarily related to dogmatic questions of Christian theology and insofar as each shares the fundamental historic assumption of mutual exclusivity of Judaism and Christianity, Catholic tradition can fall under Zetterholm's “traditional” perspective. No matter that it is not “Lutheran”, its concern is the same as Lutheranism: to relate doctrine and the theology of Paul. Catholic scholarship, in other words, would come to very different conclusions than Lutheran scholarship, but they would be addressing the very same questions.

However, there is a problem isn't there with referring to these very divergent traditions with the one category: the “traditional Paul”. To begin with Baur, as Zetterholm does, is to begin with Protestant scholarship, to the exclusion of the earlier and ongoing Catholic tradition. What would my Catholic friends say to this? Is there something unique about a Catholic approach to Paul? If so, what?

Perhaps our friends Michael and Brant over at Singing in the Reign/The Sacred Page can respond.

Accordance and Me, Part 2: The Coming of the Emulator

I began a series of posts on Accordance last week and this week I want to add another installment in the series called “The Coming of the Emulator”.

As I began my Ph.D. work at Cambridge I studied alongside a Finnish guy named Marko. Marko and I got along well and we shared similar research interests. Marko was a computer programmer before leaving the workplace to pursue a degree in the New Testament. During his years at Tyndale House he was the resident computer expert. Marko made a significant impression on me with respect to the advantage of Accordance over BibleWorks through various conversations. While the details now of his opinions are not fuzzy, I remember that he strongly believed that for people not extremely computer savvy, Accordance was the better of the two. One comment I remember him making was that in his opinion BibleWorks was a more demanding and not as intuitive a program. This was to say nothing of the fact that at that time Accordance was leading the way in publishing tagged primary source material. such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

As I remember it, while Marko liked BibleWorks, and I think he was a PC man and used it, he thought on the whole Accordance was better. So, when it became apparent to me that Gramcord was not going to be my long-term solution, I began to think about a Mac. I decided to wait until I had the resources to purchase a Mac and until then I would just hold out. There was no reason to buy an inferior program, if one day I would have wished I had just waited for Accordance.

Then at an SBL I was introduced to the free Mac emulator that Tim Hegg developed. Tim showed me how easy it was to use and I was sold. The emulator opened up the Accordance world to me. On that day, I discovered that I could run Accordance on my PC. I could have Accordance without purchasing at Mac. So at that SBL, I purchased my first Accordance program and modules. I think that was 02 or 03. I would run Accordance on my PC for the next four years until the summer 2007 when I got a MacBook for the first time.

I’ll be honest and say that the emulator, while giving you the goods, is not an efficient tool. On the most basic and important tasks, such as cutting and pasting texts or printing, you would be required to do a number of additional tasks in order to perform the very simple one. For example, on of the most frustrating aspects of the emulator was the inability to directly cut and paste biblical texts into a document. I would have to copy them into a word document in the emulator (I got a free version of Word 5 for Mac) before saving the doc file onto a flash disk. Then after switching from the emulator, I would open the doc on the PC side. I could then copy the text and paste it into my document. This became frustrating after awhile, although I considered it a small inconvenience. One other issue was that it was not practical to use the emulator for teaching given that you would have to jump between the Mac side and the PC side during a presentation and this jumped did not always go smoothly. I Still, I was very thankful for the emulator and over the moon about the fact that I had Accordance.

When I purchased Accordance, Martin Abegg had recently finished the tagging of all the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls and it was the only Bible program to offer them at the time. The Scrolls were one of the first modules I purchased and used it to great effect whilst working on research in the Scrolls. I am indebted to Accordance for that module as it was foundational to that research. It should be said that I have felt this kind of indebtedness on many an occasion over the course of the years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Paulineness of Paul's Speech in Acts 13

Paul's evangelical preaching in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13.16-41 and in Lystra/Derbe in Acts 14.15-17 are among the lesser studied speeches of Acts (lesser compared to Peter's Pentecost sermon, Stephen's martyrdom speech, and Paul's Areopagus address). The authenticity of the speeches in Acts are obviously question since it is debated as to whether Luke was even intending to give an accurate account, did he have sources that heard and remembered the orations, then there is the relative uniformity of the speeches and their accordance with Luke's own theological perspective, not to mention the practice of speech narration in antiquity. As I'm reading Jimmy Dunn's Beginning from Jerusalem (and for the rest of my natural life I shall probably still be slowly wading through it), Dunn makes a good point about the elements of contact that Paul's speeches in Acts 13-14 have with Paul's letters:

- Paul's understanding of the gospel as for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Acts 13.46/Rom 1.16).
- Paul as fulfilling the mission of the Servant of Isaiah 49.6 (Acts 13.47/Gal 1.15-16, etc.)
- Paul's sermon in 14.15-17 is a variation of his indictment of paganism in Rom. 1.20-23.
- Echoes of Paul's exhortation abut suffering as a necessary prequisite to glory in Acts 14.22 are common enough in his letters.

