Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Craig Evans

Check out Craig Evans excellent powerpoint presentations, and brief introductions to Jesus and the background of early Christianity/Judaism. These powerpoint presentations will aid as a good teaching resource that can be supplemented by your lecture notes.
I've just been reading through each of them on the quest, Jesus in Context, Burial traditions, Inscriptions, Papyri, Apocryphal gospels and even The Da Vinci Code. They provide brief snippets of information and great pictures to accompany the text. A very helpful presentation that may find its way into great use for my teaching! Thanks Dr. Evans!
Many will also be happy to hear that Evans fantastic book, NonCanonical Writings and the New Testament has been completely re:written and published as: Ancient Texts for New Testament Students. This will be a great help to students, and I have found the former edition invaluable. I would also suggest that Evans book, Jesus and His Contemporaries ranks as one of the best books on the historical Jesus ever written. So check it out!


Is this how the new Pope will celebrate the Eucharist? I wonder what the apostle Paul, or even Jesus would say...

Justification and Galatians - random thoughts

Justification and Galatians - random thoughts...
There is so much discussion about "justification" and "righteousness" going around that I am weary of wading into these waters for fear of getting lost in other matters besides the gospels. But I do like to read around and there is a wonderful blog about Leon Morris and the NPP that has left me thinking...

I pledge allegiance to no particular historical theological framework [well, maybe the Apostles Creed but that's about it], which is both helpful and lonely at times, but when it comes to justification I don't see the Reformers point in criticizing Wright. There have always been two important paragraphs from Wright that have helped me understand a biblical theology of Justification. I quote them at length to avoid misunderstanding:

The resurrection provides the basis for the true definition of God’s people. God has vindicated Jesus as Messiah, and has thereby declared that those who belong to him, who in the Heb. idiom are ‘in Christ’ (cf. 2 Sa. 19:43–20:2), are the true Israel. The marks of new covenant membership are the signs of the Spirit’s work, i.e. faith in Jesus as Lord, belief in his resurrection, and baptism as the mark of entry into the historical people of God (Rom. 10:9–10; Col. 2:11–12). ‘Justification’ is thus God’s declaration in the present that someone is within the covenant, a declaration made not on the basis of the attempt to keep the Jewish law but on the basis of faith: because faith in Jesus is the evidence that God has, by his Spirit, begun a new work in a human life which he will surely bring to completion (Rom. 5:1–5; 8:31–39; Phil. 1:6; 1 Thes. 1:4–10). The present divine verdict therefore correctly anticipates that which will be issued on the last day on the basis of the entire life of the Christian (Rom. 2:5–11; 14:10–12; 2 Cor. 5:10). This double verdict is thus based on two things—the death and resurrection of Jesus and the work of the Spirit: Christ and the Spirit together achieve ‘that which the law could not do’ (Rom. 8:1–4). ‘Justification’ thus redefines the people of God, and opens that people to all who believe, whatever their racial or moral background.

In this lecture on Coming Home to St. Paul, Wright notes that:

The Paul of Romans is thus a deeply Jewish thinker, rethinking his Jewish categories around his belief that the crucified and risen Jesus is Israel’s representative Messiah. Within this scheme of thought, the key focal points stand out. Jesus’ obedient death is the central covenant action, revealing God’s love and grace in decisive and climactic action, dealing with sin by condemning it in his flesh (8.3). Justification by faith is the juridical declaration in the present time which anticipates the verdict of the last day: faith that Jesus is Lord, and that God raised him from the dead, is the result of the Spirit’s work through the gospel – and what God has thus begun, he will certainly complete. Justification is not merely lawcourt language, however; if it were, it would be isolated from the life of the church and from Christian morality. Justification is also covenant language, as in Romans 4 (a sustained exposition of Genesis 15, where God establishes his covenant with Abraham), and has to do precisely with God’s setting up of the single family, consisting of Jews and Gentiles together, characterised by faith rather than by possession or keeping of Torah.

In these two striking paragraphs we see the tenses of justification, which many have neglected and/or ignored. But despite that, I am perplexed by many statements that want to make justification either vertical or horizontal, because for Paul it was clearly both.

There is just no way to get around Dunn's argument that Galatians 2 is dealing with justification horizontal, not vertical. Now I realise that in Galatians 3 the vertical justification is brought into the argument, but Gal 2, especially vss. 15-21 are bound up with Gal 2:11-14 which are about horizontal justification.

