Monday, February 28, 2011

Jim and Jill Kelly

Jim Kelly is a Hall of Fame quarter back who led his Buffalo Bills team to four back to back Super Bowls in the late eighties-early nineties. He and his wife Jill were guests at our church this past weekend.

For the football fans among us (I know this is an international audience so I mean American Football), this is a great story of great champion. However, it is also a very moving story of how this couple came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ through the tragedy. Their son Hunter died at the age of 8 due to a childhood disease. This story is worth your time and maybe something you can pass on to others.

The story is also in a new book by Jill Kelly called Without a Word: How a Boy's Unspoken Love Changed Everything.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Academically Adrift

I'm reading a book recommended to me by my colleague Scot McKnight on the state of learning and teaching in America's universities and colleges called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. I'm only into the second chapter but the problem is presented very clearly at the beginning: Students in college are not learning much while there.

A number of points have already got me thinking. First, students in college have little to no academic focus. Perhaps you've met one of those described as "drifting dreamers": students with "high ambitions, but no clear life plans for reaching them" (3). These students enter college and are largely "academically adrift". What was not surprising to me since I have experienced is that despite lacking academic focus college students are not suffering in their classes with lower grades. Why? Because, according to the authors, students have developed "the art of college management". This skill refers to their ability succeed not by hard work, but by "controlling college schedules, taming professors and limiting workload" (4). Students "preferentially enroll in classes with instructors who grade leniently" (4). At my institution, students vote with their feet. I've learned to adjust my course expectations so that I don't have a great migration after the first week of school. One does not have the luxury to stand on principle and demand rigor, when your classes sizes are monitored and less than 10 is unacceptable.

Second, Arum and Roksa make the point that the academic environment on most college and university campuses does not promote academics as its primary element of culture. Today what is encouraged is athletics, social life, and extra-curricular activities. These say nothing to the fact that many students are now working a heavy part-time job of over 20 hours a week.

Third, a consumeristic approach to education and "credentialism" are two interesting and interrelated points. Students today for a number of cultural reasons view education from a purely consumeristic perspective. This approach is fueled by the idea of credentialism. The assumption is that an education serves as a means of admission to a job or future success. What one needs is a credential to get a job or attain a certain position in the market place; thus, one gets an education purely for this end. With these two assumptions at work it is no wonder that students seek to receive services within an academic institution that "will allow them, as effortlessly and comfortably as possible" attain "valuable educational credentials that can be exchanged for later labor market success" (17).

Fourth, Arum and Roksa suggest that part of the problem with the lack of learning taking place in colleges and universities is that professors are encouraged to care more about their profession than about their students. This was a difficult pill to swallow, but I do think that there is a tendency, at least for me, to want to devote less time preparing lectures, teaching, grading, and advising and more time to scholarly activity.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Martin Hengel and Theology Students

Along with Jason Maston, I am editing a collection of essays that came out of the 2010 Tyndale Conference held in honour of Prof. Martin Hengel (Earliest Christianity: History, Literature, and Theology) to be published - hopefully mid year - by Mohr/Siebeck. We have a preface by Jörg Frey who colourfully records his first encounter with Prof. Hengel as an undergraduate student in Tübingen. Here's the opening paragraph:

"This scene was unforgettable. During the orientation days for new students of Protestant Theology– beginning winter semester 1983/84 – representatives of the famous Tübingen Faculty in the Evangelischen Stift had to introduce the various theological disciplines. Every one of them tried to feature the importance of their subject for theology as a whole, but they all missed to create that real tingle that could have fascinated the novice. Only one went beyond limits. He did not keep talking about his scholarly field for very long, but instead he put great emphasis on its object, the New Testament. Whilst pulling a little, heavily worn blue booklet – his old “Nestle-Aland” – out of his pocket, swinging it through the air, he urged his audience with great vigour: “Read this book! In Greek! It’s a good book.”

I think I shall make this my new teaching slogan:"Lesen Sie dieses Buch! Auf Griechischen! Es ist ein gutes Buch".

New Greek Grammar: Fundamentals of NT Greek

S.E. Porter, J.T. Reed, M.B. O'Donnell
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (plus Work Book)
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Available at (with look inside feature)

"The great strengths of these books are their coherence, comprehensiveness, knowledge of contemporary linguistics, the wide-ranging use of Greek drawn from texts instead of artificially created snippets, and the fine integration of the workbook with the textbook. Highly recommended."
— D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

When I learned Greek in seminary we used a mixture of William Mounce and John Wenham. It was okay, Mounce was certainly easier than some grammars to use, I learned NT Greek as I was supposed to, and the job got done. Both grammars had some problems. You have to wait an awful long time before you get to verbs in Mounce and Wenham's exercise were rather annoying when he tests you on the exceptions.