Steve Walton did his Ph.D thesis on Paul's Speech to the Ephesian elders and the exhortaton in 1 Thessalonians (SNTS), and I wonder if a comparison of the Paulinism of Acts 13-14 with Romans would be a good subject for some other brave soul.

Steve Mason on Josephus, Jews, and Gospel

I've enjoyed and benefitted from several of Steve Mason's works on Josephus in the past few years (evident in my forthcoming Crossing Over Sea and Land) and below I'd like to do a quick book notice on his latest publication Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009 [Available from Alban Books in the UK]) and briefly interact with his thought provoking article in Bible and Interpretation on "Methods and Categories: Judaism and the Gospel" which is adapted from the forementioned book.

Mason's study on Ioudaismos is highly informative and I don't contest most of what he says esp. the relation of Ioudaismos to Ioudaizein. What I do find objectionable is his view that Ioudaismos only became a "system" in the minds of later Christian interpreters. I doubt that because: (1) Paul's remarks in Galatians 1 about advancing in Judaism beyond most of his contemporaries assumes his advancement in beliefs and behaviours charactistic of the Judeans. In Mason's analysis Ioudaismos becomes equivalant to zelous which I doubt. (2) Philo and others can refer to the Israelite religion as a form of national philosophy which is a system of belief, indeed, they arguably reduce it to a set of philosophical tenets with some nationalistic trimmings. (3) The existence of sects like Pharisees and Essenes requires elements of an ideological profile that differentiates them from one another (i.e. sectarianism) and but also features that they share as well (i.e. Judaism). (4) The other problem of linking Ioudaismos to Ioudaizein is that, strictly speaking, Jews don't judaize! To "judaize" is something that only a non-Jew can do. For example, in Gal 2 Paul accuses Peter of forcing Gentiles to "judaize". Usage in Josephus confirms this since in Jewish War there is the story of the Roman commander Mitellius who offered to judaize to the point of circumcision. The Gentile inhabitants of the city of Antioch had to be wary of the "judaizers" who they feared would support the Jews during inter-racial tensions in the city. (5) Similarly, I would dispute Masons' claim that the category of "religion" did not exist, because it certainly did as the words threskeia and pietas denotes one's relgious behaviour. Where Mason's point is valid is that religion was not ordinarily divorced from territorial deities or regional loyalties. In counter-point, I would maintain the appropriateness of the term Judaism for signifying ethnicity and shared custom (John Barclay's definition!).

On "gospel", Mason's lexical study is again illuminating, esp. his translation of euangelion as "announcement" which I suspect (though I need to think more on this) does work. Once more, however, I contest his findings in one particular area. He writes: "I propose, to euangelion appears to be a term characteristic of Paul’s mission. It was something that he connected only with his own work, often in strikingly proprietary terms. He was eager to associate his own converts and followers with to euangelion as a shared treasure, but he became notably reticent to associate Christ-followers of other persuasions with it—not because they were unworthy, necessarily, but simply because they were different and not part of his mission, which was called to euangelion." But Paul did not connect "gospel" exclusively to his own work since he tells the Galatians that he and the Jerusalem church agreed on the "gospel" for the circumcised and uncircumcised (Gal 2:8-9) and he told the Corinthians that they could have heard the same gospel from Peter or from the other Apostles (1 Cor 15:11). Indeed, primitive gospel summaries found in Rom 1:3-4 and 1 Cor 15:3-5 look distinctively pre-Pauline. Luke also has a redactional habit of substituting euangelion for the verbal form euangelizomai. Luke is certainly a Pauline fan, but he is also an independent thinker and using non-Pauline sources as well. Even Mark who is a Pauline disciple seems to have Petrine sympathies as well according to the content of his Gospel and in later Christian tradition. Gerd Theissen suggests that Mark's use of "gospel" is "coloured" by usage of the word in the late 60s in association with Vespasian's rise to power. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus does proclaim a gospel which many have taken to be a wild anachronism esp. if it is freighted with Pauline connotations. Even so, Jesus never proclaims the gospel of his death and resurrection which marks a fundamental discontinuity between the Synoptic Jesus and Paul. Jesus' statement about the "gospel of God" (e.g. Mk 1:15) seem clearly at home in a Palestinian context with analagous language found in Qumran (e.g 4Q521 col. 2). Paul was undoubtedly the main distributor of term "gospel" and he popularized a particular form of the expression in the early church, but I doubt that he was the progenator of the expression or even the single conduit through which it entered the grammar of the early church.

