Saturday, April 30, 2011

Interview with Rob Bell and British Evangelical Adrian Warnock

A rather enlightening interview with Rob Bell appeared on the British evangelical program Unbelievable hosted by Justin Brierley on Premier Christian radio. The interview included a chap named Adrian Warnock who represents a more traditional evangelical perspective.

Some very interesting dialogue was generated over the issues most important to Evangelicals. You can watch the entire program here or listen here.

In this excerpt Adrian questions Rob about really being an Evangelical.

The Royal Spectacle . . . But Why?

Why did nearly 1 million people descend on London with an another online and TV viewing audience estimated at 2 billion (that's 33% of the world's population!) to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? What was it about a royal wedding that caused people all over the world to tune in? Into what deep human affection does such an event tap?

Kids just make you laugh . . .

Check out my daughter Mary practicing her ballet. Also, keep an eye out for Zion's impersonation of Tom Cruise in Risky Business in the background.

HT: Audra for the footage.

ESV Greek Tools

There is a cool Greek resource from Crossway called ESV Greek Tools. Go and watch the video here. It sounded really cool right up until the guy said "Macarthur study Bible" (though ESV study Bible does make up for it). I suppose Greek tools are Greek tools and this one is fairly cheap! It's not Bible Works, Logos, or Accordance - the Trinity of Bible software - but it's better than eSword (which I wish my students would stop using).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Mob Song in Beirut

Check this out, it is flipping awesome! I'm currently learning a bit of Arabic and it really is a beautiful language when sung like this.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Accidental Anglican!

Just finished reading The Accidental Anlgican: The Surprising Appeal of the Liturgical Church by Todd D. Hunter (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010). Find it at Amazon with look-inside feature.

Good read. The book narrates Hunter's journey from Jesus people to being head of the Vineyard Churches to Executive Director of Alpha USA to Bishop in AMiA. He was ordained a priest and then a bishop a month later! Now that is fast. He also gives snap shots of his Anglican heroes in J.I. Packer, John Stott, and N.T. Wright. A big theme of the book is Churches-for-the-sake-of-others or CS4O! He also unpacks the Anglican treasure chest of the liturgical calendar, the Book of Common Prayer, the ministry of the word, reciting the creed, and eucharist. Good overview of the Anglican Evangelistic Tradition and bios on some top Anglican leaders in Africa.

David Neff has a write up about the book in CT.

Here is a clip of Hunter preaching at Christ Church in Plano.

I find it interesting that John Wesley was an Anglican and so were the creators of the Westminster Confession. That's right boys and girls, we owe Methodism and Presbyterianism, partly, to Anglicanism!

Papers in San Francisco

For those interested, I've got a few fun gigs lined up at SBL and ETS in San Francisco.

SBL: I've got a spot to discuss Darrell Bock and Robert Webb, Key Events in the Life of Jesus and Beverly Gaventa and Richard Hays, Seeking the Identity of Jesus at the Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture group.

ETS: "Raging against the Roman Empire with Romans: The Value of Anti-Imperial Readings of Romans" at the Pauline Studies Session.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Style 3

In the third lesson in Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb's book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th Edition)they begin to tackle the question of clarity. They usefully observe that readers reflect on the writing of others with words like

clear, direct, concise or
unclear, indirect, abstract, dense, complex.

These adjectives don’t really tell us anything more than how the writing makes us feel. To say something is unclear does not actually say anything about the writing on the page. What then makes a piece of writing feel or seem clear or dense? Williams and Colomb begin here to make their case. Clear, direct, concise writing is characterized by two principles of clarity:

Principle #1: A sentence seems clear when its important actions are in verbs
Principle #2: A sentence seems clear when its important characters are subjects.

Lesson three’s focus is on the first of the two principles.
Readers will think your writing is dense if you use lots of abstract nouns, especially those derived from verbs or adjectives, nouns ending in –tion, -ment, -ence, and so on, especially when you make those abstract nouns the subjects of verbs (32).
When, for example, you create an abstract noun by putting an –ing on the end of a verb (e.g., eating), you are nominalizing the verb. Nominalization is the technical name for the phenomenon. You are transforming the part of speech from a verb to a noun. This can be done to both verbs and adjectives. Consider these examples:

Examples of verbs:

discover = discovery
resist = resistance
She flies = her flying
We sang = our singing

Examples of adjectives
careless = carelessness
different = difference
No element of style more characterizes turgid writing, writing that feels abstract, indirect, and difficult, than lots of nominalizations, especially as the subjects of verbs. (33).
Williams and Colomb recommend a three-part revision process for writers. This process is is tailored here to address the question of clarity.

