Thursday, December 29, 2005

Finishing Up

Well, my work in NZ is mostly finished. I've had a semi-break from the reality of pastoral life this past month. The academic study time and engaging with my various teachers about various topics and possible research issues has been a real treat. My entry into the apocalypse has been an excellent learning curve and a stark demonstration that I am still woefully ignorant about NT Theology and all it's complexities. Making the Gospels one's home has it's price - partial [or in my case] utter ignorance about what's going on in other places of the Christian movement in the 1st centuries. My partner in crime and I have yet to actually exegete our designated passages [Rev 13 for me, and Rev 11 for Eddie]. Shocking, but we've taken necessary detours into historical and introductory issues. Notably, structure and narrative techniques drawing on the work of Barr and of course Bauckham.
I head back to SA soon. 35 hours in transit with McKnight's Jesus and His Death and Witherington's The Christology of Jesus to keep me company. I've read both of them but now the task of making copious notes and thoughts is emerging... [For those with ears to hear!
I also want to tackle a certain article by a certain blogger that was kind enough to send it through to me - this will take place in dialogue with Hays' comments about the Matthean community and the Jesus tradition concerning divorce... SHould keep me busy for that time. But then I'm going to crash for a couple of days - enjoy New Years with my friends and then head off to Summer Camp where God will grace us with his divine presence. I love my job!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wright on Christmas

Christmas Sermon: What Is This Word?
John is saying two things simultaneously in his Prologue (well, two hundred actually, but let’s concentrate on two): first, that the incarnation of the eternal Word is the event for which the whole creation has been on tiptoe all along; second, that the whole creation, and even the carefully prepared people of God themselves, are quite unready for this event. Jew and Gentile alike, hearing this strange Word, are casting anxious glances at one another...
Superb... Utterly superb...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cherished Assumptions -> Deconstructed

AKMA offer this excellent piece:

To oversimplify: If you want to elicit agreement with your thesis, you should not simply assert claims you suppose to be true (perhaps even self-evidently so), but present your reader with reasons to think that your claims are true, and that they add up to the thesis you propose. Some of your reasons may indeed strike some of your readers as self-evident, but if everything you think were equally self-evident to your reader, you wouldn’t need to persuade her of anything. If your reader disagrees with you about something, we have grounds for suspecting that she doubts a reason that you regard as sound, or that she doesn’t follow a chain of implications that you take as granted. Further, the more a writer takes for granted, the more likely he has overlooked (or deliberately elided) a fallacious inference in his own reasoning. The more carefully you write out your argument, the better you protect yourself from your own fallibility.

I'm currently preparing my lectures for the presitgious Summer Camp 2006. It's a gathering of around 500+ highschool students to have fun, encounter with the Divine Spirit of YHWH, and learn more about the Christian faith. I've been given the diverse tasks of speaking on ethics, then exegesis and finally questions surrounding the validity of the Christian Worldview.
In preparing, I've read Richard Hays' beautiful book: The Moral Vision of the New Testament. It's a rather painful excercise in having my cherished assumptions tested and buried by Hays exegetical [s]word. So if you want an apt example of what AKMA is referring to, see Hays' work.
Not only is his discussion on method superb, but his application to the five contemporary issues he deals with [violence, divorce, homosexuality, ethinicity, and abortion] is as brilliant an analysis as one could ask for. I'm particularly impressed with his argument against abortion. For so long I had merely rehearsed the tired proof-texts of those unwilling to rigorously think through the issues and so this was a hurrican, blowing away the fog of half-understood pseudo-morality and fashionable compromise, that I had held for a time. For instance, Hays writes:
As God's creatures, we are stewards who bear life in trust. To terminate a pregnancy is not only to commit an act of violence but also to assume responsibility for destroying a work of God, "from who are all things and for whom we exist" [1 Cor 8:6].
There might be circumstances in which we would deem the termination of such life warranted, but the burden of proof lies heavily upon any decision to undertake such an extreme action.
I shall hopefully post more on Hays comments on Divorce and Remarriage as I part ways at some junctures and the interaction in this blog-arena may provide some sparring partners who will enhance understanding on this burdened topic.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Infancy Narratives

Beliefnet offers these short articles by various scholars on the Infancy Narratives.
I particularly enjoyed the article by Crossan on Caesar and the CHRISTmas story. Very helpful. Witherington's piece was insightful as per usual.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

