Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I've heard many times now (mainly from Ivy League Gnostics) that the Christian canon was imposed top down by a theologically narrow oligarch of bishops bent on eradicating all traces of diversity from the ecclesial landscape. I think the truth of the matter is that the four Gospels reflect the diversity within the majority of the early church and the so-called "lost Gospels" lost out because they weren't all that popular and weren't all that good to begin with. The Fourfold Gospel arose out of a large consensus of the eastern and western churches and not because a cohort of bishops with the backing of Roman power decreed it by force.
One book on this subject that has come out and I'm looking forward to reading is Charles E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Conspiracy (Oxford: OUP, 2010). According to the blurb:
It is now widely said that the four Gospels rose to prominence only after a long battle within early Christianity, a battle finally won in the fourth century, after the establishment of the Church by Constantine the Great. In Who Chose the Gospels? Charles E. Hill demolishes this claim, providing a more historically accurate, alternative account of how the Church came to acknowledge four, and only four, narratives of the life of Jesus. Hill offers not only an informed critique of recent, overtly "political" readings of early Christian history, but also a more nuanced analysis of how and why, out of all the Gospels written in the early centuries of the Church, just these four "made it" into the Bible. In fact, the author shows that despite the profusion of Gospels, there was wide agreement among church leaders, in diverse regions of the empire, at least from the second century onward, as to the authority of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Thus it was not a conspiracy but common consensus that determined the books of the New Testament.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I'm back from the land of fried chicken (Atlanta) and biblical scholarship (ETS-IBR-SBL). Great time was had by all. I arrived a few days earlier and stayed with my awesome buddy Joshua Jipp, a Ph.D student at Emory Uni. He took me too the Martin Luther King museum that was awesome. We also went out to a peculiar restaurant that specialized in chicken and waffles.
I have to confess that due to meetings with Ph.D students, friends, editors, and well-wishers, I didn't actually make too many sessions this year. At ETS I attended Jason Hood on summaries of Israel's story as a literary device which was great. The only plenary I got to was N.T. Wright on "Justification, Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow" where Wright was in his usual good form. It was a tad defensive and I forgot how many times he used the word "accused" to describe accusations laid against him. The gob smacking revelation was where he appeared to back down on using the phrase "on the basis of" to describe how works relate to justification. The phrase "on the basis of a life lived" is well worn in his works and Wright seems to me to want to mean that in an evidential way. Note Ardel Caneday's remarks on the significance of this change in Wright's wording. What is more, Wright also appeared to give a tacit approval to the concept of "incorporated righteousness" which has been my hobby horse for about seven years now! I think incorporated righteousness is a way of linking the forensic nature of justification to union with Christ and it might be the common ground in the NPP debate. I also liked Tom Schreiner's comment that N.T. Wright is a rocket leading us into the stratosphere, we merely want to change his trajectory slightly.
At the IBR session on Friday night I experienced one of the best academic moments of my short career. N.T. Wright gave a brilliant paper on the kingdom of God and the cross showing how they go together. It was classic Wright with much wit, bustling exegetical tours of texts, theological synthesis, and insightful hints at application. My remit was to respond to Wright which was a hard act to follow. It felt kinda like being asked to do an encore for the Beatles. But I did my best and tried to match him in wit and wisdom. I offered an affirmation of his main point that kingdom and cross together with a survey of Mark 15. I then made a demonstration of the value of the wider Christian tradition since many commentators in ages past (esp. ancient expositions of the Lord's Prayer) have engaged the subject too with much for us to consider. Finally, I suggested a point of integration of his thesis with a futurist eschatology, specifically the Christus Victor motif about the Messiah's future victory. It was a grand time and I really enjoyed the interaction.
At the IBR worship on Sunday, Karen Jobes gave a moving sermon on the theme "Jesus Loves Me This I know" and he words to her mother on her death bed were truly memorable. David deSilva did a great job in leading the worship and he even included my favourite hymn "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus". I love IBR. The historical Jesus sections with Bock and Webb were absolutely brilliant as well!
At SBL, the Pauline soteriology group focused on cosmology which was good with papers by Martinus de Boer, Beverly Gaventa, and Eddie Adams. My only quibble is that some of these apocalyptic interpreters of Paul seem to have no positive view of Israel and the Law. They are the "religion" that constitutes the antithesis to Paul's new creation. By the way, I should mention a Princeton conference on Romans 5-8 in 2012 that will feature Beverly Gaventa, John Barclay, Douglas Campbell, and my good buddy Ben Myers!