The problem that Paul addresses in his letter to the Churches of Galatia is multifaceted and complex but can be located within reach of one key word: “faithfulness”. As we shall soon see, there was a major problem with who and what to be faithful to. Should the Galatian Christians be faithful to Paul and the gospel that he preached to them? Or should they be faithful to the Mosaic Law, as Jews had done for centuries past? Is faithfulness to Jesus enough, or does one also need to be faithful to “the works of Torah”? Has the “faithfulness of Jesus” transformed faithfulness to the “works of Torah”? If Jesus’ faithfulness has transformed the situation, how has it done so and what are the consequences? Essentially, the issue is tied up with “covenantal nomism”. But before we get to this new concept, we must discuss just “who” is causing the problems as this will help us decide “what” the problem is. We must also set the scene first by noting a few important details about Paul and Galatians.
To set the scene, and our reconstruction of the problem, we must know a few details about Paul and his congregations. The first thing to note is that the polemic of Galatians is all we have in our reconstruction. While Acts and Paul’s other letters will shed light on aspects of Paul’s thinking and life, we have no other such documents that will do this for the church and situation of the Galatians.[1]
Following a southern Galatian hypothesis, it appears that this is one of the very first times that the issue of covenantal nomism is addressed. The letter is probably to be dated around 49CE, before the Jerusalem Council. It could possibly even be a major reason for calling the Jerusalem council together. Perhaps there hadn’t been a major verdict such as this in early Christianity before this eruption between Cephas and Paul, and between Paul and the “faction from James”. We know that Paul founded the churches of Galatia during one of his missionary journeys, after the meeting mentioned in Gal. 2:1-10. We know that Paul had preached to them and left them “running well” (5:7). Somehow, after a while, Paul got word that his churches in Galatia were not doing to well. They had been infected with “another gospel” from an unidentified group, who were “from James” (2:12).[2] But who was this faction?
The identity of these so-called “missionaries”[3] is unknown to us, and possibly even unknown to Paul. The reason we posit that they are unknown to even Paul, is because Paul questions “Who has bewitched you?” (3:1) and “who prevented you from obeying the truth?” (5:7). Paul also gives a warning, “whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.” (5:10). Thus, it seems Paul had either a) not met them or b) did not know much about them. We know that they saw themselves as followers of Jesus, the Messiah (4:12). However, they were also very concerned with matters of the law and Jewish identity (2:3-6 & 4:9-10). Thus, it seems probable that they were Messianic Jews.
Scholars have suggested very different views as to what the mission and message of these Missionaries was. Despite the speculative nature of this exercise, there seems to be a few elements about which we may have some confidence: A) These missionaries were very concerned with being faithful to the law, and thus the covenant set up between Abraham and God, and nuanced by Moses in the Torah. B) External obedience to the “works of the law” was a pivotal part of their message and praxis in maintaining the distinctly ‘Jewish’ identity. With this in mind, Dunn concludes:
The letter makes clearest and fullest sense if we see it as a response to a challenge from Christian-Jewish missionaries who had come to Galatia to improve or correct Paul’s understanding of the gospel and to ‘complete’ his converts by integrating them fully into the heirs of Abraham through circumcision and by thus bringing them ‘under the law’.[4]
The problem thus comes directly into focus as Paul states his Propositio (Gal 2:15-21):
We are Jews ourselves, by birth, and not Gentile sinners; nevertheless we know that a person is not justified by the works of Torah but through the faithfulness of Jesus, the Messiah. And we have become faithful to the Messiah Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah, and not by doing the works of Torah, because ‘no one will be justified by the works of Torah’. - But if, in our effort to be justified in the Messiah, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is the Messiah then a servant of sin? Absolutely not! But if I build up again the very things that I once destroyed, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. - Because through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with the Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but it is the Messiah who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if covenant membership comes through the Torah, then the Messiah died in vain.[5]
Despite the history of interpretation and tradition surrounding this pericope, there is still much confusion and debate.[6] The pivotal question that must remain in our minds as we grapple with this passage is, “what makes most historical sense within the argument that Paul presents to the Galatians?”[7]
In verse 15 Paul starts his section with “we”. The importance of this word cannot be overemphasized. It forms a direct connection[8] with the preceding section that outlines the incident in Antioch between Paul and Peter.[9] In the section 2:1-10, Paul has noted that both Peter and himself were entrusted with the ‘gospel’. Paul for the Gentiles and Peter for the Jews. We also have the incident of Titus, ‘not being compelled to be circumcised’.[10] The implication is that Titus was not asked to be circumcised by the Jerusalem leadership.[11] But what does this have to do with the issue at Galatia? It is our contention that Paul once again faces the same issue that he faced with Cephas.
Peter, while not sanctioning circumcision for the Gentiles, nevertheless felt compelled to obey other “works of Torah” such as food laws[12] and possibly festival observances (cf. 4:10).[13] For Paul, this was unacceptable. No “works of Torah” were required in being part of the true people of God.[14] For this reason, Witherington writes:
The issue raised in the propositio is – What should the role of the Mosaic Law be in the life of a Christian believer, whether Gentile or Jew, and as a subset of that question, should the Galatians submit to circumcision and the various other boundary-marking rituals of Judaism? Lying beneath all of this is the question – Who are the people of GOD, and what constitutes them as such?[15]
You see, the Jewish faction had persuaded Peter, and ‘even Barnabas’, that they should revert back to their Jewish praxis based on their observances of Torah. The Gentiles were not doing the “works of the Torah” which was required for full/complete membership in the people of YHWH and thus were excluded from table-fellowship. According to Paul, this was both a misunderstanding of the Gospel and inconsistent too. They seemed to have held that to be faithful to YHWH meant being faithful both to Jesus and the “works of Torah”. These two were the ‘identity markers’ of the people of YHWH. Being faithful to these two elements showed that one was a member of the people of God, it showed that one was ‘justified’. However, Paul’s contention is that justification came through faithfulness to Jesus, because Jesus had been faithful to them (2:16).
Wright defines justification as:
Justification is the recognition and declaration by God that those who are thus called and believing are in fact his people, the single family promised to Abraham, that as the new covenant people their sins are forgiven, and that since they have already died and been raised with the Messiah, they are assured of final bodily resurrection at the last.[16]
The only requirement for full membership in the people of God, according to Paul, was loyalty[17] towards Jesus. This is the crux of the issue. Verse 16 is directly concerned with the issue of “covenantal nomism”.[18] The corollary of this is that loyalty towards Jesus does away with any need for being faithful to the ‘works of Torah. It renders their purpose invalid. As Dunn rightly comments:
If we have been accepted by God on the basis of faith, then it is on the basis faith that we are acceptable, and not on the basis of works. Perhaps for the first time, in this verse faith in Jesus Messiah begins to emerge not simply as a narrower definition of the elect of God. From being one identity marker for the Jewish Christian alongside the other identity markers (circumcision, food laws, Sabbath), faith in Jesus as Christ becomes the primary identity maker which renders the others superfluous.[19]
This in turn leads to Paul’s anticipative comments on the problem with such ‘freedom’ from covenantal obligations. Without the boundaries of the ‘works of Torah, will the Galatians merely become Gentile sinners?[20] “Absolutely Not!”, says Paul. Our freedom in Messiah is freedom from that slavery to the “law of Messiah” (6:2). Just because one has given up those boundary-markers as signs of being part of the people of YHWH, does not therefore necessitate that they will not live distinct lives as the marked and chosen people of God. On the contrary says Paul, their lives will be evident by “faith working through love” (5:6) and their praxis stained by the boundary-markers of the ‘life’ and ‘fruit’ of the Spirit (5:16, 22). This is the whole point of Paul’s comment in 2:17, which he later unpacks and defends in chapter 5 and 6 of this letter. We are free says Paul, free to love and follow Jesus in the power and presence of the Spirit, who will lead and guide us as the people of God. This is where the distinctive pivsti"` Cristou` debate comes to the fore. The faithfulness of Jesus to God becomes the new paradigm by which those who are faithful to Jesus, shall live. 2:16 shows that Jesus has been faithful and 2:20 is our response: “I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me.” This phrase must refer to the intimate relationship one has with Jesus and also the life of faithfulness one lives by following the clear example that Jesus is. This is what it means to be found and to “live” in the Messiah (2:19-20). If the Galatians are not faithful to God, then there are huge implications.[21] Finally, Paul wishes to charge, both Peter and the missionaries, actions with obstructing the very grace of God that they are trying to maintain. This is how the grace of God has been revealed, through the faithfulness of Jesus. To still hold to covenantal nomism is to invalidate what Jesus has done. “We are a new creation, behold the old is gone, the new is come.”
[1] What Longenecker and others have called “mirror reading”. Cf. R. Longenecker, Galatians [Grand Rapids: Nelson, 1990], pg. Lxxxix. Our hypotheses will always be, therefore, somewhat incomplete due to lack of evidence.
[2] I am troubled by this phrase. Does this mean that they had a) broken away from James; b) were sent out by James; c) had misunderstood James’ commission or that d) we are talking about someone different? D. A. Carson has proposed that the faction, and group from James are different groups but this merely begs questions.
[3] The term “Missionaries” is from J. D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians [London: Hendrickson, 1993], pg. 11 and R. B. Hays, The Letter to the Galatians [NIB 11; Nashville: Abingdon, 2000] pg. 185
[4] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, pg. 11
[5] This is my translation of Galatians 2:15-21. The word “justified” is peculiar and rather difficult to translate. Assuming a ‘new perspective’ position, I wonder whether it would be fair to translate the term as: ‘faithful to the covenant’ or even ‘obedient to the covenant’. This is of course interpretive, but which translation isn’t? Therefore, our statement would read: “a person is not faithful to the covenant by the works of Torah but through the faithfulness of Jesus.” The Dikaiow word group seems to be a concept word group, one which defies straight lexical translation in either form.
[6] It shall be evident that we quickly parts ways with the interpretations given by F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians [Exeter: Paternoster, 1982] pg. 136-147 and R. Y. K. Fung The Epistle to the Galatians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988] pg. 112-127. The major reason for this being, we see Galatians as an intra-communal debate about praxis and not with Jewish outsiders about legalism.
[7] Wright, The Letter to the Galatians, pg. 207 notes that “the basic task of exegesis is to address, as a whole and in parts, the historical questions: What was the author saying to the readers; and why? The questions ultimately demand an answer at the broadest level in the form of a hypothesis to be tested against the verse by verse details. One may, perhaps, allow the author some imprecision, particularly in such a heated composition, but if even a small number of details do not fit the hypothesis, it will be called into question.”
[8] The NRSV footnotes that some interpreters see this as a continuing quotation from the previous pericope.
[9] I shall not entertain the possibility, noted by B. Ehrman, The New Testament [Oxford: Oxford University, 1997], pg. 288; that Cephas and Peter are possibly two different people that Paul is talking about. Scholarship has not found this tradition or interpretation persuasive.
[10] cf. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, pg. 96 with references.
[11] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, pg. 96
[12] J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law [Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990], pg. 193 writes: “Without question the devout Jew of Paul’s day would regard observance of the laws on clean and unclean foods as a basic expression of covenant faithfulness… The maintenance of ritual purity, particularly the ritual purity of the mean table, was a primary concern and major occupation.”
[13] Does 4:10 highlight a similar issue faced at Antioch or is it peculiar to the situation in Galatia?
[14] cf. N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992], pg. 154 who states: “Christian Jews enter the renewed Abrahamic covenant not by works of Torah, but by faith, just as Christian Gentiles do.” This seems to be the point of 3:28.
[15] B. Witherington, Grace in Galatia [Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998] pg. 172
[16] N. T. Wright, “The Letter to the Galatians: Exegesis and Theology” in Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology Eds. J. B. Green & M. Turner [Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1999], pg. 235
[17] The synonyms for pistis", are: faithfulness, trust, reliability, faith and belief. Loyalty and allegiance are synonyms for faithfulness, but seem to capture the essence of the Greek words better than the usual translations. cf. “pistis” in Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Frederick W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979], [Online] Available: Logos Library System; and Louw, J. P. and Nida, E. A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains. [New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989], [Online] Available: Logos Library System.
[18] E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, pg. 75, 420: “Covenantal nomism is the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression… Obedience maintains one’s position in the covenant, but it does not earn God’s grace as such.” Quoted in Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law, pg. 186
[19] Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law, pg. 196
[20] We must understand that the boundary-markers of covenantal nomism gave the Jewish people their identity. Without them, would they merely assimilate into pagan culture? This seems to be the inference that the missionaries might have drawn. Paul is adamant that our identity is grounded and founded in the Messiah (cf. Gal. 2:19-20).
[21] As far as the Jewish-Christians were concerned, this could be detrimental. As Betz notes: “outside of the Torah covenant, there is no salvation.” Betz, Galatians [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1979], pg. 115
[22] Betz posits the interesting notion of whether obeying the law is such a bad thing, as long as one wasn’t trying to “justify” oneself by it. See Betz, Galatians, pg. 117
[23] Wright, The Letter to the Galatians, pg. 224
[24] Wright, The Letter to the Galatians, pg. 224-26 makes some strong comments about distinctions which have been rendered artificial by the cross of the Messiah.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Veritas Forum