History in the Infancy Narratives

Primary Data
(1) Luke 1:26-38 (2) Matt 1:18-25 (3) GHeb 1 (4a) IgnEph 7:2 (4b) IgnEph 18:2a (4c) IgnEph 19:1 (4d) IgnSmyr 1:1b (5a) John 6:42 (5b) John 7:40-44 (5c) John 8:39-41 (5d) John 8:56-58 (6) Luke 2:27,33,41,48. [Material in John is highly questionable, cf Brown's volumes on John, as well as Keener's.] For a recent Bibliography see Nolland, The Gospel of Matt, pg. 89-90.
Meier [Marginal Jew I, 220-22] discusses the virginal conception as part of his larger chapter on Jesus' origins. He earlier notes that both infancy narratives "seem to be largely the product of Christian reflection on the salvific meaning of Jesus Christ in the light of OT prophecies (p. 213). At the end of his examination, Meier concludes:
The ends result of this survey must remain meagre and disappointing to both defenders and opponents of the doctrine of the virginal conception. Taken by itself, historical-critical research simply does not have the sources and tools available to reach a final decision on the historicity of the virginal conception as narrated by Matthew and Luke. One's acceptance or rejection of the doctrine will be largely influenced by one's own philosophical and theological presuppositions, as well as the weight one gives to Church teaching.
Lüdemann [Jesus After 2000 years, 122-24] concludes that we can extract as a historical fact behind Matt 1.18-25 the existence of a hostile rumour about the illegitimacy of Jesus. Lüdemann suggests that rape by an unnamed man, possibly even a Roman soldier, is the most likely explanation.
According to Crossan’s analysis what we have here are strata 1 traditions that are multiply attested. If we are to be consistent with that, merely asserting these traditions have their genesis in dogmatic imaginations doesn’t persuade. Raymond Brown notes where these traditions agree:
They agree on these points: Chap. 1 deals with the prebirth situation; chap. 2 with the birth or postbirth situation. The parents of Jesus are Mary and Joseph, who are legally engaged or married but have not yet come to live together or have sexual relations. Joseph is of Davidic descent. There is an angelic announcement of the forthcoming birth of the child. The conception of the child by Mary is not through intercourse with her husband but through the Holy Spirit. There is a directive from the angel that the child is to be named Jesus. The roles of Saviour (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11) and Son of God (Matt 2:15; Luke 1:35) are given to Jesus. The birth of the child takes place at Bethlehem after the parents have come to live together. The birth is chronologically related to the reign of Herod the Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:5). Eventually, the child is reared at Nazareth.
Brown elaborates further on this question by noting that:

Such a general judgment need not imply that there are not some historical elements in either or both accounts. The mutual agreement have an importance, for they probably represent points that were in a tradition antedating both Matthew and Luke. For instance, an intelligent case can be made that Jesus was truly descended from David and born at Bethlehem in the reign of Herod the Great. Arguments to the contrary are far from probative (Brown 1977: 505–16). In particular, the virginal conception (popularly but confusingly called the Virgin Birth) should be evaluated cautiously. Despite extremely limited attestation and inherent difficulties, no satisfactory nonhistorical explanation which could dispense with the virginal conception has been brought forward. The frequent approach to the virginal conception as a theologoumenon, whereby the common “Son of God” title of Jesus would have been translated into a (fictional) narrative in which he had no human father, could acquire plausibility only if there were a good antecedent or parallel for the idea of virginal conception. There is no good antecedent or parallel. While there were Greco-Roman and other examples of male gods impregnating earth women to produce a divine child, the NT contains no hint of such a sexual union. Within Judaism there was no expectation that the messiah would be born of a virgin. (The MT of Isa 7:14 does not clearly refer to a virgin, and even the LXX need mean no more than that one who is now a virgin will conceive through future intercourse. Matthew has not derived Jesus’ conception from Isa 7:14, but interpreted the OT passage through Christian data.) A claimed Hellenistic-Jewish tradition that the patriarchal wives conceived from God without male intervention (Philonic allegory; Gal 4:23, 29) is far from certain. (On all this, see Boslooper 1962; Brown 1977: 517–33). In terms of historical catalysts behind the concept of a virginal conception, those worth noting are: (a) the agreement of Luke (implicit) and Matthew that Jesus was conceived before Joseph and Mary came to live together and hence that the birth might be noticeably early after cohabitation; (2) the 2nd-century Jewish charge that Jesus was illegitimate (Or. Cels 1.28, 32, 69), possibly reflected earlier in John 8:41.

[Brown, Infancy Narratives, ABD.]

We are left with more questions than answers. But clearly, there are historical elements which have been reworked through a scripture framework [“History Scripturized” cf. Goodacre] so as to relay the significance or theology of these historical peculiarities. But clearly, the overlapping of agreements, despite the divergences, constrain our conclusions in such a way as to exclude a genesis in pure authorial imagination. As Nolland concludes, Despite all critical reserve the traditional view continues to have much to commend it [See Nolland, Luke, 1:42-48].

Friday, December 23, 2005

Historicity of Virgin Birth

Reading through Ben Myers posts on the virgin birth and I'm not sure I would take the same line. Ben Witherington in his DJG article notes the following:

There are also serious problems for those who maintain that the virginal conception is a theological idea without basis in historical fact. It is difficult if not impossible to explain why Christians would create so many problems for themselves and invite the charge of Jesus’ illegitimate birth by promulgating such an idea if it had no historical basis. The reality of the charge of illegitimacy was well known in the time of Origen, but it may have existed even in the time the Gospels were written (cf. Jn 8:41; Mk 6:3). It is also evident that both Luke and the First Evangelist felt under some constraint to refer to the virginal conception, even to the point of awkwardly alluding to the concept in their genealogies.
One must also explain why this idea was accepted so widely by Christians in the early second century. Ignatius of Antioch is very matter-of-fact about the idea (Smyrn. 1:1). While it might be argued that at least in the case of Matthew he derived the idea from Isaiah 7:14, even this is unlikely. As we have already pointed out, neither the Hebrew >almaÆh nor the Greek parthenos are simply technical terms for a virgo intacta, though certainly the terms may imply or even point to virginity in some cases. The point is that even in the LXX version of Isaiah 7:14 the text itself would not lead one to come up with such an idea, for it would normally be understood to mean that a young woman of marriageable age, who had previously never had a child, would conceive and give birth.