1. Diagnose – Underline the first seven or eight words of each sentence
2. Analyze – Decide your main characters and look for the actions of the main characters
3. Rewrite – Make nominalizations verbs, make characters subjects and rewrite using subordinating conjunctions (because, if, when, etc).

Near the end of the chapter they return to a key question they raised earlier, but return to again:
Why are we so often right about the writing of others and so often wrong about our own?
Because we all read into our own writing what we want readers to get out of it.
Thus we need a "mechanical" method of revision that sidesteps our "too-good understanding" of our writing.

So the bottom line here is that to be a clear writer we need to take two concrete actions: (1) remove most of the abstract nouns from our sentences (certain abstract nouns are necessary) and (2) revise our sentences so that the action is contained in the verb and the character is in the subject.

Being de-churched!

From time to time I meet folks frustrated, phased, and frazzled by church life. People who cannot bear to see the church compromised by cultural forces to the left and right but just don't know how to do anything about it and feel like leaving church for some kind of monastic de-churched existence. For such folks there is a good little quote from James Lloyd Breck, an Anglican leader in 1800s, who said: "It is base cowardice to run away from the church because she is not what she ought to be, and thereby leave her to those who care naught for her claims" (cited in Todd Hunter, The Accidental Anglican, 21-22). For others, they are de-churched because God does not pay off. They've been really good and nice Christian folk, accumulating millions of kudos with church camps, memory verses, and following the rules. And then something bad happens - divorce, loved one dies, or whatever - and God does not bless their absence of immorality with freedom from suffering or misfortune. Turns out that God was not indebted to them for their mostly good behavior and they leave God like he's a slot machine that won't pay up. For those guys and gals, see an excerpt from Matt Chandler's sermon on the "de-churched".

Monday, April 25, 2011

12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again

Rachel Held Evans blogs on 12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again.

1. Petition Microsoft to make Arminian an actual word so that bloggers ranting about the pros and cons of Armenians don’t sound like complete racists.

2. Create a Stuff Arminians Like blog. Entries could include: love, freedom, and “secretly wondering if we’re not elect.”

3. Three words: Driscoll. Boyd. Cagefight.

4. Instead of the “Gospel Coalition,” we’ll form the “Gospel Welcoming Committee.”

5. Get Roger Olson some thick-rimmed glasses and a pipe and send him to Catalyst.

6. The Calvinists have their own flower, so why shouldn’t Arminians? But instead of TULIP (“total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints”) we’ll adopt the DAISY (depravity of all, atonement for all, inclusion of all, salvation is a gift,you can accept or reject).

7. Start referring to Donald Miller as “Arminian Donald Miller.” (I don’t know if he’s actually an Arminian, but it’s worth a try.)

8. To counter the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement we’ll create the “middle-aged, Arminian, and not-in-the-mood-to-argue ” movement.

9. Start a “I bet we can find 1 million people who don’t want to be predestined to hell” Facebook group.

10. Launch an Arminianism Awareness Day to address some of the common misconceptions about Arminians—that we think grace is earned, that we have a “man-centered” theology, that we’re all dispensationalists, that just because we lost that one argument with our Calvinist roommate back in 2003 we’re always wrong.

11. Calvinists make T-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy.” Arminians can make T-shirts that say “Arminius is my homeboy…but not in such a way that I uncritically accept everything he teaches” (because we’re nuanced like that).

12. Keep talking about how real love requires freedom while extending kindness and grace to those with whom we disagree…because living your theology is more important than arguing it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Love Wins 5

I continue my interaction with Rob Bell’s book. Today we come to the third chapter and the topic of hell.

The central point of this chapter is to argue that hell is a real place. But, and most importantly, the reality of hell is not only or even primarily a future place. Hell is present in the world today. Hell is the outcome of people’s choices when they reject “the good and true and beautiful life” God has for them.