The Veritas Forum has loads of audio files by respected scholars on Jesus.
The topics discussed are many and varied and they include lectures by philosophers like Dallas Willard, Peter Kreeft, W. L. Craig, Vinoth Ramachandra, preachers like John Stott, Ravi Zacharias, and biblical scholars such as Grant Osbourne, N.T. Wright and Craig Blomberg.
While these appear to be from an evangelical perspective, they look to be quite interesting. The forum has links to many other lectures on various topics from a Christian perspective that appear to be helpful for those interested. For those who don't have access to hearing live lectures by some of these scholars it's an added bonus to be able to download them and listen to them whenever you want to. They're all now in my audio library for use at my request.
How nice!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

a clip of thought...

A few weeks ago a friend, Brett Fish shared this story with our students. I've been sick in bed for the past week - unable to do anything, but this story kept coming back to me. It's a sober reminder of how conviction must feel...
Then Granny said, ‘It’s no good you trying to make me believe in Om, though.’
‘Om forbid that I should try, Mistress Weatherwax. I haven’t even given you a pamphlet, have I?’
‘No, but you’re trying to make me think, “Oo, what a nice young man, his god must be something special if nice young men like him helps old ladies like me,” aren’t you?’
‘Really? Well, it’s no working. People you can believe in, sometimes, but not gods. And I’ll tell you this, Mister Oats…’
He sighed. ‘Yes?’
She turned to face him, suddenly alive. ‘It’d be as well for you if I didn’t believe,’ she said, prodding him with a sharp finger. ‘This Om… anyone seen him?'
‘It is said three thousand people witnessed his manifestation at the Great Temple when he made the Covenant with the prophet Brutha and saved him from death by torture on the iron turtle –‘
‘But I bet that now they’re arguing about what they actually saw, eh?’
‘Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions–’

‘Right, Right. That’s people for you. Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I though there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ‘em like a father and cared for ‘em like a mother… well, you wouldn’t catch me saying’ things like “There are two sides to every question,” and “we must respect other people’s beliefs.” You wouldn’t find me just being generally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgiven’ sword. And did I say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people any more, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, working’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just … is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbours.’
She relaxed slightly, and wont on in a quieter voice: ‘Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ‘cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, “Oh deary me, we must debate this.” That’s my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ‘cos you’ll never catch it.’ She added, almost as an aside, ‘But perhaps you can live faithfully.’
Her teeth chattered as a gust of icy wind flapped her wet dress around her legs. ‘You got another book of holy words on you?’ she added.
‘No,’ said Oats, still shocked. He thought: my god, if she ever finds a religion, what would come out of these mountains and sweep across the plains? My god… I just said, ‘My god’…
Jesus said: Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else will be added unto you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

quote of the day...

Jesus is the millenarian prophet of judgment, the embodiment of the divine discontent that rolls through all things. He sees those who go about in long robes and have the best seats in the synagogues while they lock others out of the kingdom. He sees a rich man clothed in purple and fine linen who feasts sumptuously every day while at his gate is famished Lazarus, whose only friends are the dogs who lick his sores. He sees people who are gorgeously apparelled, who live in luxury in royal palaces, and who entertain themselves with the severed head of Elijah come again. What Nietzsche aptly if disparagingly called a “slave morality of chastity, selfishness, and absolute obedience” permits Jesus to see the truth about those who will power instead of justice. They are an evil generation, the blasphemers of the Holy Spirit, the first who will become last. Jesus knows that God promised never again to destroy the world through a flood, but he makes ready for the flood of the end-time anyway. He prepares for the baptism with which he will be baptized.

Jesus is the millenarian prophet of consolation and hope who comforts those who mourn. He sees the poor, the hungry, and the reviled, and he proclaims that the last will be first. He makes the best of a bad situation: things are not what they seem to be; everything will be OK. He declares, against all the evidence, that the oppressed and the destitute are no miserable but blessed. They will have treasure in heaven. They will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just.

Jesus is the millenarian prophet whose realism is so great that it must abandon the world, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He knows that we, being evil, cannot fix things, that the wall cannot climb itself. How bad is it? What is the world really like? God’s envoy is reviled as in league with Beelzebul, and the city of the great king kills the prophets and stones those sent to it. Clearly all has gone irredeemably wrong. The kingdom of God suffers violence.

Wrath and Atonement II

Thanks to those who have so far responded to my all too brief remarks. As Scot McKnight has noted, this is a complex minefield [I'm sticking with minefield because that's what it is!]. Again, I'm no specialist in this field and my comments should obviously be augmented by others who take a different perspective. But let me attempt to steer the discussion and thus provide further clarification of my attempted position.

Loren Rosson notes a comment from Stephen Finlay regarding The Passion where Finlay says: “It was clearly a serious and honest effort, well acted and so on. But there is no need to dwell on the gore that way...It is sadistic... But then, it really highlights just how troubling it is to say that God would ever require that of anyone, for any reason. God does not require anybody to be tortured, and certainly not as a 'payment' for someone else's sins. Atonement ideas say some awful things about God.

It was this statement that spawned my thoughts that found it's way to a blog on wrath and atonement. In the book Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, the authors note that scholars and theologians have neglected several biblical images of the atonement, and chosen to focus on one particular image. Their chapter on A Case of Selective Memory forced me to think honestly about what I believed and why I believed it. But then I read Loren Rosson's comment:

But any potentials for another Aryan Jesus (whether real or imagined) are irrelevant. If Jesus was in fact less Jewish than we imagine, then it’s the historian’s duty to say so. If the resulting portrait ends up being pressed into bad service, that’s a completely different issue. I happen to believe that scholars like Sanders, Fredriksen, Allison, and Freyne are much closer to the truth than the Hellenized crowd, but not out of fear that I would be condoning an anti-Semitic view of Jesus if I didn’t!

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with anything. But this is how I see the issue of wrath & the atonement. I was concerned that I was merely reacting to the several critiques of atonement theory that suggested it was "cosmic child-abuse" and thus went to the data to find a new hypothesis to explain it. But I'm not sure this is the case. I am convinced that my training in exegesis and philosophical analysis suggests that I am reading the historical evidence fairly and accurately. And so, in the absence of any solid exegetical arguments that show where I have gone astray in thinking [or taken a flight from understanding, as Bernard Lonergan would say] I must press forward and explore this proposal.

I can't find in the New Testament a single reference to Jesus taking upon himself the abuse of God for the sin of the world. There is no reference that directly states that, and so I'm concerned as to how and where we get this idea from. Remember, the context of my discussion here is the atonement - not the wrath of God in general. The closest reference that we get to this idea is Romans 3:25 with the use of the word hilasterion. There is great debate between Dodd ["HILASKESAI, Its Cognates, Derivatives, and Synonyms, in the Septuagint," JTS 32 [1931] 352–60] and Morris [The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, pg. 125-85] as to whether this word can be used to refer to expiation or propitiation with Dodd arguing for the former, and Morris for the latter. Thus, Dodd's interpretation of Romans 3:25 was that in Jesus’ death he was not averting the wrath of God but delivering humanity from the guilt of sin.

However, my proposal however does not appear to hinge on this discussion. For I am not arguing against the view that the wrath of God was appeased at the cross. That is another discussion, that is also complex. The New Testament [NT] writers do not seem to be convinced that Jesus needed to be tortured by GOD to atone for sins. What the NT is convinced about is that Jesus, his life, death & resurrection, was an acceptable and necessary element to rectify and repair our damaged relationship with GOD. But even this is beyond the scope of what my proposal is about.