Furthermore, it is not certain that the virginal conception is known only to the First and Third Evangelists. Even if that were true, we would have two likely independent witnesses to the idea. That Paul uses ginomai rather than gennao in Romans 1:3 may reflect a knowledge of the virginal conception, as may several other Pauline texts (Gal 4:4; Phil 2:7). It is also possible that John 1:13 and 6:41–42 reflect a knowledge of this idea. Perhaps more plausible is the conjecture that Mark 6:3 reflects a knowledge that Jesus was not physically the son of Joseph. Although calling a person a son of his mother is not without some precedent in the Bible (cf. 1 Chron 2:16), it is quite unusual and in a patriarchal culture may well have had a pejorative thrust. Whether or not this material outside the First and Third Gospels reflects a knowledge of the virginal conception, few would dispute that we do have such an idea in both Matthew and Luke.
I find Witherington's analysis here to be historically helpful. Why would Matt & Luke independently develop and/or maintain a tradition that would cause them so many problems? The various traditions that we do have reflect an early awareness of Jesus' problematic birth. Thus, Jesus is called Mamzer.
Clearly there are theological issues surrounding this topic, but could they [early church] have developed this theology in a vacuum apart from some sort of theological provocation? Possibly then, this is a theological response to a clear historical problem?
The article that really helps one get to grips with the issues at hand is of course, God's Way of Acting by Tom Wright. So be sure to check it out...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scholars Debate

Three biblical historians exchange emails regarding Jesus, Criteria and the meaning of it all. The historians are Alan F. Segal, Larry Hurtado and John S. Kloppenborg. Three quite diverse historians here, so it makes the exchange all the more interesting. [Hat tip to the Goodacre].
Another historical issue to discuss is raised by Michael Pahl
How many biblical scholars does it take to change a Christmas light bulb?
A historical critic to deny the historicity of the canonical birth narratives, thus believing he or she has answered the question.
A source critic to demonstrate from comparison with parallel questions that "Christmas" is not part of the original saying, which belonged to a Q(uestion) source that included other such queries as "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
A redaction critic to assert that the "Christmas" redaction indicates a distinctive emphasis within the later "Christmas community," a community which de-emphasised Jesus' death in favour of his birth.
A form critic to state that the question was likely the climactic saying of a pronouncement story, probably reflecting the "Christmas wars" of the early 21st century.
A rhetorical critic to note that the question is part of a diatribe in which the speaker interacts with a hypothetical interlocutor in order to support his or her contention that the light bulb needs to be changed.
A narrative critic to describe the apparent defeat of the light by darkness as part of a larger narrative in which the light ultimately triumphs over the darkness once the bulb is changed.
A fundamentalist to insist that the light bulb doesn't need to be changed; after all, we've always used this bulb, and nowhere does the Bible say it should be changed.
An evangelical to change the light bulb for one which Jesus used, based on Jesus' (verbatim authentic) saying, "I am the light of the world."

Articles Update...

There are some new articles on the Paul Page that look quite interesting:

As well as some new articles from Biblical Theology.

That should keep ya busy for a day or two...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Revelation - Stuff

I've been meaning to get Contours Of Christology In The New Testament so that I can read Aune's chapter on the Christology of Revelation, but now Alan Bandy has saved me some work [although, I'll probably still read Aune's chapter] by posting a summary of Aune & the Christology of Revelation.
Here's a list of all the resources I've collected so far on Revelation this month. I'm sure there are more but these are the ones I've found so far that are worthwhile.

Steve Moyise on Revelation


  • Letseli, Tankiso Letseli - The Kingship of God as a theological motif in the hymns of the Apocalypse of John.
  • Mnisi, Mhingwana George - How God takes responsibility for his church in this world with reference to Revelation 11.
  • Manikam, Terrel - From downfall to victory: the worship situation in Revelation 17:1-19:10.

Articles on the Apocalypse


And of course, one should always keep a close eye on Café Apocalypsis.

From my cursory reading the most helpful commentaries on Revelation thus far have been [in order of easy to difficult]
    • G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John [I'm biased towards Caird and I don't agree with all of it but it's still a very stimulating commentary by a master exegete]
    • Craig Keener, NIV Application Commentary: Revelation [Best preaching commentary on Revelation I've found]
    • Ben Witherington, Revelation [Skips issues but helps you to actually understand the text, very helpful introduction and bibliography]
    • Grant Osbourne, Revelation [Most of the time summarises the major views and then explains his choice of exegesis]
    • David Aune, Revelation [Comprehensive background and parallels but I wonder if he doesn't miss the forrest for the trees at times.]

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my grubby paws on Beale's tome yet, but hope to in the near future. The best little book I've read on Revelation has to be Bauckham's Theology of the Book of Revelation. I reckon if one reads this book, one is more than half way to understanding what Revelation is actually about. But this is all I've read and so I'm still an apocalyptic baby...

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Jesus’ practice of table fellowship and his teaching concerning issues related to table fellowship contravened the understanding of Israel as a holy, separated community. In this context, table fellowship cannot be described simply as festive celebration and acceptance. Rather, it was a political act of national significance: to advocate and practice a different form of table fellowship was to protest against the present structures of Israel.[1]

[1] Borg, Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus, pg. 134

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ordering the Canon

Mike Bird offers his order of the New Testament canon. My question is, why not then do it?

