Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blogs of the Week

Forgive my silence, but I've been away at a conference learning about the nuts & bolts of Church life and how we actually do what Jesus calls us to do.

There are some interesting things to note in the Blogsphere:

R. T. France's new commentary on Mark arrived, so I'll be blogging thoughts from that soon... ciao ciao...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The "Corrected" Jesus

Looking through some old files, I found this one by Richard Hays. A Review essay: "The Corrected" Jesus of The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Edited by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar. Macmillan. 576 pp.
It was one of the first reviews I read of the Jesus Seminar and their ambitious work on the gospels and Jesus. Hays' critique is devastating. Piece by piece the sections of their arguments begin to crumble. Hays writes that,
The distortion lies more in what is denied than in what is affirmed. The depiction of Jesus as a Cynic philosopher with no concern about Israel's destiny, no connection with the concerns and hopes that animated his Jewish contemporaries, no interest in the interpretation of Scripture, and no message of God's coming eschatological judgment is-quite simply-an ahistorical fiction, achieved by the surgical removal of Jesus from his Jewish context. The fabrication of a non-Jewish Jesus is one particularly pernicious side effect of the Jesus Seminar's methodology. One would have thought that the tragic events of our century might have warned us to be wary of biblical scholars who deny the Jewishness of Jesus.
If you haven't read this essay, and are not familiar with the work of the Seminar, it's an insightful and brilliant critique. This should not be taken as a rejection of all of the members work on Jesus. Many of them have provided good food for thought, and have made us weary of sterile assumptions. I can list many who have helped us all in their meticulous research and well reasoned positions. But this book [The Five Gospels], with it's method and results is clearly not worth the paper it's printed on.

Kingdom and Cross

From Public Ministry to the Passion: Can link Be Found between the (Galilean) Life and the (Judean) Death of Jesus?
Craig Evans [in his excellent book Jesus and His Contemporaries] presents us with a rich array of research that grapples with the toughest strands of arguments presented by those in the scholarly community. The essential task in the chapter to be discussed here, is to correct and demolish the pretentious case presented by Mack and Seeley on the connection between Jesus’ death and his ministry.
[1] His entire argument rests on solid and critical engagement not only with contemporary historical scholarship, but also with the literature of the first century. Evans has a unique ability to identify, discern and formulate historical reconstructions that remain faithful to what the evidence will permit. The analysis presents us with two strands of argumentation that justify the assertion that there is indeed not only a connection between the ministry of Jesus and his death, but that there is also an identifiable and particular connection. Evans argues that this connection is best seen in notions of ‘kingdom’ and ‘king’.[2] Moreover, it is also seen in the independent witnesses of the fourth gospel and the Testimonium Flavianum. What follows is a brief interaction with this twin proposal.
The key thesis presented in the first part of his argument is that:
The backdrop to Jesus’ arrest and execution was his proclamation and advocacy of a radical change in society; while the specific event that precipitated the arrest itself was the action in the temple.[3]
To lead up to this conclusion, we are presented with four lines of evidence, namely: parables, prayers, miracles and politics. If Jesus’ main method of communication with the crowds that followed him was parables then we have good reason to suggest that they contained something in them that is of importance to us at this point. They contained a radical message that seemingly invited changes and new directions in which YHWH was moving his people. The prayers outlined by Jesus, invoked the kingdom of God “not as an apocalyptic event in the imminent future but as a mode of life in the immediate present.”
[4] This in and of itself would be cause of concern if the Romans found out about it. Although scant evidence is presented in this chapter for Evans view that the miracles carried ‘messianic connotations’, other scholars in the field have presented strong arguments that this is indeed the case.[5]
However, most strikingly, and I believe most convincingly are the comments on politics. The Romans, and the Jews, were concerned about power and order. If Jesus was perceived as one who could and would disrupt this power and order, then there was serious cause for concern. If Jesus was perceived as a threat, he would be swiftly dealt with.
Clearly if Jesus did ride into Jerusalem on a donkey in clear fulfilment of messianic prophecy this would be seen as an unmistakable example of insurrection. Even more if there was a crowd with him waving palm tree branches! Therefore Evans is right to note that it “would probably have been understood in a royal sense.”
[6] This, taken along with the ‘anointing’ which “originally could very well have been a messianic anointing[7], pushes his conclusions even more. All these incidental pieces of data seem to stack up to build Evans’ case.
To reinforce this line of argumentation, Evans provides us with two examples of insurrection and dissent from Josephus, namely Theudas and the Egyptian Jew. Both of these ‘trouble-makers’ were dealt with severely by the Roman authorities for their words and actions.
Thus, there is no apparent reason, in light of the evidence presented, to deny that there is an explicit connection between the Galilean life and the Judean death of Jesus.
Evans is rightly concludes that:
Evidence and Logic strongly suggest that Jesus’ death at the hands of the Romans authorities in Judea was the result of his teaching and activities… To be sure, Mark has interpreted many aspects of Jesus’ ministry in the light of the passion and the Easter proclamation, but the basic link between Jesus’ Galilean life and his Judean death cannot be reduced to nothing more than a narrative strategy.[8]
Politics was the cause of Jesus’ death, not a vision for a renewed spirituality or a concern for social welfare – however important those things may have been to Jesus. Rather, it was the love of power which Jesus challenged at a fundamental level with the announcement of the rule and reign of Israel’s God in and through his ministry that caused the powers of the day to silence and cripple this threat with a violent and demonstrable blow. That is why Jesus died as the King of the Jews…
pg. 301 [2] pg. 303 [3] pg. 313 [4] pg. 307 quoting Crossan, Historical Jesus, pg. 304 [5] See G. Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker (IVP, 1999) [6] pg. 310 In footnote 39 Evans writes: ‘The word χριειν does not appear. In transforming the story into a passion vignette, the deletion of such an overt (and from the Roman point of view treasonable) messianic act should not occasion surprise. That the anointing was originally messianic, see J. K. Elliot, “The Anointing of Jesus” ExpTim 85 (1974) 105-107.’ [7] pg. 310 [8] pg. 318

Friday, October 21, 2005

De clunibus magnis amandis oratio

Baby Got Butt...
In Latin! Chris Weimer notes an ode to the gluteus maximus. This was so hilarious, I had to share. This is just to add Chris to the blog list of those interested in ancient cultures including everywhere in the ancient world, from the Ancient Mesopotamian world to Egyptian pyramids, from Greek mysteries to Roman commissatio, from China to the Aztec, all things in antiquity. If you're interested, check it out...