Book Notice: New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible

New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld
Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
Available through Alban Books in the UK.

I am probably one of the elite few biblical scholars who did not write entries for the NIDB. When it comes to reference resources, normally I prefer the Anchor Bible Dictionary since it is thorough and compromised of entries written by experts on their respective areas of speciality (and it is a good replacement to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia which is now dated). That said the ABD itself is now getting on a bit since 1992 when it was published. More recently, I've been flicking through volume four of the NIDB and it is pretty good. Some helpful articles here on "obedience" (M. Eugene Boring), "resurrection" (Alan Segal), "Paul, the Apostle" (Calvin Roetzel), "Peter, the Apostle" (Pheme Perkins), "Pharoah" (Carolyn Higginbotham), "Philo" (Ellen birnhaum), and others. These are solid pieces, not always mind-blowing, but good summaries of what are often obscure and technical subjects. Very ideal of students and pastors. The only criticism I have is that I wish the bibliographies were as thorough as those in the ABD.

Off to Belgium

I'm just about to head off for my first trip to Belgium at the historic University of Louvain. Bit scary since I don't speak any French apart from "toilet", "Gerard Depardieu", and "coup de grace". Although a German butcher once told me that I speak German with a dutch accent which might help at some strange point! So I'm off to hang with some Pauline gurus, exchange pleasantries with Mark Nanos over 1 Cor 9.20-23, and buy some Belgian chocolates which will hopefully make their way home for the rest of the family.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Matt Montonini reviews Are You the One to Come?

Over at New Testament Perspectives, Matt Montonini reviews Are You the One to Come?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Katherine Grieb on "God's Righteousness"

In a good little book called The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God's Righteousness, A. Katherine Grieb writes about God's righteousness:

"The Story of God's righteousness in Jesus Christ is at once the story of (1) God's sovereign renewal of the created cosmos, (2) God's redemption of humanity from universal bondage to Sin and Death, and (3) God's reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles (which involves both God's faithfulness to Israel and the keeping of God's promises for the Gentiles). It is critical to discern the apocalyptic framework in which the story appears: creations groans with expectation (Rom. 8:22) as Paul and his communities live out the script of the end time; they are players in the last act of God's apocalyptic drama of salvation, a story that began with creation and the fall and continues thorugh Israel's history up to the present moment" (p. xxiii).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Leuven Seminar on "New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews"

Next week there is cool seminar planned at the University of Leuven in Belgium on "New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews". The papers are now available on-line here. The conference is organised by the Faculty of Theology, K.U. Leuven, with the support of the Flemish Scientific Research Foundation (FWO Vlaanderen) and the University Research Council (Onderzoeksraad) of the K.U.Leuven. There is a good programme lined up and I hope it will be alot of fun.

Bible Works 8 - Part 2

As a follow up to my earlier post, I'll now describe some of the new features of BW8 that I like. (You only have to look at the sidebar to notice that myself and Joel Willitts have developed a friendly rivalry over which Bible Software programme we like!) New features of BW8 include:

Menu Tabs. Generally I don't like people messing with my software. Just when I get used to something the manufacturer upgrades the programme and then I have to learn how to "do" and "find" functions all over again. BW8 uses a new drop down menu when you want to change versions. The first option it gives you are languages (English, Greek, Hebrew) and then the assorted versions and documents available. Second, the BW8 makes it easier to move between biblical books, chapters, and verses. Whereas previously you had to scroll up and down to shift between say Acts and Revelation, the new drop down menu is much quicker. This is a change that I like.

New Analysis Tabs. A new "Context" Tab enables you to see the most common words in a pericope, chapter, and book. This is great for getting a feel of an authors preferred vocab.

Phrase Matching Tool. This is a cute little gadget that enables you to find similar phrases and words. I tried this with Rom. 1.17 looking for a phrases 5 words in length with 4 gap words at most and I instantly got Gal. 3.11 as I expected. This is far better than mere word searches as it allows you to identify common themes, threads, and phrases.