Slowly but surely I'm working my way through the NT and every time I do some work on a passage, I translate the sections I'm working on and then I print out an A4 copy of the entire letter/gospel. If I'm struggling with a passage I keep it in Greek and then footnote my translation or the NRSV. Then I note the difficulties and the options. Some words I don't translate on principle like δικαιοσυνη or Βασιλεια του Θεου because this reminds me of the struggles and debates. Then I file it in a single folder in an order that I'm happy with. Then, when I feel the need to, I go back and read all the work I've done in the order I've chosen. Making more comments in the margins, adding a thought or a question. Sometimes even revising a translation: like with my work on Πιστις Χριστου, I had to revise my whole Galatians section because Hays got it right [contra Bird!].

My NT is growing week by week. I've got Matt, Mark, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 John, and sections of Revelation due to my current work. Sometimes I even print the Greek in a parallel column that enables me to work directly on the same page. Especially if it's a gospel passage. It's my NT in progress and it's a great way to do NT study because there are no headings, [unless I put them in] and no breaks [unless I insert one] and so this allows me to fully concentrate on the letter the way it was probably first written.
So why not do it?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gospel Intertextuality in Revelation

I've blogged about this previously and it still haunts me as a question that I've not heard anyone tackle: What would it take to demonstrate that a NT writer used a gospel and not just oral tradition?

If we assume for a moment that "Q" existed [I don't think it did, as demonstrated by Goodacre, et. al.]. But if this supposed document was available to be used by both Matt & Luke, what's to say that it could not have been used by other NT writers? Pushing this idea further, what's to say that other NT writers didn't have access to a gospel work? Is our presumption of a late date for the gospels a deterrent in exploring this idea? Why is the assumption always merely 'oral tradition'? Has anyone done a PhD on this?

Looking at Revelation, Graham Stanton notes that:

Revelation contains a handful of clear allusions to Jesus traditions. The following passages are among the most striking: Revelation 1:3, "blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it [the words of the prophecy]; for the time is near" (cf. Lk 11:28); Revelation 1:7, with its conflation of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, is closely related to Mt 24:30. In Revelation 3:3 (and cf. Rev 16:15) the Parousia of Christ is likened to the coming of a thief, as in the Q tradition (Mt 24:42–23 par. Lk 12:39–40). A Q tradition (Mt 10:32 par. Lk 12:8) also lies behind Revelation 3:5: "I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels." Revelation 13:10, "if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed," is dependent on the Jesus tradition in Matthew 26:52. Most intriguing of all is the use in Revelation of the "hearing formula," "let anyone with ears to hear, listen," which is found in several strands of the Synoptic tradition (Mk 4:9 par. Mt 13:9 par. Lk 8:8; Mk 4:23; Mt 11:15; Mt 13:43; Lk 14:35). [Stanton, Jesus Traditions, DLNTD]

We know that there is some relationship between Johannine literature and the Revelation, but what about the synoptics? I've heard that Bauckham has explored "echoes" of the Jesus tradition in James, [see also R. E. Brown's table on Matt 5-7 in James] does his The Climax of Prophecy explore gospel traditions in Revelation? [My copy only arrives next week] Furthermore, if the author of Revelation uses the Hebrew scriptures but doesn't cite them explicitly, what's to say that he hasn't done the same with a gospel?
Finally, if one does demonstrate the probability of Revelation using a gospel [other than John?] does this validate Bauckham's thesis that the gospels were meant for a wider audience? Or would it suggest that they just circulated wider than there intended community? [My thinking suggests the latter but the former seems more interesting.] [Maybe a kind NT lecturer from Dingwall could email me his article on the Markan Community hypothesis so that I could explore this further? Hint, hint - nudge, nudge - wink, wink.]
Are these musings completely off the wall?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Narrative Sub-structure

Mike Bird links to this wonderful quote from Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ:

[T]he canonical Gospels emphasize an explicit, larger "narrative world" or the story line into which they place their stories of Jesus. This narrative horizon extends both backward to include the story line of the Scriptures of Israel (Tanach/Old Testament) and forward chronologically to the eschatological triumph of God's purposes ... If the biblical sweep of the horizon "backward" in time gives the meaning-context of Jesus, the eschatological sweep of the horizon "forward" holds out the hope in which following Jesus is to be ventured, and the divine purpose that Jesus serves.

I find this to be an engaging quote and I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Richard Hays work on the narrative sub-structure of the gospels. Last time he was in NZ he delivered a series of lectures looking at how the gospels read the Hebrew scriptures and how the Hebrew scriptures help us to read the gospels. It was a fantastic series and taught me a lot about the pro's and cons of intertextuality and narrative sub-structure.

I'll never forget his three fascinating questions:
  • How does the evangelist carry forward the story of Israel?
  • How does evangelist operate as an interpreter of scripture?
  • How does the evangelist envision Jesus in the community of the Gospels?

Regardless of what we make of the third question, given Bauckham's critique, the gist of the question stands: How did the evangelist envision the share and direction that his gospel might give to various communities scattered throughout the Roman empire?

Hays left us with a passing jab at "the seminar" when he noted that the Jesus of the apocryphal gospels comes with various 'new' revelations and esoteric knowledge. The Jesus of the canonical gospels comes with insight from Israel's scriptures. Not ground-breaking, but it made this student think and re-think a few things...