Paul & Israel...

This is something I have never really found that interesting, but my friends [who will no doubt be reading this blog with great expectation, and are now about to be sorely disappointed] do find it a topic of interest and thus, since they claim exegetical support, it must become a small interest of mine too. Well, for next week Monday anyway since that's the only time I allow for spare reading!

I've been presented with two articles that suggest that there will be a great turning of the Jews in the end times, or at least that's what Paul appears to suggest in Romans 11. The articles can be found online, and they are: Justice, The Gospel and the Land of Israel and All Israel will Be Saved. This latter one is the one of most interest to me. Does Paul really believe that there will be a massive "revival" among the Jewish nation before the end? Chris notes a book: Israel in the Plan of God by Steve Motyer, but I've not read this.

Ben Witherington's commentary on Romans notes that "temporarily some Jews, but not all, are not part of the people of God because they have rejected Jesus' messiahship. Paul nowhere in Romans 9-11 suggests that there are two peoples of God." Witherington goes on to suggest that a reading of 11:25-26 would go: some Jews have been hardened until the full number of Gentiles are brought in (by grace through faith) and in the same manner all Israel will be saved. But he then seems to go on to suggest that "therefore, he is talking about a mass conversion of non-Christian Jews at the end of salvation history." [pg. 273-275]

Are there any good articles [online?] or books to read on this topic. Any serious NT exegetes who propose such, or a different understanding? [If memory serves, Wright totally dismisses such an idea of an eschatological revival of Jews...] Witherington's reading seems so awkward when I read Paul. Does this fit into the "Left Behind" category of more fiction than exegesis?
Help would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Be sure to read Agrapha by Maria Mayo Robbins.
Especially if your research includes the gospels and the historical Jesus. . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Galatians 6:16

I could not concur with Mike more on his comments on Gal. 6:16. Especially the comment: "Thus using "Israel" in a non-ethnic sense is possible for Jewish authors."
It seems almost absurd to think that Paul, having argued for the unity of Jew and Gentile would as a finishing blow undermine his entire argument but separating the two. G. K. Beale's article: Peace and Mercy Upon the God of Israel was very helpful in explaining much of the backdrop to Paul's argument.
This does lead to the vexing question of what to do with Romans 11:25-26. I part ways with many of my friends when reading this section. Wright has hit the mark for me on the whole of Romans 9-11, as opposed to Dodd - who thought it was just a separate sermon added in for good measure!

Kingdom & Church

Jürgen Moltmann points out:

The church is not there for its own sake. It is there for the sake of 'Jesus' concern'. All the church's interests -- its continuation in its existing form, the extension of its influence -- must be subordinated to the interests of the kingdom of God. If the spirit and the institutions of the church are in line with God's kingdom, then the church is Christ's church. If they run counter to God's kingdom, the church loses its right to exist and becomes a superfluous religious society.

[Jesus Christ for Today’s World (London: SCM, 1994), pg. 27 ]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Paul and the Church?

Chris Tilling writes:
The famous German theologian Ernst Käsemann wrote:"[Paul] the apostle is not interested in the church per se and as a religious group. He is only interested in it as far as it is the means whereby Christ reveals himself on earth and becomes incarnate in the world through his Spirit." (Perspectives on Paul. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Philadelphia; Fortress, 117)
Isn't that going a bit far? Doesn't this present an un-Pauline either/or? But Käsemann's distinctions raise another interesting question: Does 'Christ reveal himself on earth and become incarnate in the world through the Spirit' outside the religious community?If so, then in what sense is the Church the 'body of Christ' if it fails in this task? And what counts as failure? Does it then cease to be the Church? Is Augustine's distinction between the visible and invisible Church the only option?
My theological answer to this would be that the Spirit is at work in the world leading people to the Church. In Paul's thinking, the Church is always of great importance. But how would one demonstrate that my theological answer was indeed Paul's view? Is one going to turn to Acts to see God at work amongst the Gentiles?
This is a good brain teaser... Thanks Chris! Now if we could only figure out why on earth one would call their blog "brainpoo"? But that appears to be another metaphysical conundrum...

Revolution in Thought?

Every once in a while I wonder whether my counter-imperial thesis has merit. It's an interesting point in a students research. Was one mistaken about a point, issue or position one was attempting to argue? Does the evidence actually support what one is trying to demonstrate or has one merely allowed bias and presuppositions to dictate conclusions? Discussing this via email with a friend causes the issue to loom larger than a flippant answer. Bryan Lee notes Francis Watson's comment that:
Disagreement is a familiar social practice in which it is difficult not to engage on a regular basis. It arises from the fact that humans live not in solitude but in community, and that from time to time their respective norms, projects or goals come into conflict. Since interpreting texts is an extension of the interpretative activity that permeates all human interpersonal relations, it is hardly to be expected that the specialized activity will be immune from the disagreements endemic to the wider field. Indeed, the possibility of disagreement is inherent in the practice of textual interpretation: for if a text needs to be interpreted at all, its meaning is not self-evident and there is always room for more than one account of what that meaning is. If it is possible to interpret, then it is also possible to misinterpret; and to claim that misinterpretation has taken place is to engage in the practice of interpretative disagreement. In itself, disagreement is an ethically neutral act. It does not necessarily imply that one party is doing violence to the other, that a human right to freedom of speech is under attack, or that there has been a failure to understand the other’s point of view. The ethical risks that accompany disagreement are perhaps no greater than those attending other practices, such as the avoidance of conflict. Disagreement is always an act rather than just an occurrence, and those who engage in it do so on the basis of means and ends they regard as appropriate and rational. Most important of all, disagreement presupposes a shared concern and thus an acknowledgment of community rather than a retreat into isolation. It always intends its own resolution, even if this can only be attained in the form of a negotiated compromise or an agreement to differ.[1]
Will Mark Goodacre ever revolt against his critique of the Quelle hypothesis, as Bird hopes? Or has Mark published his stake in the ground, and will thus not repent and believe for Q is [apparently] nowhere at hand? Applying a critical realist epistemology is much harder than I had previously thought. I am not certain that my thesis is accurate - although I am gaining confidence that I am at least headed in the right direction! Though this feeling of not being certain is hardly pleasant. Who really wants to spend 4 years doing all this research to come to the conclusion at the end that one was actually mistaken? Didn't David Sim say that his whole doctorate would be severely compromised if Bauckham's Gospel thesis is correct?
As far as my research is concerned, can Hays and Freyne be that wrong when they write that:

Whether it was his intention or not, his proclamation of the kingdom of God was inevitably heard as a revolutionary manifesto; the whole Gospel tradition is full of evidence for this. People wanted to make him king (John 6:15), and Peter's confession (Mark 8:29) means nothing other than this. it was this popular perception that finally proved his undoing: the inscription on the cross proves that he was executed as one who claimed to be "king of the Jews." And indeed, it would appear that he refuses to get himself off the hook by denying the charge. Thus, we have a situation pregnant with ambiguity. The whole shape of the tradition indicates that Jesus--in contrast to other figures in Jewish history of the era, such as Bar Kochba--persistently refused to claim that he was the Messiah (cf. John 10:24). His whole message entailed a rejection of violence and nationalism implied in the popular understanding of that title. Yet his words and deeds incited in the people a vivid expectation that he might, after all, be the one who would deliver Israel.[1]

Jesus was not prepared to share the violent response to such conditions, espoused by many Jews throughout the first century, which eventually plunged the nation into a disastrous revolt. He believed in the power of symbols and symbolic action because he believed in a God of whom, unlike Caesar, no image could be made, and yet who summoned people to trust in his presence and his power. This was the risk of faith that Jesus was prepared to take. His was a faith that was grounded in a trust in the goodness of the creation as he had experienced it and reflected on its mysterious but hidden processes. It was also a faith that had been nourished by the apocalyptic imagination that this creator God was still in charge of his world and had the power to make all things new again. No human empire could be compared with this power, no matter how dominant it and its agents appeared to be. Caesar could have his image engraved on the coin of the tribute, but he could not control the power of the imagination that was fed by the tradition of God’s mysterious but powerful presence in the world, to which no image could do justice.[2]
I suppose peer-review [if I ever publish this baby] will reveal the weaknesses of my thesis. The details and nuances will have to be weighed and judged and tested by the community of scholars to whom I shall contribute. Maybe then a revolution in my own thought will occur, but until then, Jesus the Revolutionary will be my focus and proposal. . .

[1] Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, pg. 24-25

[2] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) Italics mine.

[3] Sean Freyne, Jesus the Jewish Galilean: a new reading of the Jesus-Story (T & T Clark, 2004) Italics mine.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

New Perspective on Paul

Mike Bird has offered a Bibliographic Essay, which is rather helpful, on the New Perspective. While I am not currently reading anything closely related to this, I did browse through the Bibliography and note a number of articles mentioned, that are now available online.
N. T. Wright, “The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith,” TynBul 29 (1978): 61-88 Synopsis: The debate between E Käsemann and K Stendahl about justification and salvation history may be resolved with the help of a new overall view of Pauline theology. For Paul, the messiah represents his people, so that a crucified messiah means a crucified Israel. This provides Paul with his critique of Israel, aimed not at "works-righteousness" but at "national righteousness". Paul has been distorted by various schools of NT criticism: this view combines their strong points while avoiding their weaknesses.
N.T. Wright, “Gospel and Theology in Galatians,” in Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker, eds. L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson (JSNTSup 108; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 222–239.
N.T. Wright, “Two Radical Jews: a review article of Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity,” Reviews in Religion and Theology 3 (1995): 15–23.
N.T. Wright, “Romans and the Theology of Paul,” in Pauline Theology, Volume III, eds. David M. Hay & E. Elizabeth Johnson, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 30–67. (Republished, with minor alterations, from SBL 1992 Seminar Papers, ed. E. H. Lovering, pp. 184–213).
N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Galatians: Exegesis and Theology,” in Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology, eds. Joel B. Green & Max Turner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 205–36.
In my opinion, Kevin Bush has put us in his debt, with the permission of Wright of course, in making these excellent articles available for public consumption. One may not agree with everything Wright has to offer, but one cannot deny both his influence and his arguments.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Things to read...

There's some interesting stuff available in the blog-world this week.
  • Scot McKnight alerts us to the Biblical Curse Generator [I wonder if I can use some of these for my thesis? Maybe as a critique of ________ ?]. Hilarious, that would be.
  • Mike Bird hopes on Things to Come in Bloggerdom? in which I make a cameo appearance.
  • Brandon Wason has a neat post on The Cultus Deorum in Ancient Rome.
  • Paul Chen offers thoughts on What Jesus did NOT die For.
  • RBL offers Jimmy Dunn's review of Cameron, Ron and Merrill P. Miller, eds.Redescribing Christian Origins.
  • Mark Goodacre offers the [funny] article on Is There a Theological Brain Drain? in the UK. I say funny because I consider the UK to have the best New Testament Scholars, and many fine theologians, and because I live, work and study in a country where I can't think of a single scholar that matches their rank and prestige. Plus, Mike Bird must have added something to what the UK lost with Goodacre...
Be sure to check them out and let the cognitive reflections begin...