Text Exporting. There is now more flexibility as what the text looks like when you export it to a document. For instance, I prefer "In the beginning" (Gen 1:1). to "Gen 1:1 ESV In the beginning".

New Resources. Among the many new resources include:

a. New Greek and Hebrew references such as Wallace Exegetical Syntax of the NT, Waltke & O'Connor Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and Jouon & Muraoka A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew.

b. Early Church Fathers from with complete series of Schaff Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers.

c. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in Greek and English. (Though I'm still trying to figure out where the Greek of 1 Enoch comes from!). It is based on versions from R.H. Charles and C.A. Evans.

Let me say that having the LXX, MT, Syriac, Targums, Josephus, Philo, Church Fathers, Pseudepigrapha in English and original languages makes this a great resource to have. The DSS are also available but you have to pay to unlock them.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Important New Book on Evangelicalism

My colleague over at the North Park Theological Seminary, Soong-Chan Rah, has written an important book on the future of evangelicalism. The book is called The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. It is an eye opening exposé on western-white evangelicalism in America. On the one hand, it exposes the unrecognized cultural captivity of the church and the Gospel. On the other, it introduces us to the often unseen growth of the non-white evangelical church in urban centers in the United States. Both an informative and challenging book that is a must read for pastors and church leaders.

Female Bibliobloggers

I've stayed away from the female bibliobloggers debate mainly in the interest of personal safety. Let me say one thing up front: I don't wake up every morning conspiring on how to keep women out of the blogosphere. I have no problem with women being part of the blogosphere and I would very much love to encourage them as much as I can. The only problem is that, apart from Judy Redman and April Deconick, I just don't know too many women who's blogging topics overlap with my own interests. No conspiracy theory, no misogyny, just haven't met that many female bibliobloggers. I'm glad to say that Suzanne Mccarthy has a good list of female bibliobloggers and I've added several to my google reader. Rachel Marszalek has a good post on the whole hoo-haa as well.

New Covenant Commentary Series

The first two volumes of the NCCS are now out and they include Colossians/Philemon by Michael Bird and Romans by Craig Keener. You can order them from Wipf & Stock here. Even better, in the Wipf & Stock email notice you can get a 40% discount if you order both volumes! (Email me if you want a copy of the promotion with codes for the discount). Forgive my shameless promotion of the series (but I am an editor), but listen to these endorsements.

“Every generation needs to grapple anew with the Bible, and every pastor needs a series that pushes the text into the community and this commentary series accomplishes these tasks. May God bless these commentaries to yield communities that live out God’s gracious covenant with us” —Scot McKnightKarl A. Olsson Professor in Religious StudiesNorth Park University

“By grounding his exposition of Romans in the world of the first century, yet keeping his eye on the needs and concerns of the contemporary world, Keener offers here a rare commodity: a lucid commentary that is simultaneously conversant with the latest biblical scholarship and pastorally sensitive.”—John T. Fitzgerald, University of Miami

“Michael Bird’s treatment of Colossians and Philemon is incisive, informative, and independent . . . This is a masterpiece of succinct writing and an auspicious start to the New Covenant Commentary Series.”—Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh

ABOUT THE New Covenant Commentary Series:

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 array of backgrounds in regards to their Christian denominations and countries of origin. Unlike many commentary series that tout themselves as 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 countries such as the United States, 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 some often atomistic 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 community formation (how the text shapes the mission and character of the believing community) and ministerial formation (how the text shapes the ministry of Christian leaders). 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.

Forthcoming volumes:

EPHESIANS – Lynn Cohick
JAMES – Pablo Jimenez
1–3 JOHN – Sam Ngewa
JOHN – Jey Kanagaraj
PASTORAL EPISTLES – Aida Besancon-Spencer
MARK – Kim Huat Tan
ACTS – Yongmo Cho
LUKE – Jeannine Brown
2 PETER AND JUDE – Andrew Mbuvi
MATTHEW – Joel Willitts
1 PETER – Eric Greaux
PHILIPPIANS – Linda Belleville
HEBREWS – Tom Thatcher
GALATIANS – Brian Vickers
2 CORINTHIANS – David DeSilva

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Accordance and Me, Part 1: DTS and Accordance

Not long ago Mike, my esteemed blog partner, began posting on the program Bibleworks. I am an Accordance user so I want to provide an alternative set of posts describing what I have come to believe over the course of over a decade and a half is the premier Bible program. I am asked by students what Bible program to purchase and while I tell them that Bibleworks is the best thing out there on the PC side, they should make the switch to Mac and get Accordance. Over the course of the next few weeks I want to tell the story of Accordance and Me. I begin with DTS and Accordance.