Good Reading

Jim West proposes a list of essential reading. But this begs the question as to who this is essential for? i.e. what kind of biblical scholar? And what this is essential for [faith, expertise, or self-indulgence?]. I'm almost afraid to admit this, for fear of being banished from the blogosphere, but I've only read a couple of items on that list! Ergo: my list would look radically different...
What would I put on my list of essential reading for biblical scholars? Well, I can't put forward a list of essential reading, because I've not nearly read enough to do that. So, leaving aside the primary sources - my list of "good" reading would be:
  1. Intro to the New Testament - R. E. Brown
  2. Intro to the New Testament [both volumes!] - Koester
  3. Theology of the Old Testament - Brueggemann
  4. Theology of the New Testament - Caird (Hurst)
  5. The Quest of the Historical Jesus- Albert Schweitzer
  6. Jesus and the Victory of God - N. T. Wright
  7. Critical Realism & the New Testament - Ben Meyer
  8. The Historical Jesus - Theissen & Mertz
  9. Systematic Theology - Wolfhart Pannenberg
  10. The Text of the New Testament- Bruce Metzger
  11. Dictionary of New Testament Background - Evans & Porter
  12. The Interpretation Of The New Testament - Neil & Wright
  13. Dictionary of New Testament Theology - Colin Brown
  14. The Moral Vision of the New Testament - R. Hays
  15. Gospel According to Matthew [3 vols.] - Davies & Allison
  16. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [10 vols. :) ] - Kittel
  17. The First Urban Christians - W. Meeks
  18. Daniel - J.J. Collins
  19. Israel's Gospel - John Goldingay
  20. ........................................................ [Due to the current plague of attacks on a certain Bishop and the conclusions of the book in question this item has been removed for fear of "Blog Riots"] :)

One thing to remember about my list is that I've only been reading for 6 years! I haven't been around long enough to have read all the greats and I'm sure that this list will change with time. But, as a graduate student working and saving hard so that I too may attempt that epistemological nightmare of a journey [aka: a PhD] to acquire authentic understanding, this is my list of suggested or "good" reading.

Another thing to note is that my bias obviously lies with the New Testament and with books that expound, debate and explore those books - and of course the central figure within those books, namely Jesus of Nazareth. So while my list is of course idiosyncratic [#'s 1-20], it merely accords with what I have found to be helpful reading in understanding scripture [both Hebrew and Christian testaments] and the significance of Jesus, his aims and intentions, his life and his death, and ultimately his resurrection! [cf. #20]

Stands back - as he pushes the "publish post" button - and waits for the hurricanes to deconstruct in the "comments" section...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Misquoting Jesus

Bart Ehman has an interview and excerpt from his new book, Misquoting Jesus.

Are there any available reviews of this book? Apparently, it's an introduction to textual criticism - an area I know almost nothing about. Are there other introductions that are more helpful?

Hints, comments or suggestions are welcome...

Structure of Revelation

Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, pg. 21-22
1:1-8 Prologue
1:9-3:22 Inaugural vision of Christ and seven messages to churches
4:1-5:14 Inaugural vision of heaven leading to three series of sevens and two intercalations
6:1-8:1; 8:3-5 Seven seals
8:2; 8:6-11:19 Seven trumpets
12:1-14:20; 15:2-4 Story of God’s people in conflict with evil
15:1; 15:5-16:21 Seven bowls
17:1-19:10 Babylon the harlot
19:11-21:8 Transition from Babylon to New Jerusalem
21:9-22:5 The New Jerusalem, the Bride
22:6-21 Epilogue
Looking at this structure, I’m curious if B. W. Longenecker’s thesis about chain links in the text can be seen in other places, or even throughout, in Revelation? [See “Linked like a Chain: Rev. 22:6-9 in Light of Ancient Transition Technique” NTS 47 (2001), pp. 105-17]. Witherington notes that “this technique [is] where one introduces the next topic before concluding the first one and then concludes the former argument or presentation.” [Witherington, Revelation, pg. 17]
See also Alan Bandy, The Macro-Structure of Revelation from Bauckham.

Nota Bena: Postmodernism

Concerning our arena of study, it seems we have a postmodern pooh vs. postmodern Barth.
You decide which one you prefer. Or don't prefer for that matter...

Monday, December 12, 2005


The recent "tug of war" between Myers and Bird over Bultmann and Wright is as interesting as it is peculiar. I'm definitely with Bird on this one though. Behold, one greater than Bultmann is [definitely] here! And it's not because I don't think Bultmann was brilliant, but it's because I think Wright will have a longer and more fruitful legacy! Wright's eye for method, history, music, theology, philosophy, music, and all this flowing into discipleship is simply breath-taking. Anyone can stumble across the issues in a discipline, but to single-handedly take on the whole discipline, with several other disciplines as well, is a task for a giant. As Marcus Borg has noted:
N. T. Wright occupies an unusual place within contemporary Jesus scholarship. In conservative Christian circles, he is somewhat of a hero. His lectures attract large numbers of people, and he is widely read by evangelical scholars, clergy and laity. Yet he is also in prolonged and vigorous conversation with moderate and liberal Jesus scholars and is recognised as one of the “players” to be reckoned with. I know of no one else who so prominently and ably engages both groups.
Wright takes on both the academy and the church. And he keeps all of us on our toes and in our bibles! This is no small feat.

NT Round Table

Mark Owens has an interesting blog: The New Testament Round Table. It features some excellent material on the gospel of John and notes on the Apocalypse. Definitely one to read and savour... Especially interesting were his posts on allusions and citations... Check it out...