What I am questioning is exactly how the Hebrew and New Testament writers understood God's wrath to be poured out, and especially how the New Testament writers understood this and the cross. My question is far more specific. Did God the Father directly torture and kill Jesus on the cross? To this, the NT is ubiquitous in it's silence and thus we can infer no such thing. And if we were to infer an answer from scripture, my argument below suggests that the answer would be "no, the Father did no such thing." In fact, my argument below suggests that this is entirely the fault of cracked eikons, who through foolishness, stubbornness and ignorance have exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

Jesus did take upon himself the judgment of God that Israel, and thus the world, deserved. I think a strong historical case can be made that at least Jesus believed this to be the case [even if Sanders thinks this is 'weird']. And the form that this judgment took, was the Father abandoning the Son at the cross to face the free will choices and evil which tortures and kills Jesus. This is the greatest sacrifice, because the Son embraced this vocation and saw it as his ultimate expression of love, both to us and to the Father of how to reconcile people back to himself .

The Father did not strike this child, we did.

Now there is much more to be said about this, and again exegetical responses are welcomed as I grapple with this immense and complex subject. But do me a favour and allow this small proposal to at least flow through your mind and thoughts as we contemplate this great mystery... Think carefully about what the bible actually says, and what we think it says. Ad Fontes [back to the sources] is the call I herald. And as we go back to these sources, what do we see?
UPDATE: See Loren Rosson's comments on Luke and the Cross.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Wrath & Atonement

The interesting topic of the atonement has been raised by Michael Pahl and especially Lorren Rosson who writes an excellent review of the book by Stephen Finlan: The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors which Lorren has recently supplemented with several comments from the author. While I'm not keen to move far our of my hole of Jesus studies, Scot McKnight is in the process of releasing a massive study of this in Jesus And His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, And Atonement Theory which means it does form part of the field I'm wading into...
I recently read a good discussion of this in Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts by Joel Green and Mark Baker. While I can't comment on Jesus' view of his death just yet - given that Ed Sanders thinks it "weird"[Jesus and Judaism, pg. 333] that Jesus would conceive of his death as part of his mission and aims. I can offer my thoughts [which I'm sure will spark much debate around me] on wrath and atonement and possibly a better way of understanding the New Testament data in light of it's Hebrew context.
In the Hebrew scriptures the wrath of God is viewed as an expression of his will as he deals with sinful and rebellious humankind in the context of history. YHWH’s wrath, as an expression of his holiness, his omnipotence and his sovereign, kingly rule, is executed against the nations who have rebelled against his sovereignty (e.g., Ex 15:7; Ps 2:1–6; Amos 1:2–2:5). YHWH’s wrath is also unleashed against an Israel for failing to live by the covenant which YHWH established with the chosen nation (e.g., Ex 32:10; Num 11:1, 33; Amos 2:6), a work that Isaiah calls YHWH’s “strange deed” and “alien work” (Is 28:21). A day will come when YHWH will finally establish his sovereignty in history and defeat his enemies. That will be a “day of wrath” (e.g., Zeph 1:15, 18; 2:2–3).
But how exactly does God effect or carry out his wrath? It is my understanding, that God often allows us to merely face the logical consequences of rejecting both his commands and Him. This is seen in the Hebrew scriptures where Amaziah would [just] not listen— [ergo] it was God’s doing, in order to hand them over, because they had sought the gods of Edom. [2 Chron 25:20]. This can also be seen in Jeremiah 7:25–34; 12:7; 25:4–11; Lam 2:3 and Hosea 5:6-7; 9:15–17; 10:13–15. Also in the Hebrew scriptures, God can turn people over to their own hardness of heart (e.g., Is 6:9–11; 29:9–12; Jer 44:25–27); cf. Psalm 81:12.
I recently read Ray Ortlund’s book “WHOREDOM”, which given the offensive title, alerts us to the fact that God at times view Israel as a harlot, who had been woefully unfaithful and thus God let her face the consequences of her harlotry. Abandonment by the Ultimate Husband, God himself. God did not seek to arbitrarily punish people, even his people. But God’s personal character is affronted and spat upon when Israel worships other gods, that aren’t in fact gods, and ends up destroying herself.
The thing I’ve recently learnt is that when we give ourselves to other lovers, we get abused and hurt and this is what YHWH had to witness. His called, rescued and adorned bride being abused by other gods because of their own stupidity and unfaithfulness. Thus, the only way to pull Israel back, to embrace her again, was to let her go. And thus, to let her suffer. This is seen outside the canonical corpus in 2 Esdras 15:23-27:
And a fire went forth from his wrath, and consumed the foundations of the earth and the sinners, like burnt straw. Alas for those who sin and do not observe my commandments, says the Lord; I will not spare them. Depart, you faithless children! Do not pollute my sanctuary. For God knows all who sin against him; therefore he will hand them over to death and slaughter. Already calamities have come upon the whole earth, and you shall remain in them; God will not deliver you, because you have sinned against him.
Thus, judgment takes the form of God’s abandonment of Israel to its enemies. What is important to note here is that “wrath” here is the allowing of YHWH for Israel and the world to face directly the consequences of their own actions. It is not directly YHWH brutally punishing or abusing people, but rather God “handing them over” and “withholding” his protection so that they face their own consequences. God doesn’t want or desire to do this, but wickedness forces his hand of judgment. [cf. Matt 23:37]
This background should inform the debate of whether Paul understands the wrath of God as emotional in nature, or the necessary consequence of a holy God encountering sin. Any solution to the problem must account for both the judgment and the love of God in his dealings with Israel and humankind in general, and must exclude any notion of malicious or capricious anger on the part of God.
Paul also uses the verb [paradidomi, “to hand over”] in three important verses in Romans 1:24, 26, 28; cf. Jer 34:21, cf. Zech 1:12 where YHWH “withholds mercy” and cf. Rom 8:32 were God “did not withhold his son”. The statement “God gave them over” explains precisely how God’s wrath (1:18) is revealed: he lets people destroy themselves as they warp their own humanity by embracing the natural effects of choices that are contrary to God’s will.
C. H. Dodd, noting that “Paul never uses the verb, ‘to be angry,’ with God as subject” and that wrath when used of God is “curiously impersonal,” propounded the influential view that wrath is “not a certain feeling or attitude of God toward us, but some process or effect in the objective realm of facts” (Dodd, Romans, pg. 21–22). In other words, wrath is the inevitable result, or consequence, of human sin in a moral universe—a calculable effect of certain behaviours or attitudes—and not the activity of God against sinners (Dodd, 23–24).
A. T. Hanson notes that: “For Paul the impersonal character of the wrath was important; it relieved him of the necessity of attributing wrath directly to God, it transformed the wrath from an attribute of God into the name for a process which sinners bring upon themselves” (Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb, pg. 69). This rightly stress that Paul never describes God as angry, and draw attention to the fact that Paul speaks of “the wrath of God” only in Rom 1:18, Eph 5:6, and Col 3:6; elsewhere he can speak of “the wrath” in an apparently impersonal way.
Paul views wrath as both a present reality and a future expectation. It is at this point that judgment and destruction intersect with wrath (cf. orge and dikaiokrisia, “righteous judgment,” in Rom 2:5). The present wrath is indicated by its present revelation from heaven (Rom 1:18) in allowing sinners to reap what they sow and in the threefold “handing over” (paradidomi) by God of Gentiles to their depraved life-styles in which heart, passions and mind are all given over to evil deeds (Rom 1:24, 26, 28) and an absence of covenantal relationship with God.
The theme of abandonment as judgment might be even more significant to explore with regards to God’s wrath, given the cry of Jesus (Mk 15:34; Matt 27:46). In the gospels this term is used by Pilate when he “handed over” Jesus to be crucified (Matt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Luke 23:25, John 19:16). [In Mark 15:15 it is the crowd that is “satisfied” when Pilate hands over Jesus to be crucified. The Father in heaven is not “satisfied” with this event, the crowd and Pilate are!] I wonder if McKnight explores any of this in his analysis, Jesus and His Death?
God hands people over to face the consequences of their actions. In Jesus coming to earth, God handed him over to rescue the world from its ultimate consequences, death. Instead of accepting the gift of God, namely Jesus, they annihilated and rejected him. Thus, indirectly Jesus takes on the wrath of God – he is taken and beaten by their evil ways which God has handed them over to. Instead of this being a loss however, God turns this into a victory whereby he absorbs the evil of humanity and defeats the principalities and powers. This opens up further reflection on New Testament teachings on atonement.
Thus, wrath is the abandonment by God so that Jesus faces the consequences of rejecting him and his ways. The Father abandons the Son to face the free will choices and evil which tortures and kills Jesus. This is the greatest sacrifice, because the Son embraced this vocation and saw it as his ultimate expression of love, both to us and to the Father of how to reconcile people back to himself.
Now this is only the first-fruits of my thoughts and I'm seriously not well read in this area, but I think the argument might have some merit... Thoughts? I’d really appreciate some exegetical feed back on this.