When I began seminary at Dallas Theological Seminary in the fall of 1993 I purchased my first home computer. I don’t remember much about it, perhaps it was a 386 or something, but it was a PC. During college I had gotten away with borrowing a friend's Brother word processor (it was just a big box). That first semester at DTS I had a Greek course with Dan Wallace where he introduced us to the latest and greatest Bible program called Gramcord. Desiring to have resources that would help me with biblical exegesis I purchased Gramcord. Back then the program came on about 10 disks that took probably an hour to load onto the commuter. I thought the program was the coolest thing and I hoped that it would be a great help to me as I progressed through seminary. At the time I had not yet envisaged pursuing Ph.D. I had purchased Gramcord simply because I was convinced that it would help me be a better youth pastor (OK so maybe the writing was on the wall, but I had yet to interpret it).

After several years of full-time ministry (about 7 in all), I came to realized that God was calling me into an academic ministry and at that point I reengaged the Bible program question. I had returned to DTS, after having been away for some time, in the summer of 1999. By that time the Bible programs had begun to come into their own with new products on the market. It was at this time that I was first introduced to Accordance, although it had been launched in 1994. I was a PC person, so it was not really an option at the time, but Bibleworks by that time had also come on the Market. Since I had already purchased Gramcord, I decided to contact them to see what was new and to acquire any upgrades. Gramcord began to discuss a new environment they were in the process of developing that they believed would rival both Accordance and Bibleworks. So rather than purchasing a new program I decided to wait it out.

Meanwhile, I was talking with my Profs about Bible programs and hands down they would each tell me that Accordance had no rival. One particular Prof, Harold Hoehner, could have been an Accordance Rep. Now if you knew Harold you will know that there were two topics he especially enjoyed discussing: Macs (and Accordance) and United Airlines. If you got him on either subject you would get an ear full. Other Profs had both a Mac and a PC and ran both Accordance and Bibleworks. I was consistently told that if you want the best Bible program get a Mac and get Accordance.

My next post will be "The Coming of the Emulator".

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Blog - Peje Iesous

Christopher Skinner (St. Mary's Baltimore) has just started a blog called Peje Iesous. And his intro to the blog says: "This blog seeks to explore the historical Jesus, the canonical and extracanonical gospels, narrative hermeneutics, and the implications these areas of study have for modern followers of Jesus Christ. The name “Peje Iesous” is an English transliteration of the Coptic phrase “Jesus said,” the introductory formula for most sayings in the Gospel of Thomas. After reading so many biblical studies blogs with Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and German titles, I felt the need to include an entry from the vastly underrepresented category of Coptic." For those that don't know, I reviewed his book on the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas not long ago.

BNTC 2009

I've just got back from the 2009 BNTC in Aberdeen (wonderfully chereographed by Dr. Andrew Clark). Like 2008 in Durham, once more, the rain adversely effected my travel from the event. My poor wife came to join me at the conference but her 2 hr train ride from Inverness to Aberdeen ended up taking 6 hrs due to a diversion through Perth and Dundee! Enough about the infernal Scottish weather, here's my summation:

The setting in Kings College was lovely and proved to meet all our needs, although the corridor that included the tea/coffee area and bookstall was a bit crowded at times. The food was fantastic and I always like Aberdonian Angus Beef on the menu. Several new books were there including Michael Lattke's magnum opus The Odes of Solomon in the Hermeneia series. James Crossley and I autographed a book for one dear lady who brought How Did Christianity Begin? and was amazed that both authors were present to sign her book. Good to catch up with friends in the NT world and was most glad that chaps like Todd Still and Bruce Longenecker had made the effort to arrive from Texas. So all you Yanks should come over and see how NT study is supposed to be done at the BNTC.