Here’s a statement of summary:
And that’s what we find in Jesus’ teaching about hell—a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experiences and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity. Something we are all free to do, anytime, anywhere, with anyone (73).
Before reading my bullet point comments, think about the idea:

Aside from the Bible’s teaching on the subject, do you think this idea of hell is a sufficient answer to humanity’s universal longing for justice?

Now for my quick hits.

1. Hell is not for the victims; what a victim of a hate crime or a rape or genocide has had to endure can be absolutely called “hellish”, but hell is not for them. Hell’s purpose is the final judgment of evil in any form: human and non-human—angels and people.

2. Jewish people at the time of Jesus, and Jesus himself, had no problem believing in eternal punishment. I suspect that most oppressed people don’t.

3. There is plenty of ancient Jewish evidence about hell that would make the most graphic images of hell in the New Testament look like watercolor paintings. I could give references if you want them.

4. Gehenna, to the best of our knowledge, was not a “trash dump”. There’s not one shred of evidence to support this idea that has become self-evident.

5. In the Bible, restorative punishment, punishment whose purpose is to restore, is generally corporate and only for Israel in the OT. What I mean here is that individuals are not the objects of restorative punishment in the OT. Much is made of Ezekiel’s vision of the restoration of Sodom (Ezek 16:44-58) in the chapter. Rob overreaches to make his point. A careful reading of the passage reveals that Ezekiel is speaking of Sodom corporately. The city will be restored with Samaria and with Jerusalem. In the NT, members of the church are chastised in order that they might be restored. There’s no scenario presented that gives even the hint that the unrighteous suffer divine judgment in order to bring them to faith and salvation. See Romans 1:18-32.

6. As the presence of heaven has broken in to the present the present age in the coming of Jesus, so too has the presence of hell. God’s wrath, indeed, is presently being poured out in the present (Rom 1:18-32). But this is not hell.

7. The warnings of judgment on the lips of Jesus transcend the Jewish War of 68-70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. I am in no way suggesting that these were not within the scope of the judgment, but they do not exhaust the reality of the judgment Jesus predicted.

8. The interpretation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus told in Luke 16 is formative for the teaching on hell espoused in the chapter. Rob's reading just doesn't stand up under scrutiny. You can look it over for yourself. In the parable Jesus is teaching that deeds of mercy or lack there of in this life are determinative for the life to come. What one does in this life determines where one will spend the life to come and that final state is unalterable.

In addition, a brief word is required on the interpretation of the phrase “aion kolazo” (“eternal punishment”) in Matthew 25:46. First, the word “kolazo”. The term in Matt 25:46 is the noun not the verb, but both are only used twice in the NT (verb Acts 4:21; 2 Pet 2:9; noun 1 Jn 4:18; Matt 25:46). In none of its uses either in the verb or noun form does it speak of “pruning” or does it refer to a restorative punishment. Second, Rob again, as in the chapter on heaven, insists that Jews didn’t have a category for the idea of forever. This is just wrong. Let me show you a passage where the concept of forever is meant in a context of divine punishment: Revelation 20:10 and 14-15.
Rev. 20:10
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Rev. 20:14-15
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 All whose names were not found written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire.
These two texts are related and express a vision of the final fate of God’s enemies. In the first text were told that the devil, the beast and the false prophet will be “thrown” into the “lake of burning sulfur” to be “tormented day and night. This torment according to John will be “for ever and ever”. This phrase is created by repeating the word aion twice. It means something like “for ages upon ages”. In this way John is expressing the idea behind our term “forever”. While the term aion may mean a distinct period of time with a beginning and an end, it can be and is used by biblical authors to express an unending period or set of periods.

Another observation about these passages is the assumption that the lake of fire is not only for God’s explicit enemies. Anyone whose name is not written in the “book of life” will suffer the same fate with the devil, the beast and the false prophet. A so-called neutral position (even giving someone the benefit of the doubt) for John is implicit support for God’s enemies. As someone said once, “You’re either with us, or with them”.

Finally, it appears that Hades, hell that is, is not the same thing as the “lake of fire”. If we harmonize Jesus’ parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16 with the teaching of Revelation here, we would have to say that the Rich man who died and was in Hades in his first death, will be thrown into the lake of fire in the “second death”.