He came in incognito,
A thinly veiled disguise
The not so subtle son of man,
A human with God's eyes.

The messianic secret,
Left many unawares
A God had walked upon the earth
And shared our human cares.

We did not see his glory,
At least not at first glimpse,
It took an Easter wake up call,
Before it all made sense.

The truth of Incarnation,
Of dwelling within flesh,
Shows goodness in creation,
And Word of God made fresh.

Standing on the boundary
Twixt earth and heaven above
A Jew who hailed from Nazareth
But came from God's great love.

Born of humble parents,
Installed inside a stall
This king required no entourage
No pomp or falderal

No person was beneath him
No angel o‚er his head,
He came to serve the human race
To raise it from the dead.

His death a great conundrum,
How can the Deathless die?
But if he had not bowed his head,
Life would have passed us by.

Though we are dying to be loved,
And long for endless life,
He was dying in his love,
And thereby ending strife.

Perhaps the incognito
Belongs instead to us,
Who play at being human,
And fail to be gold dust.

But there was once a God-man
Who played the human's part
And lived and died and rose again
Made sin and death depart.

Yes now through a glass dimly,
We see the visage royal
And feebly honor his great worth
And his atoning toil.

We cannot see his Spirit,
But moved by its effects
We are inspired to praise his worth
And pay our last respects.

Yet that too brings him glory
That too makes a start,
The journey of a million miles
Begins within one‚s heart.

And someday we shall see him
And fully praise his grace,
Someday when heaven and earth collide
And we see face to face.

He comes in blinding brilliance,
A not so veiled disguise
The not so subtle Son of God,
A God with human eyes.

Ben Witherington: May Day 2005

The Metanarrative of Scripture

Having recently lectured on this in the UK, and having so many people thank me for this and ask if I would write down and blog my summary, here it is.
The Story of Scripture may be divided into several acts, like a play or drama. Tom Wright in his books The New Testament and the People of God, as well as Scripture and the Authority of God, suggests that scripture be divided into a 5 Act Play that follows this outline...
Act 1 = Creation.
Act 2 = Rebellion.
Act 3 = The Story of Israel.
Act 4 = Jesus.
Act 5 = The Church.
Bartholomew and Goheen in their book The Drama of Scripture add Act 6 = The Return of the King. And if you're into biblical numerics [I'm not really, but Horsley has inspired me to reevaluate this assumption] then you could add Act 7 = The Great Story following on from The Chronicles of Narnia book, The Last Battle where Lewis writes:

And as Aslan spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, pg. 183-84

There are a few books which provide helpful little summaries of the metanarrative of scripture [The Big Story of the Bible]. David Wenham has a succinct summary from the perspective of the Kingdom of God in his book: The Parables of Jesus. Gordon Fee provides a brief overview in his excellent and worthy book, How to Read the Bible Book by Book [In my estimation, this should be mandatory reading for every person who wants to read the Bible properly!]. Vaughn Roberts has a somewhat helpful little book entitled: God's Big Picture. In fact, Bartholomew and Goheen have put together a neat selection of articles that are solid but edible, i.e., they don't require a degree in theology or biblical studies to understand!
It is important to understand this BIG PICTURE because it is in knowing this story, that we discover our own place and role in this unfolding narrative. Robert Jenson has given us several insights in his essay How the World Lost its Story. It would be my contention that those who want to find our their true identity, where they belong and their purpose on this planet should find their place in the biblical metanarrative. Some may feel that this is far to philosophical but I am persuaded that Jesus may have had a somewhat philosophical agenda. See the article by Doug Groothuis The Strange Exile of Jesus.
I'm preparing a lecture on "Leaders are Readers: Are you?" in which I'm grappling with what the average leader in our Christian community should be reading. Of course not everyone will read at the level that scholars and students read at, but now the task is trying to get them to a suitable level, as the writer of the Hebrews warns: by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. If we are going to have leaders who teach, what is an acceptable level for them to be at, and then teach at? Surely this should be an ever spiraling upwards toward spiritual maturity? I mean, this will trickle right down into our various training events and classes.
I think one who is spiritually mature should know the biblical story and how it plays out in our day to day lives. A mature one should be aware of the intricacies of the Creation, Fall, Israel and Jesus stories and how they relate together. Scholars sometimes refer to the narrative substructure of scriptures. In fact, Richard Hays wrote an excellent book entitled Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Although this is not a beginners book, it is helpful and those familiar with the field will recognise this model from his doctorate, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11. This book shaped much of my understanding of Galatians because it enhanced the Metanarrative of scripture behind the argument that Paul was constructing. [It also settled the pistis christou debate for me. I think it does refer to the faithfulness of Christ [Christ's faithfulness] and not faith in Christ.] In seeing the Bigger picture, the smaller details were put in place and my understanding enhanced. I would argue that much of the New Testament is simply missed because we fail to understand either the metanarrative behind what is being said, or we miss the echoe of scripture which the writer is building into [or assuming] as he constructs his argument.
Articles and books like those mentioned above, help us understand that the story of Early Christianity has deep roots in the Hebrew scriptures [Old Testament], and that to fully grasp and understand Jesus and the New Testament, requires that one be well versed in that story.
In fact, to better understand that story, you must lay down your story and take up a place in the Master's story. You must realise that every other story finishes with the sobering words "THE END" whereas HIS story never ends, it just gets better and better. Remember, God [the chief character and story-teller] is always on the look out for ordinary people to play significant parts in his unfolding drama.
That is why we exist - to play our part for Him...

Another Top 10

Tyler Williams has another Top 10, although this list has a TWIST...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Studying the New Testament

There has been much discussion on the top ten books for both Jesus and Paul and then an insightful post by Stephen C. Carlson on What Books to Buy for Biblical scholarship. This has prompted my cognitive activity quite a lot, as I have friends who read my blog who have no formal biblical studies training but like amateurs just read what's been recommended. And that's ok. But for those who want to delve into the depths of the New Testament, and not just drown, here's some tips from someone learning to swim in the deep end... And what's best, all the primary sources you need are available online!
Primary Sources: New Testament
I could not agree with Howard Marshall, noted by Michael Bird, that the primary sources are to become your mistress. [Sorry for the gender biased language, but I can't find another equivalent way of saying that...?]. Although it is obviously preferable to have the original languages, it is simply not the end of the world if you don't know Greek. I would recommend reading several good versions of the New Testament simultaneously. It is also helpful, when doing gospel studies to read them alongside each other.
Background Sources: Christian and Jewish
There is a vast collection of Christian writings in the first centuries which provide a much needed context within which to understand the New Testament. This corpus includes the writings of contemporary writers of the New Testament as well as the early Church leaders and Fathers. There is also the relatively unknown collection of Jewish writings that add much weight to our understanding of the early Jewish movement and it's roots. This corpus includes Josephus, the Pseudopigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls and other writings of relative importance.
Context Sources: Rome and the Hellenistic World
The more I study the New Testament the more I realise that it is impossible to ignore and neglect the pervasive Roman Empire in which the New Testament documents were penned. While I am not convinced that the New Testament Student needs to master these texts as well as say Josephus, there is a large corpus that adds to and enhances our understanding of the socio-historical context in which our primary documents of interest were formed. Writings like Tacitus' The Annals of Imperial Rome and Suetonius on The Twelve Caesars are must reads. Especially the chapters on Augustus and Tiberius. I would also recommend Dio Cassius' Roman History, especially books 44-58. For those who just want a quick tour, see the PBS special: The Roman Empire in the 1st Century.
Lexicons and Dictionaries
Well, if you're working with the original languages then BAGD is the standard lexicon along with Louw & Nida's Greek English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains. Unfortunately, these are not available online. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament is proving useful. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology edited by Colin Brown is very good. and then the standard Theological Dictionary of the New Testament is a wealth, though dated but still good, of solid information.
The Word Biblical Commentary set is very helpful. It provides a wealth of textual, historical and exegetical reflections by leading scholars. The International Critical Commentary is excellent, but assumes all the primary languages and then often German and French! There are also many helpful stand alone commentaries like that of Craig Keener on The Gospel of Matthew and John. Read different commentaries, and not just in the same series either. These will help you get a grip on the discussions and problems facing students and lecturers as they grapple with the text whom many believe to be inspired.
Secondary literature
It really depends on what area you want to study here. Mark Goodacre has put us in his debt with The New Testament Gateway which offers a wealth of articles, and links to further reading. Craig Blomberg also offers a New Testament bibliography for further study which is somewhat helpful. I think the IVP Dictionaries in the Reference Collection are fantastic. Especially the Dictionary of New Testament Background. This book alone should be devoured as a course text by every New Testament Student!
I like to read books about which other books will be written. For instance, Jesus and the Victory of God is a landmark book because it shaped and influenced an array of scholars, students and pastors. It has stirred discussion and made people think and rethink many of the things we thought we knew about Jesus. Whether you end up agreeing with Wright or not is almost irrelevant because he has made us think about the gospels and Jesus afresh. Read books by people that make you think, rethink and almost get mad because you can't stop thinking about their arguments, statements and positions.
This is the life of a New Testament student. And that furthers this great conversation into action and devotion. Well, hopefully.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Porter on Da Vinci

Stanley Porter has an excellent article The Da Vinci Code, Conspiracy Theory and the Biblical Canon in the latest McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. I'm due to give another series of talks on this soon, so if you're interested in this kind of thing, which is getting rather old, but still useful in helping others into the field of historical Jesus research, check it out...