Excellent papers this year. Todd Klutz on the Eighth Book of Moses showed that Morton Smith's translation and postulation of three underlying texts was erroneous. At the Paul Group, there was a good presentation by Jeremy Hultin on "Watch Your Mouth: What the Prohibitions of Foul Language Tell Us about Colossians and Ephesians" and he nearly convinced me that eutrapeia means "wittiness" in a positive sense which is censured based on a model of sacred social space. I still think that based on context, it has to have some negative connotation of "coarse" or "vulgar" joking (if wit in general is out of bounds, then I'm in a lot of trouble). The juxtaposition with "thanksgiving" is also strange, but it was a good paper overall. The Paul group then had a panel discussion on "Does Romans Need Addresses?" with Philip Esler, Peter Oakes, Francis Watson, and Angus Paddison. I think Francis Watson brough up some great stuff when he pointed out that all historical-critics and exegetes want to say "yes", but often in the history of interpretation Romans has been interpreted without reference to a concrete social situation being imagined. Everyone rejected Karl Barth's notion that the differences between "now" and "then" are from "trivial" as Barth alleged. Even so, theological interpretation is not opposed to historical situatedness. David Parker continued on with the good tradition of text-critical papers at BNTC. His presentation on "Variants and Variance" had lots of pictures and funny quotes from ancient manuscipts (reminds me a bit of Peter Williams' paper back in 2006 on the prologue of John's Gospel).

On the final day I attended the second temple literature group and enjoyed Jim Davilla's paper on The Book of Revelation and the Hekhalot Literature which showed the various parallels between the two, but wisely did not postulate any kind of literary relationship, preferring instead a common origin in Jewish mystical traditions. After that was Darrell Hannah on "The Elect son of man of the Parables of Enoch" which pointed out that the son of man is pre-existent, not just in name, but ontologically as well. The son of man is known, named, and preserved ahead of his disclosure to all mankind. Regarding 1 Enoch 70.1 where Enoch is identified as the Son of Man, many suggestions have been put forward. Hannah looked at some evidence from Ethiopic texts which insert a preposition to the effect that Enoch is lifted up to the son of man, rather than identified as the son of man, but as Hannah notes, it is not persuasive. More likely (and I agree) the association of son of man with Enoch is a secondary interpolation designed to respond to Christian identifications of the Son of Man with Jesus. That said, and what Larry Hurtado brought up, the current edition of 1 Enoch still works as we get a surprising twist as to who the son of man is at the end of the parables of Enoch - none other than Enoch himself. Finally, Helen Bond's paper on "Josephus on Herod the Great, Domestic Intrigue, and the Politics of First Century Judaea" was a treat that focuses on Josephus' literary account of Herod in book one of Jewish War. She surmizes that Josephus' switch from a positive to negative portrayal of Herod is designed to show that kingship is a bad idea, whereas Israel should be ruled by Rome through a priestly theocracy instead. I think it works, but as several quesitoners pointed out, Josephus may be doing no more than following similar accounts of Judean kings who started well but finished poorly (e.g., David).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Zondervan Announces Revision of NIV

The good ol' NIV will be revised in an announcement according to Zondervan. The updated NIV will be available in 2011.

Bauckham vs. Crossley at "Unbelievable"

Over at the radio show Unbelieveable hosted by the gorgeous Justin Brierley, James Crossley and Richard Bauckham have a good chin wag about eyewitnesses and the Jesus tradition (note, I call Justin "gorgeous" because my wife thinks he is, I still bat for the right team). Listen to it here.

Review of Messianic Shepherd-King in RBL

My book Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King: In Search of 'The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel' (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Alteren Kirche) was reviewed recently by the preeminent Matthean scholar Donald Senior at RBL. It was a genernally positive review save the comment that the thesis "strains the imagination". My response to such a statement is that it does not surprise that such an interpretation of Matthew would “strain a modern and non-Israelite reader’s imagination”.

Latest Pistis Christou Contributions with Friends

I've been on a pistis christou frenzy in the last year or two and the products of that rampage are now available.

First, just out is Michael F. Bird and Michael R. Whitenton, “The Faithfulness of Jesus Christ in Hippolytus’s De Christo et Antichristo: Overlooked Patristic Evidence in the Πίστις Χριστοu Debate.” New Testament Studies 55:4 (2009): 552-562. I honestly could not believe that nobody had seen this before, so I teamed up Michael Whitenton (of Ecce Homo fame) to put together this short piece. This is Whitenton's first academic publication and he did all the stuff on the Apostolic Fathers. So if you receive a Ph.D application from him put it in the "fast track" pile.

Second, now available from (see the sidebar) is The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies co-edited with Preston Sprinkle, featuring essays from the top scholars working in the field like Francis Watson, Doug Campbell, Barry Matlock, Paul Foster, Richard Bell, Mark Seifrid, and many, many more. This is THE Paul volume of 2009!