Of course the books at SBL are always a highlight. They leave any bibliophile salivating at the mouth. For me Baylor had the pick of the books with many good volumes on Jesus, orality, and memory which I picked up. A big seller at SBL was Dale C. Allison's volume on Constructing Jesus and a big seller at ETS was Wayne Grudem on God and Politics. I only bought one of these books (you can guess which one).
I wished I had attended more sessions, got to the bibliobloggers dinner, and eaten more fried chicken.
I warn you all. I made another video at SBL. It is about the SBL Greek New Testament in the tradition of "Old Spice" (don't worry, I keep my clothes on).
Time to file away the 60 gazillion business cards I picked up, get some sleep, and read some of the books I bought. Next year in San Diego!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Not long until I head off to Atlanta, Georgia for ETS/IBR/SBL. I wasn't planning on going this year, but two things drew me in. First, I was asked to be the respondent to N.T. Wright at the Friday evening IBR session (and who could turn that down?). Second, there is a restaurant in Atlanta called Buckner's. I went there 11 years ago and ever since then I've spent many nights laying awake dreamily salivating about their fried chicken, stewed tomato, biscuits, and peppered mashed potato. It was the best chicken I have ever tasted in my life and I've eaten chicken on four different continents. So why go to Altanta: IBR and Fried Chicken!
Things to do and see at ETS/SBL:
1. If you see Michael Bird on his birthday (Thursday, 18 Nov) give him a nice bottle of red wine, nothing sweet, Merlot and Pinot Noir preferred.
2. If you see Ron Hendel at SBL, ask him if he'd like to recommit his life to life to Torah-observance and become a permanent member of the theological interpretation of scripture section.
3. Don't forget to get some extra napkins so that you can wipe up the saliva from drooling at the Hendrickson facsimile of Codex Sinaiticus. Note, this would make a good birthday present. Note also the price of $800.00!
4. If at ETS you see N.T. Wright running towards you at a freakish pace and a mob of angry Presbyterians with pitch forks and burning crosses are chasing him, get the heck out of his way and yell, "Run Tom run!"
5. If you see me lying on the ground clutching my stomach with my belt undone, it means I've just got back from Buckners. Please pump my stomach so I can go back and eat some more fried chicken.
6. If you want to get noticed, stand at the entry to the book exhibit at ETS with a sign saying "Obama is our Messiah, Newt Gingrich is the Anti-Christ," though don't expect to live too long. However, if you do this at SBL, you'll probably get offered an assistant professorship at Vanderbilt or Harvard!
7. Whatever you do, don't bring handouts for your audience, don't mention handouts, don't refer to handouts. In Atlanta, the only people who talk about handouts are Democrats. If you mention handouts at ETS they will lynch you.
8. Come with Michael Bird and Joel Willitts to the Yale Divinity School reception. Every year we pretend to be a gay couple who just got married in Toronto so that they let us in. Works every time!
9. Go to the Scottish Unis Reception, but paint half of your face blue and tell people you are a professor of biblical studies at Glasgow Uni.
10. Make sure you get a free copy of SBLGNT and the free sample issue of Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
From Ben Myers:
United Theological College Sydney is seeking to appoint a lecturer responsible for the teaching and oversight of New Testament Studies. The appointee would also be responsible for supervision of post graduate students in the ﬁeld and be expected to engage actively in research.
The appointee would be involved in the formation of candidates for speciﬁed ministries and would be nominated as an academic associate of the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University. United Theological College is the constituted college for the Uniting Church in the Synod of NSW/ACT. It is also a partner in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University.
The position is available from 1 July, 2011. Full details of the position may be obtained from e Principal, Revd. Dr Clive Pearson, United Theological College, 16 Masons Dr, North Parramatta NSW 2151 Australia. Phone +61 2 8838 8926 or email email@example.com.
Applications for this position close on 21 February 2011.
CT has a great article about the Church in Southern Sudan. Here's a memorable quote:
The most recent bout of war, from 1983-2005, left some two million dead, and five million in membership of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS). Package that in your next "how to grow your church" bestseller: 1) resist the imperial claims of your own Shar'ia-imposing government, 2) endure genocidal bombings of villages, 3) have millions of refugees suffer thousand-mile walks (including the famous lost boys), and 4) emerge with a church twice the size of the Episcopal Church in the United States. That's not even counting millions of Catholics. "Khartoum tried to swallow the South," Bishop Hilary Garang Deng of the ECS told me. "But Christianity was like a bone, stuck in the throat, causing it to vomit."
