Monday, December 18, 2006

Where is God?

Where then is God in the War on Terror? Grieving and groaning within the pain and horror of his battered but still beautiful world. Stirring in the hearts of human beings the desire for a more credible structure of global justice and mercy. Burning into the imagination of human beings a hope that peace and reconciliation might eventually win out over suspicion and hatred, that the world may be put to rights and that we may anticipate that in the present time. My friends, we in our generation – and especially those of you in your teens and twenties – face a new world, full of possibilities for great good and great ill. I have argued this evening that the Christian gospel, revealing the mysterious God we discover in Jesus and the Spirit, offers a robust and rigorous framework for discerning where God is at work in the midst of the dangers and opportunities that confront us. All of us in our different callings are summoned to this task; some of you, perhaps, to make it your life’s work. Jesus is Lord. The Spirit is powerful. God is doing a new thing. Let’s get out there and join in.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On James

Our resident Blog Expert on Jacobean studies has been catching up on some much needed blogging after some time doing actual work... :)

Be sure to keep a close on eye on this blog if you're interested in James. Unfortunately, all my research on James came to a holt when I couldn't get my grubby paws on Johnson's excellent commentary. I'm still working on a paper: Jesus' Death in James 5:6 but it needs time, which I don't really have at this point... Maybe next year... Jim offers Top Picks on James. I thoroughly agree with these suggestions! Although, I haven't read all of them...
The most helpful commentaries I've used are Davids NIGTC, then Hartin Sacra Pagina, then Wall, Community of the Wise. When Johnson arrives, I'm sure I'll add it to this list. Johnson's collection of studies [Brother of Jesus, Friend of God], for exegetical usefulness, is better than Bauckham's [Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage]. On the sayings of Jesus in James, Deppe and Hartin's work have proved very helpful. Commentaries by Moo and Martin have proved helpful, but at times eccentric or idiosyncratic. They are nonetheless very good.
We look forward to William Baker's work, as everything that I've read of his so far has proved useful, insightful and worthy of time. And of course, there is Scot McKnight's forthcoming commentary of James to expect. But that will be a while in the making...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Articles & Stuff

JETS has uploaded several new articles, including this cracking one from Kevin J. Vanhoozer Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics. Also interesting is Eden, The Temple, and the Church's Mission in the New Creation by Gregory K. Beale.
There's loads more, so check it out. My laptop is still being restored to a former glory, so research is still stunted... But, I'm going on leave in three days, so it'll all be ok then... Plus, it's only like FOUR WEEKS till I get married, so research is actually the last thing on my mind...
Take care, ciao

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sorry for the Delay

My laptop decided to blow up last week, so I'm without any web access/emails and cpu. This, as you can imagine is highly frustrating... I wrote my sermons by hand last week, I felt like Paul - I NEED A SECRETARY!
Needless to say, my research has come to a grinding holt, and will only resume once those evil critters from the insurance company get back to me...
Until then, ciao

Monday, November 27, 2006

Defining Terms - Apostle

Eddie asks whether the term "apostle" had a general sense, rather that the proposed, non-technical, semi-technical and technical senses. This seems to me to be a very good question, but one hard to answer. Thus far, I am happy with the view offered by Howard Marshall who states:
αποστολοσ is used throughout the NT as a Christian technical term for the authorised representatives of Christ or the churches who are engaged in particular tasks, usually connected with missionary work, including the establishment and supervision of churches, and who have delegated authority for the purpose.
[Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 118]
I am happy with the notion that the term apostle has its roots in the Hebrew concept of a Shaliach. Legally speaking, “The-one-whom-a-person-sends (shaliach) is like the sender” (m. Ber. 5:5). Thus, an apostle is a divine representative sent on specific task in the authority of the sender - [who has authority over the recipients?]
The early apostles were commissioned by Jesus to go in his authority to perform certain tasks. This is where the term develops a distinctly Christian flavour in that they became the leaders of and in the community due to their distinctive relationship to their authoriser, i.e., Jesus himself. This gave them authority over the receivers. So long as the apostle is moving in the trajectory of the authoriser, he has authority.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Junia - an Apostle?

Suzanne McCarthy has put us in her debt with her series on Junia, the female apostle.
Reading through Romans 9-16 by Jimmy Dunn, I was struck by the intense discussion about the now famous Junia(s). Was she a woman or a man? What's the difference? Was she an apostle? Married? Sister? WHAT?
The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity... The straightforward description "the apostles" and the following clause, together strongly suggest that Andronicus and Junia belonged to the large group of those appointed apostles by the risen Christ in 1 Cor 15:7. That is, they belonged most probably to the closed group of apostles appointed directly by the risen Christ in a limited period following the resurrection. This would give Andronicus and Junia a higher status in the eyes of Paul and of others...
We may firmly conclude that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity was a woman and wife... That they had been converted before Paul puts them among the earliest Palestinian Christians, probably the Hellenists in Jerusalem (Acts 6-8)... These were Jewish Christians, but also apostles, and indeed apostles "prominent" among the earliest leadership of the first church(es)...
[Dunn, Romans 9-16, pg. 895]
Scholarship has made this discussion very fascinating, and the comments of Suzanne McCarthy aid some of the interesting technical bits that all play a major part in this complex discussion of women in the leadership of earliest Christianity...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Who were the "Apostles"?