Amidst the variety of Greek Grammars out there, one I have to highlight is that written by Stan Porter and friends that came out late last year. It has some good features:
  • Uses a verbal aspect approach (perfective, imperfective, stative).
  • Very detailed and includes good discussions on things like accents.
  • Good mix of noun and verb chapters as the grammar progresses.
  • No reference to the definite article since Greek has no indefinite article.
  • Liked the description of the middle voice as either reflexive, reciprocal, or proper.
  • Good little summary on why you shouldn't believe in deponency.
  • A short description of numerals signified in Greek (wish I had this when I was working on my 1 Esdras commentary).
  • Work book is written in nice big letters and the exercises aren't too long or onerous.
The only draw back I can think of is that you really need to learn the parsing abbreviations by rote in order to get the parsing. Sometimes you have to think twice in remembering stuff. For instance, Imperfect tense-form is "Im" and the Imperative mood is "Imp" (pp. xviii). Yet in the general abbreviations they are simplified as "Impf." and Imperative "Impv.". This could create confusion as to when and where and which Im(f/v) is being cited. But that's admittedly a minor criticism in a fine grammar.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lynn Cohick on Election

Lynn Cohick says this about election in her Ephesians commentary:

"It is important to keep this picture of the gracious God as central, as some of the discussion surrounding terms such as “predestine” can give rise to images of capriciousness or cavalier flippancy in a modern reader’s mind. Either God is presented as fickle, choosing willy-nilly whomever he wants and also choosing to damn the rest, or God is seen as choosing some because in some way, however hidden it may be, they deserved it more than the others. Of course we usually don’t voice either of these claims in such bald language, but nonetheless their unsettling presence, like ants at a picnic, intrudes inconveniently."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Timothy Gombis on Ephesians 2

My buddy Tim Gombis has a cracking good summary of Ephesians 2:

"Paul tells the story in Ephesians 2 of God beginning to fulfill his promises to reclaim and redeem his creation, restoring his world and humanity to their original condition. The whole world was meant to be God's temple, according to the biblical narrative, as God dwelled with humanity and delighted in humanity's enjoyment of creation. After the fall and the tragic corruption of creation, God promises to make all things new and to return with his life-giving presence. These promises are now being fulfilled in the church and will one day be fulfilled creation-wide. This is why Paul quotes Psalm 110 in Ephesians 1:22. God has installed his King on his heavenly throne, and Jesus Christ has begun his work of reclaiming his world. The powers and authorities had rebelled, hijacking God's good world, and have held it in their oppressive and enslaving grip. But God has broken their hold in Jesus Christ and is magnifying his victory through the church. God has triumphed by opening up a sphere within creation that is the beginning of God's work of making all things new" (p. 105).

Book Notice: The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow (eds.)
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Available at

This is a pretty monumental reference resource on ancient Judaism that people working with Jewish and Christians texts should know about. The book contains a series of opening essays (see below) and an A-Z of dictionary articles from "Aaron" to "Zerubbabel". At a brief glance there were good articles on "election" (Simon Gathercole), "exile" (Allison Schofield), "Enoch, Similitudes" (Michael A. Knibb), "Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism" (M.H. Williams), "Luke-Acts" (David Moessner), "Mediator Figures" (Larry Hurtado), and "Purity and Impurity" (Hannah Harrington) to name a few. I couldn't think of any topics that were missing, though in some cases I found myself wanting to know more than just the facts and statistics, but what the author thought about stuff like the purpose of 1 Esdras, etc. But if you're a student and you want to know who the heck is "Metratron" or want a run down on "Tobit, Book of", this is a good place to look. Among the essays, I found Loren Stuckenbruck's on "Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha" to be the most informative, esp. on the purpose and function of pseudepigraphy.

Essays include:

Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship
John J. Collins

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
Chris Seeman and Adam Kolman Marshak

Judaism in the Land of Israel
James C. VanderKam

Judaism in the Diaspora
Erich S. Gruen

The Jewish Scriptures: Texts, Versions, Canons
Eugene Ulrich

Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation
James L. Kugel

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
Loren T. Stuckenbruck

Dead Sea Scrolls
Eibert Tigchelaar

Early Jewish Literature Written in Greek
Katell Berthelot

Archaeology, Papyri, and Inscriptions
Jürgen K. Zangenberg

Jews among Greeks and Romans
Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev

Early Judaism and Early Christianity
Daniel C. Harlow

Early Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism
Lawrence H. Schiffman

N.T. Wright Advice to Clergy

In this clip N.T. Wright gives some wise and godly advice to young seminarians. I bid my students to watch this!