On Calling Jesus Mamzer

Bruce Chilton has a new article The Mamzer Jesus and His Birth.
I must confess that I was sufficiently ignorant about this issue until I read Scot McKnight's article: Calling Jesus Mamzer JSJH 1.1 (2003) pg. 73-103. I also see that BBR 14.2 (Fall 2004) has an article: Jesus as Mamzer : A Response to Bruce Chilton’s Reconstruction of the Circumstances Surrounding Jesus’ Birth in Rabbi Jesus by Charles Quarles.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Gospel of John

A new Commentary by Lincoln. The Blurb reads...

At last, a gap in this outstanding series of commentaries is filled with a brilliant new commentary on the Fourth Gospel by Professor Andrew Lincoln. A new jewel in the crown. The magnificent series of biblical commentaries known as Black's New Testament Commentaries (BNTC) under the General Editorship of Professor Morna Hooker has had a gap for far too long - it has lacked an up-to-date commentary on the Fourth Gospel. Professor Andrew Lincoln now fills this gap with his excellent new commentary. The key questions for scholars are explored thoroughly - questions of historicity, the use of historical traditions and sources, relationship to the Synoptics, authorship, setting, and first readers, and Professor Lincoln makes his own position on these issues abundantly clear. The Fourth Gospel raises a number of problems known collectively as The Johannine Question. According to tradition the Gospel was written by St John the Apostle. The authenticity of the tradition is examined in the introduction but the textual issues are examined within the commentary itself. For example one problem is that Chapters 15 and 16 seem in early versions to have preceded chapter 14.

Chapter 21 must have been a later addition. The purpose of the Gospel as stated in Chapter 20 v 31 is to strenghten the reader's faith in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. But even the celebrated prologue has given rise to much speculation, whereas most commentators believe it is the key to the Gospel as a whole. These issues are meat and drink to scholars but, in Professor Lincoln's expert hands they are extremely interesting and highly pertinent to our contemporary understanding of the Gospel.

Looks to be quite good....

Rapture: R U Ready?

Chris Tilling notes:
While "rapture" end-time expectations definitely don't ring my theological bells, suspend your disbelief for a moment, because we have it from the experts:The current chance of rapture is: 71.5%
(P.S. One nice touch is that the experts making these calculations have also generated a "rapture index", which, according to their own theologically astute words, is in a "fasten your seat belts" state-of-alert at the moment.)
I am by no means a rapture fan, as not only is it theologically bankrupt - exegetically obscure - but it has caused numerous head-aches with people just swallowing this and then beginning to propagate the myths even further. And the site that Chris draws from is sufficient evidence of this position...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Offensive Preaching?

I spend much time reading about the kingdom of God, not just for my research but for regular preaching in my εκκλεσια. I've been thinking about preaching and the kingdom of God and this quote struck me. Long ago Ben Meyer wrote:

It is hardly possible to exaggerate the explosive power which this combination of 'gratuity' and 'present realization' gave to Jesus' proclamation. The power is attested by the diversity and vehemence of the responses it evoked. [Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, pg. 131]

So here's the issue: how many sermons have you heard on the Kingdom of God [empire of YHWH], or even Jesus that have caused an explosive or vehement response? My guess is probably in the region of zero, or one if you're incredibly lucky [and your response was more likely due to the way someone used the text (eisegesis), instead of the content that they brought.]
And yet this is what Jesus probably did on a regular basis [Matt 11:2-6 // Lk 7.18-23 "Blessed is anyone who doesn't take offence at me"]. This macarism or blessing is unusual because Jesus must have felt the need to pronounce this blessing as part of his mission and message to encourage those who were taking him at his word and trusting him to be an authentic prophet of YHWH.
I often quote Meier's fantastic passage where he writes:

The historical Jesus did threaten, disturb, and infuriate people- from interpreters of the Law through the Jerusalem priestly aristocracy to the Roman prefect who finally tried and crucified him. This emphasis on Jesus' violent end is not simply a focus imposed on the date by Christian theology. To outsiders like Josephus, Tacitus and Lucian of Samosata, one of the most striking things about Jesus was his crucifixion or execution by Rome. A Jesus whose words and deeds would not alienate people, especially powerful people, is not the historical Jesus. [Meier, A Marginal Jew, pg. I, 177]

And yet does our proclamation reflect this Jesus? Or have we embraced a liberal Jesus that is just concerned about arbitrary ethics and treating people nicely? I wonder about these things. Obviously this leads us into huge hermeneutical questions of how to translate this message from an ancient Jewish Apocalyptic context into our various cultural/philosophical/religious situations. But I wonder if this ever even crosses our thoughts - proclaiming a Jesus who offends [not just for the sake of it] but because one has understood and is faithful to that message Jesus announced. As Alexander notes:

Christians spend a lot of their time and energy explaining why Jesus couldn't possibly have meant what he said. This is understandable: Jesus is an extremist and we are all moderates. What is worse, he was an extremist in his whole life not just some narrowly spiritual areas...but in everything. So we have to find ways to dilute his teaching. [J. Alexander, "Why We Must Ignore Jesus", The Other Side (October, 1977), 8].

Isn't our Jesus too nice and cute, instead of dangerous and revolutionary as he was in the gospels?

πιστις χριστου in Paul

Mike Bird has a post on the πιστις χριστου discussion in Paul. As a supporter of subjective genitive thesis, I thought I'd note a few articles that I have found helpful in this discussion.
  • R. Hays The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1–4:11 [which contains two appended articles by Dunn: Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and Hays response: ΠΙΣΤΙΣ and Pauline Christology: What Is at Stake?]
  • Paul Foster “The First Contribution to the πιστις χριστου Debate: A Study of Ephesians 3.12” in JSNT 85 (2002) 75-96.
  • HUNG-SIK CHOI “πιστις in Galatians 5:5–6: Neglected Evidence for the Faithfulness of Christ” JBL 124/3 (2005) 467–490
  • M. D. Hooker, “πιστις χριστου,” NTS 35 [1989] 321-45).
  • B. Matlock "Even the Demons Believe: πιστις χριστου" CBQ 64 (2002), pp. 300-18.
  • Herman C. Waetjen The Trust of Abraham and the Trust of Jesus Christ Currents in Theology and Mission, Volume 30/6.