For earlier posts for Love Wins see: Post When your wife . . ., 1, 2, 3, 4.

If you find this post helpful, please share it with others.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lucky Sheilas!

First people to worship the risen Jesus were women (Matt 28:9).

First people to proclaim the resurrection to others were women (Matt 28:10).

Lucky sheilas!

The Installation of the Priest King

The resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus are frequently correlated with Psalm 110 in the New Testament. In fact, Ps 110 is the most frequently quoted OT text in the NT!

1 The LORD says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
3 Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
your young men will come to you
like dew from the morning’s womb.

4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
7 He will drink from a brook along the way,
and so he will lift his head high.
(NIV 10)

The thing you have to remember is that David is the speaker of the Psalm. So Yahweh says to David's Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool," meaning that one in David's line will be greater than David. Why? Because the coming Davidide will be a king on with unprecedented authority and he will be a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Melkizzi who? Melchizedek the priest-king of Salem. He is mentioned only in three places in the Bible: Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5-7. The coming Lord to whom David looks forward to will be the ultimate mediator as he converges the royal and priestly functions in his person. He is like the priest king of Jerusalem whom Abraham honored with tithes.

But keep in mind the convergence of priestly and royal roles was not limited to a messianic interpretation of Melchizedek. During Jesus' own day, the Roman emperor Tiberius minted coins with his image on them which said Pontifex Maximus (high priest). He was the ruler of the empire and the representative before the gods. He was highest religious authority of the empire in addition to his military and political hegemony too.

One thing that Resurrection and Ascension day tell us is that there is no other intermediary between God and his people. Jesus is installed as priest and king for all eternity. No emperor, no clergyman, and no temple stands in between us and God. We are a kingdom of priests and we are the holy temple of the Priest King Jesus Christ.

The Grave Robber Comes

Great song from Petra about the resurrection!

"Zion, don't hang on the cross!"

So last night our church had a Good Friday service. In the middle of the large lobby, just outside the 2500 seat auditorium, a cross was displayed. The cross was probably about 20 feet long and the span of the crossbeam was probably 10 feet. The top of the cross was propped up about 4 feet so that the whole thing was on an incline. Draped across the central beam was a scarlet silk clothe. This was a power image as it set in the middle of the huge dimly lit room.

Zion, my four year old son, was told that there was a cross and he got excited. "Daddy, there's a CROSS!" he said with as much enthusiasm as he would have had if it were an ice cream cone. "Daddy, let's go see the cross!", he shouted. Everyone in earshot of him in that crowded lobby would have heard his voice. So we went and looked at the cross.

As we were examining it, beginning at the lowest end and working our way to the top, I continued to repeat, "Son, you can touch the cross, but don't pull on the red clothe". Zion is extremely tactile so he's got to touch and experience everything and he's impulsive (I wonder where he gets those qualities from . . . his mother I'm sure).

As we moved to the top of the cross, I looked away for just a second and when I turned back to look at him, Zion was hanging on the top of the cross, his feet dangling off the ground about a half inch. Without thinking I blurted out, "Zion, don't hang on the cross!".

As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized how funny that must have sounded. My son was hanging on the cross.

A Roman executioner's stake is not where you want your son hanging--whether in a church lobby on a Good Friday night or outside the city walls of Jerusalem the night of passover.

Yet that is exactly where God wanted his.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life - John 3:16

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday is Really Good!

Unlike the UK and USA, Good Friday is a public holiday in Australia -- and rightly so! Good Friday is good.

Here's a great vid for thinking about the cross.

After that check out Scot McKnight's reflection An Atoning Death.

And if you doubt the importance of the Christus Victor view of the atonement then go and sing a few lines from the hymn Christ Alone: "And as he stands in victory, sins curse has lost its grip on me!".

Happy Good Friday!

Yankees and Baseball

Has any noticed its baseball season and the Yankees are in first in the American League East?!

For those that don't know me very well--this will be of no surprise to my friends--I am huge baseball fan and particularly a Yankees fan. Now before you begin to hurl insults at me and label me a bandwagon fan, I come by this fandom honestly--I grew up in New Jersey. I remember the Yankee teams of the late 70's with Reggie Jackson. These are my first memories of watching baseball. My dad was a Phillies fan however, and my first game was at the old Veteran's Stadium in Philly. But it was too late, I was a Yankees fan!