Guess what left-wing preacher said this

Guess what left-wing preacher said this:

"In January President Bush sacrificed the meaning of Matthew 5:14 on the altar of national pride, when he said to the National Religious Broadcasters in defense of the Gulf war, "I want to thank you for helping America, as Christ ordained, to be a light unto the world." What that amounts to is an outrageous distortion of Jesus' meaning. That misuse of Scripture is designed for immature babes that are easily swayed by surface words without thought and discernment. The "light of the world" in Matthew 5:14 does not refer to Americans bombing Iraq no matter how justified the war may have been."

Answer in the comments!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jobs: Principal and OT Lecturer

Queensland Theological College, a Presbyterian College in Brisbane Australia, is searching for a new Principal and a Lecturer in Old Testament Studies. See details here. It's a good college located next to the University of Queensland in sunny Brisbane.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Blog: Earliest Christianity

I just stumbled across a new blog (new to me at least) called Earliest Christianity and it is run by Tim Henderson (Ph. Marquette University). It had some good tidbits of news and recent publications that I was yet to hear of.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Christos in Mark 1:1

From my work-in-progress Jesus is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels:

Mark’s incipit begins, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah’.[1] Though several translations render 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j with ‘Jesus Christ’ (NRSV, NASB, ESV, CEB), the TNIV/NIV10 and NLT is probably correct to translate it as ‘Jesus the Messiah’. A titular meaning of Xristo&j as ‘Messiah’ here is not only possible, but preferable. Mark uses the name 0Ihsou~j some eighty-two times and Xristo&j is used sparingly only seven times, but on all but two occasions Xristo&j possesses the article and is clearly titular as designating the Messiah (Mark 8:29; 12:35; 13:21; 14:61; 15:32; cf. without the article 1:1; 9:41). The subsequent usage of Xristo&j eliminates a purely nominal meaning for 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j in the incipit. What seems more likely is that 0Ihsou~j Xristo&j stands as an honorary designation for the central figure in the following story. As Adela Yarbro Collins states: ‘The narrative of Mark as a whole evokes the titular sense, “messiah.”’[2] Similar is John Donahue: ‘The density of the key terms in 1:1 prepares the reader for the dramatic unfolding of the whole work, which revolves around the proper description of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God’.[3] Mark is not content to assert this title, but his subsequent narrative demonstrates precisely how Jesus is the Messiah and what kind of mission this Messiah will undertake.[4] Thus, the question that dominates Mark’s Gospel is: who is this Messiah and how will he be enthroned? There are cryptic hints along the way as to how this Messiah will be coronated. As the plot unfolds it becomes gradually clearer that the cross dangles over the head of this Messiah like a sword of Damocles, unbeknownst to the disciples, but privy to the reader.[5]

[1] On the secondary nature of ‘Son of God’ in Mark 1:1 see Peter Head.

[2] Collins and Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God, 126.

[3] Donahue, The Gospel of Mark, 60.

[4] Francis J. Moloney, Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 132; I. Howard Marshall, ‘Jesus as Messiah in Mark and Matthew,’ in The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, ed. S.E. Porter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 121.

[5] See now Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel (NSBT; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Graham Cole on imputation/obedience

In God the Peacemaker, Graham Cole says about Christ's obedience and faithfulness:

"Christ's faithfulness issued in obedience. His obedience constituted his righteousness. His righteousness is put to our account, if we are believers, as the traditional doctrine of imputation maintains. It is put to our account not because of a mere reckoning so by God, but because we are really united to Christ by the Spirit" (p. 118).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TECC Conference

The Theological Engagement with California Culture seminar has put out a call for papers for the November 2011 meeting of ETS. Looks, like, totally, like interesting dude.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Thoughts on Docetism

I'm spasmodically writing a textbook on Evangelical Theology and tonight I was pondering the historical Jesus and docetism. I came up with this conclusion to the section: "We only believe in the incarnation if we can affirm that the historical person Jesus of Nazareth experienced a physical resurrection after his death and a normal male erection during his life."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Notice: 1 Corinthians (Ciampa and Rosner)

Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner
First Letter to The Corinthians
PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Available at

There are so many good 1 Corinthians commentaries. Fee and Thiselton are the must-reads, but one can hardly neglect Garland, Hays, and Witherington either (then there's Blomberg and Morris which ain't bad either). And Richard Horsley's and Jerome Murphy O'Connor's studies on 1 Corinthians are worth checking into too. But I have to say that Ciampa and Rosner have added another excellent book to the list of top Corinthian reads by producing a solid commentary that contains several unique approaches.