The subjective genitive reading can never be casually dismissed, as it was by Cranfield, now that a general consensus favouring the objective genitive no longer exists. The subjective genitive reading is supported by many major scholars, among them N.T. Wright, R.N. Longenecker, L.T. Johnson, B. Witherington III, S.K. Williams, J.L. Martyn and M.D. Hooker (objective genitive supporters include J.D.G. Dunn, F.F. Bruce, M. Silva, S. Westerholm).

The rubber hit the road for me in Longenecker's commentary on Galatians, and with Hays response to Dunn @SBL as the knock-out blow. Hays disseminated Dunn with exegetical analysis while conceding that grammatical grounds were inconclusive. Another interesting notion is that of the NET Bible translators.

In the first instance, the most significant departure in the NET from other English translations is undoubtedly the translation of the Pauline expression, πιστις χριστου. A neutral rendering in, say, Rom 3.22—“by faith of Jesus Christ” (the KJV wording)—is virtually nonsensical.15 Because of this, modern English translations could not be ambivalent here; a choice had to be made. Should the genitive Cristou' be regarded as objective or subjective? Virtually all modern English translations regard it as an objective genitive, both in Rom 3.22 and the other Pauline texts16: “faith in Jesus Christ.” This is so in spite of an increasing number of scholars who, in the past few decades, have argued for a subjective genitive— “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” This construction, and its use in Rom 3.22, illustrates the need of both a completely new English translation and one that does not hide the tensions of biblical scholarship from the lay reader. In 1975, when C. E. B. Cranfield’s first volume of his ICC commentary on Romans was published, he could speak of the subjective genitive view of πιστις χριστου in Rom 3.22 as “altogether unconvincing” without giving much support for this conclusion, and citing only an early articulation of the subjective view written in 1891.17 The NIV NT had appeared two years earlier than Cranfield’s commentary. But in recent years, the subjective view has gained a greater hearing, although it still finds almost no place either in English translations or alternate renderings in the margin.

The state of flux that surrounded πιστις χριστου put the editors in a quandary. The first translator of the NET Romans in fact rendered this as “faith in Christ.” The editors were split, though leaning slightly toward the subjective view. We decided to consult NT scholars in the United States, England, Canada, and Australia, to find out what the climate was in their circles. I wrote to Bruce Longenecker , J. D. G. Dunn, and others who have written on this subject, and visited R. B. Hays, to get their impressions. Our concern was not so much to solve this crux interpretum but to sense where NT scholarship was heading on this matter. The NET is not a market-driven translation, but it is intended to reflect the best of current biblical scholarship. In this case, a decision was by no means easy. In the end, we opted for “the faithfulness of Christ.”

Thus, in their view the state of current scholarship points to a subjective reading, which I think makes most sense. The main push was my understanding of Galatians 2, in terms of Jesus being faithful. See Hays The Faith of Jesus, for the specific exegesis. This does not make me think that ALL possible references MUST go this way, but it's a strong indication and pull. Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16; 3:22; 5:5-6; & Eph. 3.12 seem to be probably subjective in meaning.

Nevertheless, the debate will go on. But I have yet to see anyone argue that Paul meant both the subjective and the objective genitive. Why should we try and split the two? Could Paul have meant both/and rather than either/or? Time will tell if this is at all possible...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Early Christian Mission

Anyone read Early Christian Mission by Schnabel? The write up states:

How is it that a first-generation Jewish messianic movement undertook a mission to the pagan world and rapidly achieved a momentum that would have a lasting and significant impact on world history? This momentous question has surprisingly eluded the concentrated focus of historians and New Testament scholars.

Perhaps it is because the story of early Christian mission encompasses so much of the history of early Christianity. And to tell that history is to traverse a broad spectrum of issues in contemporary New Testament studies, all of which have been investigated in specialized depth, though frequently unconnected to a unified picture. On the other hand, as Eckhard Schnabel comments, those who have attempted to paint "the portrait of early Christian missions" have "often painted with brush strokes too broad." As a result, an "undifferentiated picture of early Christian mission" is widely held.

In this monumental study, Schnabel gives us both a unified and detailed picture of the rise and growth of early Christian mission. He begins with a search for a missionary impulse in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism. He then weighs the evidence for a mission of Jesus to Gentiles. But the center of focus is the apostolic missionary activity as it is related in Acts, Paul's letters and the rest of the New Testament.

Here is a study that seeks to describe all the evidence relevant to the missionary strategy and tactics of the early church, to explain the theological dimensions of the early Christian mission, and to integrate the numerous studies published in the last decades into a synthetic overall picture. Schnabel’s detailed and immensely informed analysis will reward careful reading and reflection, and form a solid basis for a new understanding of the rise of Christianity and the nature of Christian mission--both then and now.

Sounds interesting. There are some good Reviews & Endorsements of this book, but as of yet no critical reviews. Has anyone managed to wade through it and found it useful or at least thought-provoking? Andreas Kostenberger offers a brief review in JETS. It appears Mike Bird also offers some thoughts on it in his article Jesus and the Gentiles after Jeremias. But does anyone know of any other reviews or anything else about this book/argument?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Response

Ken Ristau has a delightful response to the blog about Did Bush Exist?
Imaginative stories like these can be rather useful in a classroom setting in getting students to realise what's at stake in our historical Jesus discussions. It also shows that some constructions of history, though seemingly coherent - actually lack the epistemic warrants needed to reliably tell us what happened, and why. I'm collecting all of these, even the hermeneutical one's about stop signs and Bush because they're very clever and helpful. And using 'parabolic humour' to illustrate scholarship, well, that just sounds like Jesus' way of doing things - which then leads to further discussions in a classroom setting.
So if you know of any more, please blog them or let me know. Thanks much!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

On Blogging

Phil Harland points to a wonderful blog by Sharon Howard where she writes:

Blogging research lets you develop the very first drafts of ideas. Bits and pieces that don’t yet amount to articles (or even conference papers), but they may well do some day. And something else, sometimes: last year I was having trouble thinking up any new ideas at all, but blogging old ideas, often attached to new sources, meant that I kept writing, if only a few hundred words a week, without having to worry about it being original or impressive. And now, because it’s all archived and easy to find, I can look back over some of that work and see potential themes, little seeds of ideas that are worth working on, start to make them grow. . . Another thing: writing for a slightly different audience than in the usual academic contexts. This is an amazing opportunity to reach out.