We'll we are 16 games into the young 2011 season and there are two excellent trends in the American League East.

First, the Yanks with a record of 10 and 6 are in first by 2.5 games.

Second, the Red Sox are in last place with a record of 7 and 11.

Go Yanks!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

NTW Version (Update)

Thanks to Mason we have more info on the NTW translation lifted from his New Testament for Everyone series. The translation will formally be called The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation. I think that is better than King's Version since the translator is not a king and you can hardly say that King Jesus authorizes this 2011 version in the same way that King James authorized the 1611 version!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

D.A. Carson Festschrift

Prof. D.A. Carson (TEDS) was given his Festschift last Tuesday night by John Piper, John Woodbridge, and Lane Dennis. You can read about at it the TGC post and read John Piper's tribute of appreciation to Carson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NTW Version

Thanks to Mark Stevens it looks as if N.T. Wright has produced his own NT translation. No, it's not called the "NTW Version" or even the "Bishops's Bible" (that's already been taken). It is called The King's Version and is slated to come out in September 2011 with Harper Collins. It arguably stands in the tradition of James Moffatt who was a Scottish scholar who produced his own translation of the New Testament (and eventually Old Testament) and it even had its own commentary series that accompanied it, i.e. the Moffatt New Testament Commentary. You can see the one on Hebrews at Google Books by, you guessed, James Moffatt.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Gospel Coalition on Love Wins

At the recent Gospel Coalition Conference here in Chicago, a session was dedicated to discussing Rob Bell's Love Wins. There are two links: one is Don Carson's talk on universalism and the other is a round table discussion with Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Tim Keller, Stephen Um, and Crawford Loritts.

This at the very least should be very interesting and likely useful stuff. I'm listening to it today. I don't think Love Wins offers a straightforward universalism -- pluralism most definitely, universalism no. It would be correct I think to call the view hopeful universalism; but Love Wins does not claim that Hell will be ultimately evacuated. For the book, Love wins out because God, in his love, allows people to choose Hell and that, primarily for Rob Bell's argument, in this life.

Stewarding the Garden: Reflections on Yard Work

I just love the spring! Well who doesn't right. This is especially true of those of us who live in climates where moderate temperatures disappear for a good six months. Even though yesterday we saw snow showers in the Chicago suburbs, there is no doubt spring is here in North America [Now I know for our readers down under, spring is a thing of the past and your in fall].

This is the first year we've owned a home and its been great fun being outside yard work. We don't have a big yard by any means, but we've got several beds that need tending. So I've been spreading fertilizer, raking leaves, and edging the beds. Right now I'm looking at a pile of mulch in my driveway that a dump truck put there, to the delight of my two four year olds I should add, that needs to be spread.

I find that working out in my yard is very satisfying. For me it has to do with the act of completing something that I can enjoy. It is appreciating the fruit of labor. It is getting dirty and being sore after working a rake, shovel or edger for an afternoon.

Question: What is it about yard work that is so satisfying to you?

Jesus and the Eucharist 4

We’ve been working our way through Brant Pitre’s recent book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper.

Chapter three presents the subject of the New Passover. You might recall that in his second chapter, the subject of your last post, he made the point that at the time of Jesus many Jews were expecting a “new Exodus”: an end-time deliverance that would outshine the first Exodus out of Egypt. Chapter three builds on this by suggesting that the new Exodus, as with the first one, would be kicked off with a new Passover event, one that would again outshine the first. Why would this be relevant to Jesus and the Eucharist meal? Because Jesus’ last meal with his disciples in the upper room was most likely the Passover meal eaten at the start of the Sabbath on the 14th day of the Jewish Month of Nissan. Brant states,
On that night, Jesus was not just celebrating one more memorial of the exodus from Egypt. Rather, he was establishing a new Passover, the long-awaited Passover of the Messiah. By means of this sacrifice, Jesus would inaugurate the new exodus, which the prophets had foretold and for which the Jewish people had been waiting (49).
Brant believes that knowledge of the Jewish background of the Passover both biblically and in the context of first-century Judaism is crucial for understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. He takes his readers on a very brief and readable survey of the details of the Passover meal.

