Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
I am reading Karen J. Wenell's published dissertation Jesus and Land. There is much more I could say about this book but I find one comment curious and I would like to counterpose a quotation from Robert Wilken's book The Land Called Holy.
Even so [speaking about the twelve tribes evokes twelve territories], we should be careful not to limit the spatial implications of the twelve tribes/twelve territories to some particular physical location. When looking at biblical texts relating to the tribes, entering the discussion is not predicated by an ability to place locations on a map, or to identify a particular territory (p. 106, emphasis added).
For the ancient Israelites land always referred to an actual land. Eretz Israel was not a symbol of a higher reality. It was a distinct geographical entity, a territory with assumed if not always precise boundaries . . . For ancient Hebrews, idyllic descriptions of the land are always subservient to a territorial realism. The land is a geographical region that can be marked on a map, a place with memories as well as hopes, with a past as well as a future . . . The blessings associated with the land are this-worldly . . . No matter who utopian the language, the promised land was always real, not an ideal, country. Hence there could be no genuine fulfillment of the promise that was not historical, which is to say, political (pp. 8-9).
There is just no doubt in my mind that Wilken is right. I found in reading Wenell's book that her use of anthological models of sacred space somewhat distracting and difficult to penetrate. Her approach, at least for me, created a fog that was difficult to cut through to see what she was really saying. I am still uncertain for example what she thinks about the kingdom of God and the Land outside of crypt descriptions such as this: "the kingdom functions as an orienting mythical space with practical implications for followers in their daily life and conduct” (p. 17). Furthermore, she states "It is not necessary to decide whether the mathematical statement 'kingdom equal's land' is true or false; but it is important [sic] establish that the message of the kingdom evokes the promises to Abraham and defines a new sacred space with its own symbolic associations and practical implications" (p. 139).
Like every aspect of Jesus' life and teaching, it has been the object of intensive scrutiny for generations, indeed centuries. More often than not the result of such studies has been to divest the term ["kingdom"] of its historical and geographical overtones. Kingdom of God is thought to refer neither to an event in time nor to a specific place but is seen as a metaphor for a spiritual, and often individual, truth. Kingdom does not mean kingdom (The Land, p. 47).
It is of the utmost importance for Origen's hermeneutical program that no vestiges of Jewish national life exist within the Land of Israel (The Land, p. 73, emphasis added).
If Paul is speaking eschatologically,--and the citation from Isaiah makes this likely,--the distinction he draws between the two cities may not be between a "heavenly city" (a term he does not use) and an "earthly city" (which he also does not use), but between Jerusalem as it is at present (in Greek, Jerusalem as it is now) and a future Jerusalem. The difference between the two cities is temporal, not metaphysical, between what exists at the present and is imperfect and flawed and what will one day take its place, a glorious new city not made by hands but graven on the palms of God (n. 42, pp. 281-82).
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Watch the above clip about the "Spanish Train" by Chris de Burgh.
Does evil win in the end? For the atheist, there is no god and belief in evil is merely the product of the evolution of our relational consciousness and derived from social engineering. The statement that "murder is wrong" is no more true than "I like chocolate", both expresses aesthetics, relative norms for a perceived collective good, but not an objective reality. For the Open Theist, evil might well win, but God is omnicompetent, he can handle anything, so lets wait and see. For the Buddhist, all life is suffering and suffering is defeated by the discipline of detachment until one reaches the point of nirvana which is somewhere between paradise and self-annihilation. The answer given in Chris de Burgh's Spanish Train is that evil wins, not in the absence of a God, but despite God. There is a duality in this song. One the one hand there is the desperate hope that "Lord you've got to win," for this is the hope of the dying, the suffering, the oppressed; a hope for a champion, a hero, a messiah, to defeat the tyrant of death and demons of tyranny. We cannot win or withstand the ferociousness of its might. You've got to win for us Lord. But the assumed reality on the song is that evil does win, suffering does prevail, death does reign, not because there is not God, there is a Lord, and "he's just doing his best". The god of de Burgh is noble and well intentioned, but periodicaly absent, somewhat impotent, and slightly naive.