Wish List

Well, I've been thinking about my own wish list at the moment. And here's what I've come up with:
The Original Story: God, Israel, and the World: John Barton and Julia Bowden
Basically I want this book because I'm always on the look out for solid introductions to the Hebrew scriptures. I feel my knowledge of this corpus is woefully lacking and thus I do try and read some good books that aren't too technical but written by scholars who can be trusted to be reliable guides in this field. In this case, I think Barton and Bowden have done us a great service.
Studying the Historical Jesus: C. A. Evans & Bruce Chilton
A must have for every serious historical Jesus scholar. And since that's what I want to be one day, this is a must have, must read, must know very well book that outlines and details the contemporary state of scholarship on the historical Jesus. Issues ranging from methods to archaeology to the resurrection are covered by fine scholars who have made significant contributions in the field.
The Gospel of Matthew: John Nolland
If the precis is right, Nolland will argue for much of material in this gospel as relating back to, and having its origins in, the words and ministry of Jesus. Nolland has shown himself to be a fine exegete in his three volume commentary on Luke and so I'm very interested to see what he'll do with Matthew. Even though I'm sceptical of new arguments and material for an early dating [although very interested] this should prove a valuable book on the gospel that is desperately needed.
Four Gospels and the One Jesus: Martin Hengel
Written by possibly the greatest new testament scholar alive providing us with powerful arguments about the gospels, their respective authors and how they were assembled and written this is a must read for any serious student of the gospels.
Jesus and the Kingdom of God: Beasley-Murray
A fine survey, even though it is slightly dated, of the kingdom of God material and the scholarship that surrounds and intrudes upon this topic. Beasley-Murray has done his homework well and this book will provide a necessary reading for my thesis on the kingdom.
Jesus and His Death and The Historical Jesus in Recent Research which I mentioned below, would also be nice, once they're published! McKnight is definitely one of my favourite scholars. A New Vision for Israel is one of the most helpful books on the historical Jesus that I've read. Even though I think the categories that the book exlore are based on T.W. Manson's books, the content is well worth it. Especially the chapters on conversion!
Notably all these books have to do with my thesis - so that's why I want to read them! But I think I'll have to wait until the end of this year before looking at getting these. New Zealand is a better place to buy and even order books! Now if only there was a benefactor in NZ that could sponsor me some books. I wonder who's that kind? Come on Eddie! :)

Good Books, Good Reads

Since some are offering their great books on Jesus, I thought I'd add my thoughts to putting together a top ten reads on Jesus. Notably, I have divided my list into academic and popular so as to make this helpful for those who don't want to wonder into the forbidden realms of academic dialogue which can at times have more footnotes than insight...
Academic List
  1. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God
  2. G.B. Caird, New Testament Theology, chp. 9. [Jesus and the Jewish Nation]
  3. B. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus
  4. Scot McKnight, A New Vision for Israel
  5. Craig A. Evans Jesus and His Contemporaries
  6. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew
  7. R. H. Horsley Jesus and the Spiral of Violence
  8. E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism
  9. Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus
  10. James Dunn, Jesus Remembered

The Top Popular books on Jesus, would have to include...

    1. D. Wenham, The Parables of Jesus
    2. Tom Wright, The Challenge of Jesus
    3. Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed
    4. Markus Bockmuehl, This Jesus
    5. J. John & Chris Walley, The Life
    6. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Jesus
    7. C. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels
    8. G. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus
    9. B. Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian
    10. R. Stein, Jesus the Messiah

Some new books on the horizon to be aware of would have to be:

Jesus and His Death: Scot McKnight. The write up reads,

Recent scholarship on the historical Jesus has rightly focused upon how Jesus understood his own mission. But no scholarly effort to understand the mission of Jesus can rest content without exploring the historical possibility that Jesus envisioned his own death. In this careful and far-reaching study, Scot McKnight contends that Jesus did in fact anticipate his own death, that Jesus understood his death as an atoning sacrifice, and that his death as an atoning sacrifice stood at the heart of Jesus' own mission to protect his own followers from the judgment of God.

Another interesting book is a collection of articles on the historical Jesus edited by S. McKnight and J. D. G. Dunn, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research.

The past two or three decades have witnessed significant activity in research on the Jesus of the Gospels and history. In fact, there has been such a plethora of publication on such a wide variety of facets of this issue that it is difficult to keep pace with the rate of publication. In this volume, Dunn and McKnight have collected and provided introductions to a wide cross-section of essays on the topic, ranging from classic essays by the likes of Bultmann, Cadbury, and Schweitzer to the most recent investigations of Horsley, Levine, and Wright. This volume will be a very useful book for courses and seminars on Jesus or the historical Jesus, because it draws together in one place a wide variety of perspectives and approaches to the issues.

Authors represented include: P. S. Alexander, D. C. Allison, P. W. Barnett, M. J. Borg, R. Bultmann, H. J. Cadbury, P. M. Casey, G. B. Caird, B. Chilton, C. E. B. Cranfield, J. D. G. Dunn, R. A. Horsley, J. Jeremias, M. Kähler, W. G. Kümmel, E. F. Lemcio, A.-J. Levine, G. Luedemann, J. P. Meier, B. F. Meyer, R. Morgan, J. A. T. Robinson, E. P. Sanders, A. Schweitzer, K. R. Snodgrass, G. N. Stanton, P. Stuhlmacher, G. Theissen, N. T. Wright.

This looks like a great intro to the quest. Notoably, missing are members of the Jesus Seminar and paticularly J. D. Crossan. Not that I'm a fan of his work, or theirs for that matter [His method is far too awkward and idiosyncratic for this student] but he did offer a significant contribution which many have taken some what seriously.

See also the quick review of Scripture and the Authority of God by Mike Starkey. Thanks to Mark Goodacre for the link.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stuff & Stuff

Greetings and it's so good to be home...
Well, kind of. There is much work to be done but I couldn't help but blog about the following article and interviews reproduced at the Journal of Philosophy and Scripture. There are two particularly interesting interviews with Ed Sanders on Paul, Context and Interpretation as well as one with Dom Crossan about Paul and Empire. There is also an interesting article on Empire and Eschaton, but the merits of this article are questionable. Notably, the slant of the journal affects the questions being asked and thus the answers delivered, but I'm glad that scholars are taking more notice of the philosophical issues involved in Biblical studies. Tom Wright and Ben Meyer have done a fab job of highlighting the need for well grounded philosophical starting blocks for effective historical criticism and there is a serious need for this. Thus I concur with Bird in his remarks about Critical Realism.
I've just received a copy of R. Bauckham's Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World and it seems to complement rather well Tom Wright's little book on Scripture and the Authority of God. I hope to blog on these later, but more importantly, I hope to blog on the array of book on the Roman Empire, Augustus and Tiberias that I got while I was in England. But that will have to wait for a little bit, while I read them!
By request, my wish list is also coming... There is hope of getting some MORE books after all - if these can be sourced and delivered...