John-Revelation Project

Knox seminary hosts the John-Revelation project. I'm not familiar with these two authors, but one of them, Warren Gage has apparently written his PhD on Revelation. R. F. White, in a review of Kistemaker's commentary on Revelation notes that:
To date, the most thorough application of literary intertextuality and typological hermeneutic to the interpretation of Revelation is Warren A. Gage's groundbreaking study, St. John's Vision of the Heavenly City (Ph.D. diss., University of Dallas, 2001). Gage identifies a pervasive lexical concordance between Revelation and, of all things, the Gospel of John, which in turn exposes an astounding array of consecutive and chiastic correspondences between the books. Not only does this concordance establish common authorship; it also compels the necessity of a lectionary reading of the two books as companion volumes (much like Luke and Acts), the one hermeneutical to the other.
In reading through Revelation, one is struck by the similarity of words and concepts it presents. How far does this go to suggesting a common authorship between the writer of the gospel of John and the Apocalypse? This is a fascinating exercise in historical enquiry. And I've not even got into it in any great depth! Anyway, the John-Revelation project looks interesting for those keen on delving into these issues... One should also frequent Alan Bandy's Cafe Apocalypse for regular comments on such issues.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Theological Stuff

    Theo Stuff...

I don't usually delve into theological issues, unless the New Testament is being used as some sort of a justification, but these articles struck me as somewhat relevent to our various discussion in the blogsphere.

McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry has these to offer:

The article by Heath on The Pagan Christ is especially useful because Harpur is apparently a proffesor of New Testament in Canada. The book is all the rage in many of the local bookstores here in NZ, but I suspect many are being swindled by poor polemics and vulgar historical exegesis.

And then a post by Ben Myers about Paul Althaus and the historical Jesus. I've not here or read this fella, so this was a good find.

And now, it's back to Tom.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Rob Bradshaw is uploading articles by one of the best New Testament scholars alive: Richard Bauckham.
Two more of his articles will appear shortly on
Thanks Rob!

ASLAN reigns!

Well, I thought the movie was superb. I took my sister to see it and we both concur that it was fantastic. I won't give away any of the details and surprises, but just to say that no-one should ever back-chat the KING!
There are some significant posts about the movie:
Otherwise, sit back relax and be blown away...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Steve Moyise on Revelation

Jesus in Recent Research

The Historical Jesus in Recent Research
This is arguably the most helpful book for anyone doing post-grad on the historical Jesus - or for anyone who wants to read widely on historical Jesus scholarship. For so many students entering this field the first question is "Where does one begin?" I have a hope that this book will take centre stage in answering that question. McKnight and Dunn have put us in the debt. Just a quick scan through the table of contents and it reveals just how helpful this book is. The write up notes:
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.
I must confess, when it arrived this morning I was overwhelmed and then slightly surprised. There are three chapter entries by Bultmann. I'm not sure that I would of added these in a volume of "recent research". More helpful would have been to have Craig Evans opening chapter in Jesus and His Contemporaries, which I believe should be mandatory reading for every historical Jesus student! I'm grateful for the addition of Barnett's important article The Jewish Sign Prophets but this is not strictly about the historical Jesus, but rather about possible contemporaries, their aims and intentions. A chapter on Table-Fellowship would have added to the section on actions, especially women and table-fellowship from say the work of Corley. But these are slight quibbles that do nothing to harm the value of this book. Notable also was the delightful [?] absence of Crossan and Funk.
The editors appear to have been wise in their selections. Most helpfully and beautifully is the addition of Caird's brilliant lecture: Jesus and the Jewish Nation. This lecture is arguably one of the most important in the field, in my estimation. The section from Lemcio is also most helpful I'm told. They have also included forthcoming chapters from Stuhlmcher on The Messianic Son of Man: Jesus' Claim to Deity as well as Jesus' Rediness to Suffer and His Understanding of His Death. The section from Ben Meyer, a rather neglected historical Jesus scholar was also much appreciated. Overall, a fantastic volume!

Part 1 Classic Voices
  • Introduction (James D. G. Dunn)
  • Albert Schweitzer - The Solution of Thoroughgoing Eschatology
  • Rudolf Bultmann - View-Point and Method
  • Henry J. Cadbury - The Cause and Cure of Modernization
  • Martin Kähler - Against the Life-of-Jesus Movement

Part 2 Methodology
  • Introduction (James D. G. Dunn)
  • Rudolf Bultmann - “I”-Sayings
  • Joachim Jeremias - Characteristics of the Ipsissima Vox
  • Bruce Chilton - Regnum Dei Deus Est
  • John P. Meier - Criteria: How Do We Decide What Comes from Jesus?
  • Eugene E. Lemcio - The Past of Jesus in the Gospels
  • James D. G. Dunn - The Tradition

Part 3 Teachings of Jesus: God, Kingdom, Ethics, Parables, and Old Testament
  • Introduction (James D. G. Dunn)
  • W. G. Kümmel - The Pressing Imminence of the End
  • Joachim Jeremias - `Abba as an Address to God
  • N. T. Wright - Kingdom Redefined: The Announcement
  • E. P. Sanders - Jesus and the First Table of the Jewish Law
  • Dale C. Allison, Jr. - The Allusive Jesus
  • Klyne R. Snodgrass - From Allegorizing to Allegorizing: A History of the Interpretation of the Parables of Jesus

Part 4 Jesus: Who Was He?