But I would say that de Burgh's god more closely resembles the United Nations (emblematic for the self-striving of men and women against the tsunami of human depravity) and not the God who made himself known in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If I were to choose how to defeat evil myself I would probably try to use a superior but slightly less malevolent form of violence. Kill the murderers, show no mercy to the merciless, torture the torturers and so forth. Or one could take on the Qumranic tactic: bring on the angels of death and wipe them all out before us! But how on such a day would stand? Not me, not you, not any of us. For even when we fight evil, we create evil. When we hunt the monster, we often become what we are trying to destroy (I think that's the message of the new Batman movie). Where is our deliverance, from evil, from ourselves? I have seen, heard, and smelled the evil that men do and it is too much to bear. I have interviewed soldiers who had to listen to the cries and screams of men, women, and children massacred in an adjacent valley in Rwanda while they were powerless to do anything other than count bodies the next day. I have seen the evil impulse in myself and hesistate to think what I might be capable off.
Does God win then? Yes, he does, but at the cross. To defeat evil, God must exhaust it's energy and release its grip on humanity, so that humanity can be freed from the penalty, power, and even the presence of evil for all time. What God achieves is not merely retribution against evil, but liberation from and cleasning of evil. As Paul wrote in Col. 2.15, "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in it [the cross]." It the greatest irony of all, the triumphant Lion of Judah is a blood stained lamb. The message of Revelation, as well now know, is that God wins in the end and so do his people. A new creation with no waters of terror or tears of pain. A world reborn anew. And we live between the death throes of an evil world dying and amidst the birth pains of a new world being reborn.
"Who'll be the king of this place?" the devil asks in Spanish Train. We see on the cross exactly who, "The King of the Jews". In Mark the word king occurs about 12 times, half of those are in chapter fifteen, Mark wants to show the link between Jesus' death and Jesus' kingship. Mark sets out for us the message of the kingdom and yet what we get at the end is the kingship of the crucified. The cross is not a defeat, but a glorious coronation. It is where the saving power of God manifests itself in the height of ignominy, shame, corruption, malevolence, and evil. Jesus is mocked by the priests that he is not "powerful enough" to save himself. But it is precisely in that moment of surrender and self-giving that divine power is made known, where sins are ransomed, the debt of transgression is expunged, and the sting of death is drained of its poison. And so the power of God's love becomes superior to men and their love for power.
But is it true? to be honest, there are days where I wonder myself and I muse over the words of Thénardiers from Les Miserable: "And God in his heaven, he don't interfere, cause he's dead as the stiffs at my feet. I raise my eyes to see the heavens and only the moon looks down, the harbours moon shines down". Does the abyss of evil prevail and are we just sophisticated dogs eating other dogs for survival or sport? But this counters it for me: (1) God is the reason why there is a something rather than a nothing, why the universe is wired up for life. (2) In the holy word of the Scriptures, in prayer and sacrament, and in my own experience I encounter something "other" than myself, something not me, something that has at once changed me and is still changing me. I am not what I am anymore. (3) It is the only story worth believing in and gives us hope as the medicine of our soul.
So instead of listening to "Spanish Train", I prefer singing about another mode of transport: "Swing Low Sweet Chariot".
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Thursday 11 December 2008
Prof. Richard Bauckham and Prof. Richard Hays
9.45-11.00, Divine Identity Christology in Mark, Prof. Richard Bauckham
11.30-12.45, Divine Identity Christology in Luke, Prof. Richard Hays
13.45-15.00, Panel discussion with Professors Bauckham and Hays
The event will be held at Tyndale House, 36 Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge, CB3 9BA; www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk. Coffee will be available from 9.15. There is no admission charge for the colloquium, but a contribution of around £5 to cover costs including lunch would be appreciated. Spaces are limited, so please reserve a place in advance by contacting Ms Tania Raiola, firstname.lastname@example.org; (01223 566602).
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/Hendrickson, 2007.