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Dear biblioblogosphere, I'm proud to announce the launch of a new journal dedicated to Pauline studies published by Eisenbrauns. It is called Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters. On the homepage you can find info on subscriptions and submissions. It's edited by myself with Nijay Gupta (see his blog) as the associate editor and we have an international editorial board. The sample issue is available on-line and the inaugural article is by Dr. Susan Grove Eastman (Duke Divinity School) on "Philippians 2:6-11: Incarnation as Mimetic Participation" - quite a treat to read! The next issue of JSPL will include Paul Foster "Eschatology in the Thessalonian Correspondence", Michael Gorman "Justification and Justice", Richard Bell "Paul's Theology of Mind", and a review of Douglas A. Campbell's Deliverance of God by Michael Gorman and Chris Tilling.
Monday, November 08, 2010
For those interested, here are links to my papers in Atlanta:
All on Friday 19 November in Atlanta.
Just reading through Dale C. Allison's The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, very interesting read in terms of looking at Allison's intellectual biography that comes through the book.
My interest here is the links that Allison makes between the Marcan eschatological discourse (Mark 13) and the Marcan passion sequence (Mark 14-15). He writes:
"As for the relationship between Mark's account of the crucifixion and Jesus' own expectations, our Evangelist has constructed a striking series of correlations between his eschatological discourse, Mark 13, and the chapters it introduces, 14 as well as 15. 13:24 foretells that the sun will go dark, and this happens when Jesus is on the cross (15:33). 13:2 prophesies that the temple will be destroyed, whereas its veil is torn apart two chapters later (15:38). 13:9 foresees that the disciples will be 'delivered up,' will appear before Jewish councils, will be beaten, and will stand before governors, all of which happens to Jesus soon enough (14:41, 53-65; 15:1-15). 13:35-36 admonishes the disciples to 'watch ... lest the master come and find them sleeping,' and in Gethsemane, after Jesus tells his disciples to 'watch,' he comes and finds them sleeping (14:34-42). These and other parallels reveal that for Mark the eschatological discourse and Passion narrative are of a piece: Jesus' death belongs to eschatology. His demise either foreshadows the latter days, or it inaugurates them" (p. 27).
This observation about the links between Mark 13 and 14-15 is well documented and exploited further (though at times a bit too far) by Peter Bolt's gem of a book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark's Gospel. Further links can be made with the coming of the Son of Man and the reference to the "abomination of desolation" that Bolt is able to relate to the passion story. It means, in the very least, that Mark 14-15 can be interpreted in light of Mark 13.
Friday, November 05, 2010
There is a FB discussion going on about Dale C. Allison's new book Constructing Jesus which is worth checking out. Questions are posed to Allison, Baker selects the best questions, Allison will then be answering those questions (BTW, if your question is chosen you get a free copy of the book).
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
In John 20:31 the debate has been over the textual variants whether "these [things] were written" so that "you might believe" (Aorist subjunctive) or "you might continue to believe" (Present tense). Is the Gospel of John written to convert non-believers (first option) or to strengthen believers (second option). Michaels splits the horns of the dilemma by saying: "[T]he point is rather to encourage readers -whoever they may be - to emulate the faith of those mentioned in the narrative, the anonymous witness at the cross in the first instance, Thomas and his fellow disciples in the locked room in the second. In this way, readers are invited to claim the mantle of honor as 'those who did not see, and believed' (v. 29)."
Monday, November 01, 2010
The NIV10 is now up at Bible Gateway. Brian LePort has a good round up of reviews on the new NIV. Denny Burke links to a video by Doug Moo (head of the translation committee) and Denny offers some commentary about the NIV, NIVI, TNIV, and NIV10 controversy. I should also point out that Bible Gateway/Gospel Coalition has some blog posts on Perspectives on Translation. This includes my own contribution to the topic of "What Makes a Translation Accurate?". The forum will soon post some additional questions with answers from various scholars. Questions to be addressed in the forum include:
I had a lot of fun answering these myself, esp. (4) and (7)! More anon on that.