I find that doing research and then blogging various ideas and receiving comments is almost as good as a classroom situation. Although there may be extended dialogue in a class room, on the blogs you find more thought out and coherent responses. My field is relatively new in the greater scheme of things, and I am just a student, but with the help of friends and teachers who blog comments, [and their own blogs!] it's like a mini peer-review, at times by people who are well qualified and able to give me advice, support, insight and critique. It allows me to freely explore, but then be kept in check. I remember Tom Wright in a public lecture saying:
The point of scholarship, is by carrying on a debate with no-holds barred, open to all comers in the public scholarly arena, there will be more checks and balances, so that people who say wacky and outrageous things can be called to account by their peers and then should have to modify or correct their hypotheses accordingly.
Blogging allows us to do just that - but without having to suffer the embarrassment of publishing nonsense or wachy and outrageous stuff! Well, that's true for me anyway!
Well, back to the historical maze...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bultmann Reads Mother Goose

by Jack Lundquist

I–A: Hey diddle-diddle,

I-B: The cat and the fiddle,

II–A: The cow jumped over the moon,

II–B: The little dog laughed to see such sport,

III–: And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Authorship and Date
Internal evidence rejects the view that wehave here an original composition by Mary (Mother) Goose of Boston(1686–1743).[1] The phrasing of I–A is definitely late eighteenth century, since the Goose Period would have rendered it "diddley-diddley" (and thus "fiddley" in I–B). Furthermore, the sequence "cat-cow-dog-dish" represents an obvious redaction and is a compilation of at least four different accounts.[2] Thus, the author of the piece is unknown,[3] and its date set between 1780 and 1820.[4] The Sitz im Leben of the Depression of 1815 may be reflected in III.2.
The received text is very corrupt. The mythological elementin II–A is typical of many other interpolations, as is the anthropomorphism in II–B.[5] However, I–A may be original, excluding, of course, the "hey."[6]3.
Stripped of its thought forms, the piece tells us of something revolutionary as existentially encountered by three animals, two cooking implements, and one musical instrument.[7]
1. Discussed in F. Sauerkraut, Gooses Werke, vol. XXVII, pp. 825–906; G.F.W. Steinbauger, Gooserbrief, pp. 704–8636; Festschrift fur Baronvon Munchausen, pp. XIII–XX; R. Pretzelbender, Die Goosensinger vomBostom, p. 10.
2. See P. Katzenjammer in Goosengeschichtliche Schule Jahrbuch, vol.X.
3. Some attribute it to Mary's grandson, Wild Goose (1793–1849), andother Wild Goose's nephew, Cooked (1803–1865). Both views are challenged by A. Kegdrainer in the thirty volume prolegomenon, Gooseleiden, vol. XV.
4. F. Pfeffernusse contends it is an English translation of a German original by the infant Wagner. See his Goose und Volkgeist, pp. 38–52; see also his Geist und Volkgoose, pp. 27–46.
5. The authenticity of both II–A and II–B is poorly argued by the reactionary American Goosologist, Carl Sanbag in his Old Glory and Mother Goose (see vol. IV, The Winters in the South, p. 357).
6. The meaning of the word "hey" is now hopelessly obscure. See my articles on "Hey, That Ain't" and "Hey, What The" in Goosengrease, Fall, 1942.
7. Perhaps an eclipse of the moon?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Theological Humour…

* Trini-tini-tarianism - Belief in a miniscule but three-persona God.
* Exebegesis - Textual interpretation that results in scaring the pants off you.
* Septuasquint - Vision deficit resulting from intense study of small-print version of the Septuagint.
* Codex Sinusitis - Historically important New Testament manuscript that makes you sneeze.
* Hypocrypha - extra-canonical documents that pretend to be part of the apocrypha but aren't.
* Apocalips - The intensely pursed expression of readers of Left Behind books.
* Tell-e-all-ogy - The theological justification for sleazy unauthorized biographies.
* Penetetouche' - A crushing rejoinder to arguments that Moses did not write the Pentateuch.
* Eh-scatology - Ho-hum exposition of the end times.
* Christodgily - Dry, academic discussion of the various manifestations of Christ.
* Form Criticism - What liberal theologians engage in when they go on Spring Break.
* Intarnation - Ontological epithet often inserted into the sentence "What.* are you doing?"
* Propitchiation - A testimony of faith given by professional baseball players.
* Par-wooz-sia - State of mental fuzziness induced by overlong fasting while reading the book of Revelation.
* Par-oops-sia - Heresy propounded by some writers who forgot where to look for the book of the Revelation.
* Kantikle of Kanticles - Seldom-sung love song based on Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.
* Synaptic Gospels - Fast paced cyber-version of the Gospels.
* Pteredactor - A theological dinosaur known for biting large holes in the text.