Available in the US from Amazon.com
Available in the UK from Alban Books
Saturday, July 19, 2008
1. Rubén Dupertuis and Todd Penner (the Editors): “Reading Backwards from the Beginning: Acts of the Second Century and Christian Origin Studies”
2. Heike Omerzu (University of Mainz): “Reading Acts without Luke? On the Reception of the Lukan Acts in the Second Century”
3. Milton Moreland (Rhodes College): “Jerusalem Destroyed: The Unacknowledged Setting of the Readers of Acts”
4. Joseph Tyson (Southern Methodist University): “Reading Acts at a Time of Uncertainty: Issues of Leadership in the Second Century”
5. David M. Reis (University of Oregon): “Spectacular Sights: Vision, Power, and Apostolic Identity in the Acts of the Apostles”
6. Loveday Alexander (University of Sheffield): “Bacchus and Christ: Reading Luke's Acts in an Enchanted World”
7. John Moles (Newcastle University): "Space and Time Travel in Luke-Acts"
8. Shelly Matthews (Furman University): “Luke-Acts, Empire, and Marcion’s Children”
9. Christopher Mount (DePaul University): “Why Were Early Christians Persecuted? Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, and the Acts of the Apostles”
10. Rubén R. Dupertuis (Trinity University): “Philosophical Imagery in Acts and the Apologists”
11. Andrew Gregory (University College, Oxford): “Reading Acts with Justin and Irenaeus”
12. Kavin Rowe (Duke Divinity School): “Political Theology: Tertullian as a Reader of Acts”
13. Claire Clivaz (University of Lausanne): “Reading Luke-Acts in Alexandria in the Second Century: Between Clement’s and Apollonius’s Shadow”
14. Todd Penner (Austin College): “Dating Acts (Scholarship): Origins, Purity, and Modernity”
I should call attention to multiple posts by Ben Myers (with input from Ray S. Anderson) on reflections on the same-sex relations controversy, Doug Chaplin is also blogging on the issue and raising many important questions, and Oliver O'Donovan has a new book out on the topic entitled, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
It is possible that some Jewish texts refer to a suffering Messiah (Zech 13.7; Dan. 9.26; Tgs. Isa. 53; T.Benj. 3.8; 4Q541 frags. 9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra 7.29-30; 2 Bar. 30.1; Justin, Dial. Tryph. 39, 89-90; Tg. Zech. 12.10; Hippolytus, Haer. Omn. Haer. 9.25; b.Suk. 52) and several scholars have inferred from this a form of intertestamental messianic expectation that provides the background to the messianism of Jesus and of the early church (Horbury, Jewish Messianism, p. 33; Hengel, ‘Messiah of Israel’, p. 37; Bockmuehl, This Jesus, 50; idem, ‘A “Slain Messiah” in 4QSerekh Milhamah [4Q285]?’ TynBul 43 , pp. 155-69; R.A. Rosenberg, ‘The Slain Messiah in the Old Testament,’ ZAW 99 , pp. 259-61). But if there was a well-known tradition about a suffering or dying Messiah, how could the hopes of the disciples be shattered after Good Friday (cf. Lk. 24.21)? If such a tradition was extant then, on the contrary, their hope that Jesus was the Messiah would have been confirmed not dashed. Likewise, the scandal of a crucified Messiah would dissipate if it was thought possible that the Messiah would suffer rather than conquer. Geza Vermes (Authentic Gospel of Jesus, p. 387) writes: ‘It should be recalled that neither the death nor the resurrection of the Messiah formed part of the beliefs and expectations of the Jews in the first century AD’. Belief in a suffering Messiah (Messiah son of Ephraim or Messiah son of Joseph) may have arisen in response to the failed messianic aspirations of Bar Kochba in the post-135 CE period; see also Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp. 139-40; Wright, People of God, p. 320; idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 488; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus, pp. 540-41; Stuhlmacher, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 27; Schürer, History of the Jewish People, vol. 2, pp. 547-49; Evans, ‘Messianism’, p. 703; Collins, Sceptre and the Star, pp. 123-26.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Barth, Fifty Prayers, p. 55.