Ciampa and Rosner (henceforth CR) see the problems in Corinth emerging from the inability of the Corinthians to let the gospel message shape their gentile and Graeco-Roman lives and consequently misunderstand the message and misbehave. So the problems are fundamentally about relating to cultural values rather than, say, theological like Gnosticism or over-realized eschatology. The main subjects of 1 Corinthians according to CR are wisdom, sexuality, worship, and resurrection/consummation. The OT is key in Paul's exhortation in 1 Corinthians, esp. Deuteronomy and Isaiah. CR do not apply the categories of ancient rhetoric to 1 Corinthians since such rhetoric was rarely applied in letters (though see my Expository Times essay for a qualified approval of using rhetorical categories to letters). Another feature is that the authors apply the categories of verbal aspect to the Greek text though they seem to cautiously accept that Greek verbs do have tense unless contextually cancelled. CR believe that 1 Corinthians provides some good resources to enable Christians to meet the challenges of postmodernism. They summarize the argument of 1 Corinthians as follows:

Paul's attempt to tell the church of God in Corinth that they are part of the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectation of worldwide worship of the God of Israel, and as God's eschatological temple they must act in a manner appropriate to their pure and holy status by becoming unified, shunning pagan vices, and glorifying God in an obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ (52).

For some highlights: 1:30: "Although the four qualities[righteousness, holiness, redemption, and wisdom] both characterize Christ and are imparted by Christ, the emphasis is on the fact that believers have them by virtue of being in union with Christ" (109); 4:9-13: "A better explanation of the Corinthians' spiritual pretensions than assuming that they betray a belief that the decisive eschatological events have already taken place is set forth in ancient sources. Imagining oneself to be be filled, rich, and reigning was in fact a claim made by Cynic and Stoic philosophers ... Hence, the Corinthian problems are not to be attributed to their faulty theology or premature eschatology so much as to their conformity to the norms and values of pagan culture. Paul's strategy is to encourage the Corinthians 'to understand themselves in terms of an apocalyptic narrative that locates present existence in between the cross and the parousia' [Hays]. It is true that the eschatological framework found throughout chapters 1-4 is at the heart of Paul's attack on Corinthian boasting. But eschatology is not so much the problem as the solution" (179-80); 7:10-11: "Paul stands with Jesus in holding that divorce may be justified only where one partner clearly manifests a radical refusal to respect one's marital commitments and maintain the fundamental integrity of the marriage" (293). 7:26: "Paul was not expecting the world to come to an immediate end, it seems, or he would not have been warning people about the implications of singleness and marriage for a life with more or less stress. It seems likely that even if he understood the present crisis to be part of larger eschatological developments, it would pass at some point" (337). 9:21: "Although Paul understood himself to live under the conditions of the new covenant in Christ rather than under the law of Moses, he was happy enough to observe the law when living among those who might have stumbled if he had not. Paul probably has in mind issues like the observance of food and Sabbath laws as well as halakic standards of the communities where he ministered" (427). 11:3: "Paul seems to be affirming that the creation pattern is still significant and cannot be shrugged off. While there is a tension between creation and new creation (esp. fallen creation and new creation), creation is the context in which Christians live out their lives, and it cannot be passed off as irrelevant" (510). 15:29: "It may be that Paul describes the people to whom he is referring in the third person rather than first- or second-person plural ('those who are baptized on account of the dead' rather than 'you/we who were baptized for the dead') because different people find different things about the Christian message particularly appealing. If so, Paul has in mind those who were particularly concerned about the afterlife and whose primary motivation in responding to the gospel message was its promise that those who trust in Christ need not fear death, since the dead in Christ will be raised in glory and power."

A fine volume and worth having in your personal library.

I should note that the next big 1 Corinthians commentary to look out for is Andrew Clark in the WBC series!

The Christ of Early Christology - R.N. Longenecker

According to Richard N. Longenecker (The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970], 63): ‘Basic to the christology of the earliest Jewish Christians was the conviction of Jesus as the Messiah. Subject as it was to political and nationalistic connotations, and requiring definition in order to be serviceable, it was the application of this title to Jesus which laid the foundation for the church’s continuing thought about, and further acclamation of, the Man from Nazareth. So basic and central, in fact, was the messiahship of Jesus in the consciousness of early believers that it was the Greek word for Messiah, xristo&j, and not another, which became uniquely associated with the person of Jesus, first as an appellative and then as a proper name, and which became the basis for their own cognomen in the ancient world as well.”

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Scotland's Newest University

I want to say congratulations to the UHI Millennium Institute for being granted University title and (finally) becoming the University of the Highlands and Islands! See the news report here. This is also a great day for the Highland Theological College which is part of UHI (where I taught for four and a half years).

Let me say that if you want to do a Ph.D in Theology or Biblical Studies in the UK, I heartily recommend to you UHI which has a great Theological Faculty at HTC with lots of experience in supervising Ph.Ds. They have very flexible arrangements for persons who wish to remain in the USA for part or all of their study.