Notorious Typos

Here are a few publishing blunders from various editions of scripture...
* Blessed are the place-makers (instead of "peacemakers"), Matthew 5:9.
* Thou shalt commit adultery, Exodus 20:14.
* Know ye not that the unrighteous shall (omitted "not") inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9.
* Printers (instead of "Princes") have persecuted me without a cause, Psalm 119:161.
* Go and sin on (instead of "no") more, John 8:11.
* The fool hath said in his heart there is a (instead of "no") God, Psalm 14:1.
* Let the children first be killed (instead of "filled"), Mark 7:27.
* These are murderers (instead of "murmurers"), complainers, Jude 16.
* The murderer shall surely be put together (instead of "to death"), Numbers 25:18.
* He hath ears to ear (instead of "hear"), let him hear, Matthew 11:15.
* I will ... that women adorn themselves in modern (instead of "modest") apparel, 1 Timothy 2:9.

Naugle and Weltanschauung

One of the joys of studying at university was having the time to study other things [besides Biblical Studies] that would eventually effect the way I actually studied history and the scriptures. For one year, I did several papers in Philosophy: Metaphysics and Epistemology particularly. It was here that I discovered the work of David Naugle.
Although we have to provide chapters in our theses on method and presuppositions, philosophy is still no where near as integrated into the discipline of biblical studies as it should be [IMO]. Yes, Tom did include a section on critical realism in his book and yes, Ben did write a whole book on the interaction of epistemology with the New Testament and yes Kevin wrote a tome about the morality of knowledge, but lets face it - for whatever reason, philosophy is still very much neglected in our teaching, writing and discussions.
That's why when I found Naugle's book: Worldview: The History of a Concept, I didn't just find another philosophy book that was helpful, I found someone willing to engage [but from a philosophical point of view] some of the issues that I was struggling with. Now, I find there are several articles freely available on his website, like the following:

There are many more articles, [even one or two sermons!] and I hope that some will take the time to peruse these gems. They are helpful indeed.

Top 25

Well, I'm not well versed enough to compete with Mike's Top 25 Scholars of All Time, but I can offer a student's proposal for the Top 25 Contemporary Scholars. I judge this purely based on reading their work and judging for myself whether I have found it helpful and whether it has made, so far as I can see, an impact on the scholarly community.
  1. N. T. Wright
  2. Martin Hengel
  3. Richard Bauckham
  4. Craig A. Evans
  5. Ben F. Meyer
  6. George B. Caird
  7. Graham Stanton
  8. Scot McKnight
  9. Ben Witherington
  10. David Aune
  11. Ed Sanders
  12. Gordon Fee
  13. Marcus Borg
  14. Richard Horsley
  15. Jimmy Dunn
  16. John P. Meier
  17. Raymond Brown
  18. Wolfhart Pannenberg
  19. Sean Freyne
  20. Joseph Fitzmyer
  21. Richard Burridge
  22. Walter Brueggeman
  23. John Goldingay
  24. Bruce Chilton
  25. John D. Crossan

Now, this list is obviously anachronistic in many ways. I have mostly included scholars who write on the historical Jesus, though some of them are well published on Paul as well. I've included Pannenberg because I just loved Jesus: God and Man, it was probably the first book I ever read that took the historical Jesus seriously. It was also the first book that inspired me to look into history to see the face of my rescuer.
I've included Burridge not because he has offered us any revolutionary studies in New Testament, but because his book: What are the Gospels? did signal and shift the tide of NT scholarship in a very helpful direction. Caird, Wright and Evans are my heroe's so I had to include them. One has to include Crossan, whose work I do not agree with, but who I must admit has made me think, and rethink many of my assumptions in historical Jesus research. Borg's Conflict, Holiness and Politics is superb, even though his latest books leave much to be desired. McKnight's books have been extraordinarily good to read, and digest. His work, with Witherington's have been the most helpful in explaining things to me.
What ever one makes of this list, it's possibly a helpful doorway for those wanting to engage with great minds on these great topics. The list is also in no particular order and if pushed answer who was the greatest? Probably Hengel or Wright would be my choice. Also, as Mark Goodacre notes: the fun of it is to be impressed, outraged and amused, not necessarily in equal measure.

Frye on Jesus

I hope many of my blog readers also read John Frye. His latest posts are filled with some an array of photo's and stories from his trip to the gospel world: Galilee, Turkey, Cappadocia and more. Frye has some fantastic insights into the biblical texts, with lovely photo's that capture the imagination and stir the heart. I heartily recommend this blog for daily consumption.


There is an excellent new resource: PACE. Under the leadership of Steve Mason [Well known for his excellent work on Josephus and the New Testament, even though I think his proposal that Luke used Josephus is strained.] this is a project to offer texts, commentaries, archeological studies and more. As Phil Harland notes:

The Project on Ancient Cultural Engagement (PACE) "aims to recover the Ancient Mediterranean World for our time in new ways. Its focus is the set of problems arising from the encounter and interaction of cultures: representation of one's own group and others', motivations for learning about or depicting the other, stereotypes (e.g., the barbarian) and rhetorical commonplaces, attraction to the exotic or revulsion at the alien, conscious assimilation or repudiation, and all the attendant problems of identity-construction." Although only entering phase two of the project, there are already Greek texts and facing English translations (with commentaries) of Josephus' works and Polybius' Histories (click on "Texts and Commentary" on the site). There are also many relevant images and even videos pertaining to important places mentioned in Josephus' works. The plan is to include other living commentaries of ancient authors who engage in ethnography or reflect cultural encounters. This is an excellent resource.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Does Bush Exist?