  • Introduction (Scot McKnight)
  • G. B. Caird - Jesus and the Jewish Nation
  • Richard A. Horsley - Abandoning the Unhistorical Quest for an Apolitical Jesus
  • Marcus J. Borg - The Spirit-Filled Experience of Jesus
  • P. M. Casey - Son of Man
  • Peter Stuhlmacher - The Messianic Son of Man: Jesus’ Claim to Deity

Part 5 Jesus: Major Events
  • Introduction (Scot McKnight)
  • Gerd Theissen - The Historical Intention of Primitive Christian Miracle Stories
  • E. P. Sanders - Jesus and the Temple
  • C. E. B. Cranfield - The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Peter Stuhlmacher - Jesus’ Readiness to Suffer and His Understanding of His Death
  • Gerd Luedemann - The History and Nature of the Earliest Christian Belief in the Resurrection

Part 6 Jesus and Others
  • Introduction (Scot McKnight)
  • Ben F. Meyer - The Judgment and Salvation of Israel
  • P. W. Barnett - The Jewish Sign Prophets
  • James D. G. Dunn - Pharisees, Sinners, and Jesus
  • P. S. Alexander - Jesus and the Golden Rule
  • Amy-Jill Levine - The Word Becomes Flesh: Jesus, Gender, and Sexuality

Part 7 Conclusion
  • Conclusion (Scot McKnight)
  • Rudolf Bultmann - The Message of Jesus and the Problem of Mythology
  • G. N. Stanton - The Gospel Traditions and Early Christological Reflection
  • John A. T. Robinson - The Last Tabu? The Self-Consciousness of Jesus
  • Robert Morgan - The Historical Jesus and the Theology of the New Testament

This volume is to be commended on almost every level as being probably the most helpful book published this year, on the historical Jesus. Thanks!


Ben Witherington has a good post on buying Bibles. I'm surprised he recommends the TNIV over the NRSV. Shocked, is probably a better descripture. His post ventures slightly into the reasoning for different translations and the need for good ones. He doesn't appreciate/like the ESV, which is very surprising.
Overall, a very helpful post: check it out...

Article & Dissertations

Surfing around and I bumped into these:
These dissertations are made available by the University of Johannesberg. There are others, but I fear that no-one in the blogsphere will understand Afrikaans or other African languages, so I have just posted the ones in English, and the ones relevent to New Testament research.

Christianity & Femminism

On Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson mentions a new blog by Suzanne McCarthy:Powerscourt. [As noted by Goodacre]. Suzanne has a delightful post on Judaism, Christianity and Femminism. One is not sure if all the information is fully accrate, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The following is an excerpt:

Ironically, the three things about Judaism that xtian feminists critisize the most are actually Jewish customs that revere women the most… totally twisted out of context.Firstly, the fact that within Judaism there exists rites and studies exclusive to only men…

The xtian feminist presents this as a wrongful discrimination against women, and something that demonstrates that Jews consider women to be spiritually inferior to men… but the truth is that Jewish women are not *excluded* from these studies, rituals and rules… they are *exempt* from them… exempt from them because it is the Jewish belief that Women are so much more spiritually superior, that they do not *require* the same amount of rules and spiritual training as men do.

Secondly, the Orthodox Jewish Men’s Prayer… the one that has men express their gratitude for not being born women… the prayer is actually not one of such arrogance… the men are not thanking God for sparing them from an inferior existence… it is the total opposite… it is a prayer of humility, thanking God for the privilige of servanthood.

Thirdly, xtian feminists like to critisize the Jewish family structure… and how the women stayed at home (barefoot and pregnant, yadayada)… well it just [irritates me] that people in general consider motherhood such an inferior social role. The Jews believed (and still believe) that raising children and managing a home are the most difficult and important of all human responsibilities… how does it disrespect women to acknowledge that they are more *capable* of fulfilling such important roles?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cities of the Apocalypse

Doing some research on a few of the cities mentioned in John's apocalypse and I came across:

My main interest this week will be to explore the cities of Pergamum, Thyatira, & Sardis within the story of Revelation. Osbourne and Witherington will be my faithful guides [Bauckham's Theology doesn't really address this...], as Aune & Beale are currently residing on my shelf in SA. Oh, the joys of having one's library spread across the planet! :/

I wonder if Alan Bandy shouldn't do a Top 10 Books/Articles on Revelation. Much like the ones done for Jesus and Paul, see Michael Pahl's list. Anyway, if I find anything interesting, I'll post on it then - and those in the know can offer their various critiques...