The Passover ceremony involved five steps as outlined in Exodus 12.
Step 1. Choose an unblemished male lamb.
Step 2. Sacrifice the lamb
Step 3. Spread the blood of the lamb on the home as a “sign” of the sacrifice.
Step 4. Eat the flesh of the lamb with the unleavened bread.
Step 5. Every year, keep a Passover as a “day of remembrance” of the exodus forever.
At the time of Jesus, a few significant changes to the ceremony had taken place. It should be emphasized when studying Jesus it is not the biblical framing of teaching, but how those teachings were interpreted and practiced in the first century that is most important. Brant notes four relevant alternations.

1. The Passover sacrifice was now made in the temple in Jerusalem. In the Bible the lambs were sacrificed and eaten in the home of the Israelites in Egypt, but at the time of Jesus these two activities were split and the sacrifice was required to be done in the Jerusalem temple by the Levites. The implication is obvious: you could only celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. This made for a very busy and bloody day of sacrifice at the temple leading up to the Passover meal. Brant points out impression that would have been left on all those who attended the Passover. This was a brutal sacrifice.

2. The Passover lamb was “crucified” in the process of the sacrifice. Brant appeals to a little known tradition that in the process of the sacrifice two stakes were thrust through the lamb which resembled a crucifixion. This element it must be admitted cannot be historically verified to represent the practice of first-century Jews. Still, if it is correct Brant is right to conclude:This an aspect of the Passover in his day that is neither mentioned in the Bible nor part of the modern-day Jewish Seder, but which as the power to shed light on Jesus’ conception of his own fate (64).

3. The Passover at the time of Jesus became a way to participate in the first Passover. The manner of this contemporizing of the event took shape in traditions that accompanied the Passover meal. The Mishnah, a third-century Rabbinic text, tells us that in the midst of the Passover meal, the son would ask the father, “Why is this night different from other nights?”. This tradition is still practiced today in the Seder. The Passover meal was a way for Jews in every generation to participate in the exodus.

4. Jewish traditions that admittedly date much later than the New Testament but might represent views in the air in the first century, link the Passover feast to the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of the age of salvation. “The Messiah comes on Passover night, and God will redeem his people on that same night” (68).

All of this then forms the frame for seeing Jesus and the Passover meal correctly. Brant suggests that the key is to pay attention to the similarities and differences between the Jewish Passover meal, as described in the Jewish sources, and the meal Jesus had with this disciples recorded in the synoptic gospels. The major observation drawn from a comparison is that Jesus alters the Jewish Passover by placing himself at its center, as the sacrificial lamb. Jesus instituted a “new Passover”.
By means of his words over the bread and wine of the Last Supper, Jesus is saying in no uncertain terms, “I am the new Passover lamb of the new Exodus. This is the Passover of the Messiah, and I am the new sacrifice” (72).
Now the pay dirt for Brant in all of this is that according to the ancient biblical tradition, the lamb was to be eaten. Central to the Passover ceremony was the consumption of the flesh of the lamb. As Brant puts it, “the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was not completed by its death. It was completed by a meal, by eating the flesh of the lamb that had been slain” (74).

Brant’s interpretation is very interesting and at many points is profound and instructive. He’s done a great service to us to so clearly spell out the Jewish context of the Passover meal and to draw out connections between Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and the practice of the Passover. Even if not all his connections can be validated, understanding the Eucharist as the Passover of the Messiah is no doubt rich in meaning.

There is one thorny historical issue in all of this that should at least be registered. The question of whether the last supper was the actual Passover meal or a meal on the night before Passover is still a scholarly quandary. John’s Gospel, on the one hand, has the meal on the night before the Passover so that Jesus dies at the time of the sacrifices. On the other hand, the Synoptic Gospels clearly have Jesus’ meal as the Passover. The historical issues are nearly intractable. And while hypotheses have been suggested to harmonize the two accounts no one hypothesis has won the day. What one can say, nevertheless, is that Jesus’ death is associated in all the Gospels with the Passover.

For earlier posts see: Jesus and the Eucharist 1, 2, 3.