It was the year 3742, and several world wars had decimated the population of earth. Very few historical records from the 20th and 21st centuries had survived, so historians made a good living piecing together these fascinating periods of human history. A particularly fierce debate between rival historians raged over a popular but enigmatic 21st century figure:
Ed: Hi, I'm Ed, and welcome to 'History Tomorrow', where we discuss the latest developments in historical research. This week we look at the enigmatic George W Bush, traditionally thought to have been the president of the United States at the start of the 21st century. The guests on tonight's show are Phonias J Futz, a member of the controversial 'Bush Seminar' - a group of scholars whose latest research and conclusions on George W Bush has created a storm in the scholarly community. We also have Professor Nathan Wright, former head of 21st century at Harvard and staunch defender of the traditional history of George W Bush.
Futz: Hi!
Wright: Good evening.
Ed: So, Mr Futz, who was George W Bush?
Futz: Basically, he was a Charismatic comedian and social commentator, who clearly had a large media following and attracted lots of fans.
Ed: So he wasn't the president of the United States?
Futz: We can be pretty sure he wasn't, in fact the office of 'president' never existed - it's pure legend. The United States were governed mainly by a monarchy.
Ed: Professor Wright, what do you think of this?
Wright: That's just silly. We have plenty of evidence to show that the United States were governed by presidents for many years and that George W Bush was one of them. There is no new evidence to refute this solid historical conclusion.
Ed: OK, Mr Futz, what have been the findings of the latest historical research on George W Bush? And what evidence do you have to back up such controversial conclusions?
Futz: Well, Ed, in my new book 'Meeting Dubya again for the first time', I draw a number of conclusions: firstly, that the traditionally accepted documents written about Bush, which are kind of shortish biographies, are flawed in several ways, being written nearly fifty years after Bush's death, and coloured with urban legend and hidden political agendas. Although they contain key facts and true statements made by Bush, it has been important to weed out some of the untrue material.
Ed: Such as what?
Futz: Well, for example parts where people refer to Bush as 'Mr President' and where Bush shows his 'presidential power' - these are obviously false.
Ed: So how have you decided what is real and unreal? Is this where the 'Z' document comes in?
Futz: Spot on Ed. Z has been ignored for so long, that not a lot of people know about it. Basically, Z is an early, accurate biography of George W Bush that the other four documents drew factual information from, before adding various false material.
Wright: This is ridiculous! Z was written in 2102, over 90 years later, and it's a badly written piece of propaganda that happens to quote the earlier accurate biographies! There is no evidence to show that it was written any time before this - it just fits nicely into you theory, so you are prepared to ignore 75 years of historical research just to make your incoherent argument sound more plausible!
Futz: I'm sorry Mr. Wright, but modern historical and archaeological scholarship has moved on since your day - the methods used to recreate the past are changing all the time, and theories evolve with it. You need to keep up with the latest research!
Ed: Ok, let's go back to your book, Mr Futz, I hear you are particularly dismissive of one of the traditional documents?
Futz: That's right Ed, one of them is written by a guy called John Smith - it is so full of false information and fabricated stories and myths that we have had to label the whole document a fake.
Ed: What sort of stuff does it contain which is particularly bad?
Futz: Well, Bush explicitly claims to be the president of the United States for a start - the document even records him making a presidential address to the nation! Obviously fictitious!
Wright: That's crazy! There is no reason for you to reject these accounts other than for the fact that they disagree with your theory!!!!
Futz: Oh come on, John Smith's biography was the last one to be written of the 4, so it was probably about 60-70 years after Bush's death - it is also the most explicitly presidential document. In Mark Jones' account, Bush was merely a powerful man, with political sway - in Smith's account; he is the most powerful man in the world! You can see the development of Bush's legendary status!
Wright: The biographies are merely telling the story from a different angle!
Futz: Really, Nathan - this is simple historical criticism - and you claim to be an expert on such issues!? Also, how do you explain some of the famous quotes Bush came out with? Sure, he made some stirring speeches, which is why he is still so popular and quotable today, but what about 'It's time for the human race to enter the solar system'? This is one of my favourite ancient jokes, but it's not something a president would say!
Ed: Ok, Professor Wright, in a recent newspaper article you pointed to Bush's death as the best piece of evidence that he was the president of the United States.
Wright: That's right - George W Bush was given one of the greatest send offs in history - it's recorded in Luke Williams' account. Over 10,000 people attended the funeral. He was given a 250-gun salute, and there was a national day of mourning.
Futz: Now there is no real reason to accept this account, it's written in Williams' flawed biography and it's obviously an exaggeration and shows all the signs of being legendary - nobody would be important or be popular enough for this kind of send-off.
Ed: So what do you think happened to George W Bush?
Futz: Well, after using the latest objective scholarly techniques we at the Bush Seminar have come to the conclusion that his body was eaten by dogs.
Ed: What kind of dogs, Phonias?
Futz: Probably a pack of wild ones.
Wright: (laughing) This is quite ridiculous - you haven't bought up a single piece of factual evidence yet - the truth is that we have four historical records saying clearly that George W Bush was the president of the United States, and nothing that contradicts it except a fake account written nearly 90 years later, which vaguely tries to reinvent Bush. There are no reasons to disbelieve any of these accounts unless you presuppose that George W Bush was not president of the United States, and reject any evidence that happens to contradict what you blindly believe. You are slurring the name of George Bush and making a mockery of the history of the United States.
Futz: Please calm down Nathan, I think you misunderstand me - I believe George W Bush was a great man, and we can learn a lot from him, I just think that the Bush of legend and the historical Bush need to be separated, so we can have a George Bush for the 25th century. The danger at the moment is that many people are pointing to Bush's patriotism, politics and faith and using them as an example for today's generation! This traditional image of Bush is then used as an icon by certain out of date politicians who want to turn America back into a democratic free market society!
Wright: That is exactly my point. You are trying to create a politically correct George Bush, rather than letting the historical facts speak for themselves. In your book, you openly admit that a lot of people are uncomfortable with Bush's patriotism, his conservative politics and his religion, and that your version of Bush is more culturally relevant. I mean, why bother having to deal with difficult historical evidence and awkward historical figures, why not just invent your own history?
Futz: Well that's a nice little conspiracy theory you have going but you well know that historical scholarship is just not as simple as that. Facts don't just speak for themselves - they have to be interpreted in a framework. I'd say your arguments are those of a desperate man - the average American no longer believes in the legendary President Bush
Ed: And a recent poll would tend to back up what you say, Phonias. 70% of the general public now believe that George W Bush was never the President of the United States.
Sadly, that's all we've got time for this week, so thanks to Phonias J. Futz and Professor Wright.
[Audience applauds] [END]