Monday, December 05, 2005

τουτο εστιν το αιμα μου της διαθηκης

Mk 14:22-26; Mt 26.26—29; Lk 22.14—23; 1 Cor 11.23—26 [John 6:51b-58]
Imagine, for a minute or two, a world without Scot McKnight’s book: Jesus and His Death. Imagine that Scot had not offered us a complex argument spanning 28 pages of historical and critical thought and argument. Imagine what Jesus may have had in mind, foreseeing his imminent demise at the hands of a ruthless power, taking a cup & loaf and offering them up as symbols. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” You are a disciple sitting at the table with Jesus. You take the cup, and as you drink, various thoughts run through your mind.
What covenant? Abraham’s? The Mosaic? The Davidic? Israel’s general covenantal relationship with YHWH? And what does blood have to do with covenant? With [future] commentators and the Hebrew people, you understand that blood means “life”. Jesus is offering up his life. But what does this have to do with covenant? Is this life offering the payment for some covenantal obligation? Or is it was is required to be faithful to YHWH, his mission and message?
Scot McKnight in his latest contribution [Jesus and His Death] suggests that the phrase "of the covenant" is a later scribal addition and does not go back to the historical Jesus [308ff.]. Given the criteria of multiple attestation and coherence [Meier, Marginal Jew II, 302], I'm struggling to see how McKnight defends this odd position. I say odd because I can't source any other scholars who hold to the historicity of the last supper, yet deny this pivotal phrase.
McKnight lists, six reasons for his view [summarised Rossn's review: The Historical Lamb], but I find these difficult. a) If this is the only time covenant is used, does that a priori entail it's not original? b) It appears that in our précis account Jesus connects covenant and kingdom, unless we think Mark 14:25 is redactional. But even if one thinks it is, has Jesus really forsaken his use of Kingdom [his favourite expressive term], if in one incident he uses covenant? And isn’t the emergence of the kingdom of God part of YHWH maintaining, fulfilling, his covenantal relationship with Israel?
c) McKnight rightly notes that there is no focus on covenant establishment or covenant renewal, but I would like to see some work done on covenant faithfulness. Did Jesus believe that through his mission and this includes his death, that he was being faithful to the covenantal relations between YHWH & Israel, [the Abrahamic covenant?] and was fulfilling this relationship? Which is then picked up in Paul as God's Righteousness? These are issues that need to be explored and explained. d) This would then explain why our event lacks the elements of a covenant ceremony. Though, the fact that the event is summarised in barely 10 verses [Mark] should make us careful in arguing from silence. Maybe these features were present, but that seems unlikely.
Ofcourse, McKnight's argument is more detailed and complex than just this. Now I am left in a state of agnosticism. None of this [my critique or his argument] is conclusive in any direction - which leaves me wary. But despite all of this, McKnight's prolific argument is tugging at my persuasion meter. I fear the argument is too complex for me to fully appreciate - and so we cautiously proceed... Down the rabbit hole... Into the mysteries and genesis of covenant hermeneutics...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Problem with Evangelical Theology

Ben Witherington comments on his new book The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Wesleyanism. There is also an interview at Christianity Today: The Problem with Evangelical Theologies. As well as an Excerpt of the book, and Table of Contents. The excerpt is chapter one of the book and begins with the delightful: THE PROBLEM WITH TULIPS—AND OTHER PROTESTANT FLOWERS.
Overture: The Legacy of the Reformers
PART ONE: Augustine's Children: The Problems with Reformed Theology
1 Oh Adam, Where Art Thou?
2 Squinting at the Pauline "I" Chart
3 Laying Down the Law with Luther
4 Awaiting the Election Results
PART TWO: On Dispensing with Dispensationalism
5 Enraptured but not Uplifted: The Origins of Dispensationalism and Prophecy
6 What Goes Up, Must Come Down: The Problem with Rapture Theology
7 Will the Real Israel of God Please Stand Up?
PART THREE: Mr. Wesley Heading West
8 Jesus, Paul, and John: Keeping Company in the Kingdom
9 New Birth or New Creatures?
10 Amazing Prevenient Grace and Entire Sanctification
PART FOUR: The Long Journey Home-Where Do We Go from Here?
11 Reimagining the Mystery
12 And So?Coda: Rebirth of Orthodoxy or Return to Fundamentalism?
My own story resonates with these insights from Ben. The more I engage with/in biblical studies, the more disillusioned I become with systematic theologies. Except ofcourse Pannenberg, who makes up for it with pages of exegetical reflection.
Maybe Ben Myers can do for Pannenberg what he did for the Barth? :)


My blog is worth $12,419.88.

Eat that!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


When this scared, frightened band of the apostles which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation. For a sect or school or an order, perhaps a single vision would have been sufficient—but not for a world religion which was able to conquer the Occident thanks to the Easter faith.[1]

[1] Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 125.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bloggers Prayer

Our Father who lives above and beyond the dimension of the internet Give us this day a life worth blogging, The access to words and images that express our journey with passion and integrity, And a secure connection to publish your daily mercies. Your Kingdom come into new spaces today, As we make known your mysteries, Posting by posting, Blog by blog.
Give this day, The same ability to those less privileged, Whose lives speak louder than ours, Whose sacrifice is greater, Whose stories will last longer.
Forgive us our sins, For blog-rolling strangers and pretending they are friends, For counting unique visitors but not noticing unique people, For delighting in the thousands of hits but ignoring the ONE who returns, For luring viewers but sending them away empty handed, For updating daily but repenting weekly.
As we forgive those who trespass on our sites to appropriate our thoughts without reference, Our images without approval,Our ideas without linking back to us.
Lead us not into the temptation to sell out our congregation, To see people as links and not as lives, To make our blogs look better than our actual story.
But deliver us from the evil of pimping ourselves instead of pointing to you, From turning our guests into consumers of someone else's products, From infatuation over the toys of technology, From idolatry over techology From fame before our time has come.
For Yours is the power to guide the destinies behind the web logs, To bring hurting people into the sanctuaries of our sites, To give us the stickiness to follow you, no matter who is watching or reading. Yours is the glory that makes people second look our sites and our lives, Yours is the heavy ambience, For ever and ever,
thanks to Andrew Jones via John Frye.