My partner in crime poses the question: What do you suggest this "historical distinction" then consisted of? Are you suggesting that the terminology originally reserved for the twelve was then extended to include others?
It appears, but I'm not certain, that Jesus elected various disciples who then became apostles who were entrusted with a mission. N. T. Wright notes that “Jesus intended to establish, and indeed succeeded in establishing, what we might call cells of followers, mostly continuing to live in their own towns and villages, who by their adoption of his praxis, would be distinctive within their local communities.”[Wright, JVG, pg. 276] It appears that this was the fundamental vocation of an apostle. A basic job description for an apostle would look something like this:
  • Delegates of Jesus/Holy Spirit sent to proclaim his victory to the nations.
  • Established communities of disciples dedicated to the mission of Jesus.
  • Transmit and explain the teachings of Jesus and the founding apostles.
  • Signs and wonders should confirm the ministry of the apostolic
  • Strategically release new ministries of leadership and church planting
  • Encourage Christian communities and deal with specific areas of concern/sin
  • Gather resources for further apostolic exploits
How far apostolic authority went, beyond the elders into the local church, we can only speculate on. However, there are some fascinating scripture from which to speculate. My basic contention at this point is that the historical distinction is simply that some apostles were disciples of the historical Jesus, or had an encounter with the risen Jesus, other apostles were commissioned by the Holy Spirit and Church leaders [Acts 13]. Unless we import confusion and arbitrary distinctions into our enquiry, the basic view is that there was a continual widening and inclusion of people who could be apostles [Epaphroditus, Titus, Silas, and others] who could plant churches, lay proper foundations and do the things described above. There does not seem to be any formal distinctions of authority or sphere of influence.
This leads me to think that there were apostolic teams [Paul never travelled alone, but was always accompanied by others, perhaps offering "on the job" training so that they could be further released into apostolic work {this is my understanding of Titus in 2 Cor 8}]. Overall, I think this radically affects central assumptions of many scholars and calls their view to account for the various distinctions with evidence and argument, instead of assertions. It also calls for more faithful bible translations, because many of the versions obscure the crucial passages by offering an interpretation that rests on shaky foundations.
Thoughts, comments, criticisms? I welcome them all...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What is an "Apostle"?

Paul uses the term αποστολος (“one who is sent”; cf. John 13:16) in three basic senses: (1) in a general, non-technical sense, of an emissary, delegate, representative, or messenger commissioned by people for a specific task (2 Cor 8:23, of Titus’ two companions; Phil. 2:25, of Epaphroditus); (2) in a semi-technical sense, of a Christian with a particular, permanent commission from Christ or the local church (Rom 16:7, of Andronicus and Junia[s]; 1 Cor 9:5-6, of Barnabas, by implication [cf. Acts 14:4, 14]; 1 Cor 15:7 and Gal. 1:19, of James, the brother of Jesus; and possibly 1 Cor 4:9, of Apollos, by implication from 1 Cor 4:6; and 1 Thess 2:7, of Silas); (3) in a technical sense, of the Twelve (1 Cor 15:5, 7; Gal 1:17; cf. Luke 6:13) and of himself (1 Cor 9:1; 15:9) as commissioned directly by Christ for permanent and distinctive leadership in the universal church. With regard to apostolic status, Paul recognised no distinction between himself and the Twelve (1 Cor 9:1, 5; 15:8-10; 2 Cor 11:5; 12:11; Gal 2:6). For Paul’s view of the qualifications for apostleship (in sense [3]), see [2 Cor] 12:12.[1]
These distinctions are ubiquitous among scholars of early Christianity and yet they have a tradition of being asserted and not demonstrated. But I wish to suggest that the distinctions between non-technical, semi-technical and technical senses of the word “apostle” are in fact dubious and an unnecessary imposition on the texts of the New Testament. The prevailing assumption must be challenged and an alternative model should be offered. The alternative that I propose is simply that we may infer a historical distinction between apostles who were disciples/witnesses of Jesus and those who were not, but that this did not amount to a theological difference in leadership or authority that the apostles had. The New Testament demonstrates a wide understanding of apostolic ministry and apostolic succession that is not limited to the Twelve or to Paul. There are a variety of apostles engaged in various apostolic ministries. The burden of this claim is the purpose of my current research.
What do you think?

[1] M. J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans, 2005), pg. 128

Friday, November 10, 2006

Propositions on Barth

Kim Fabricus sets out a beautiful propositional response to the great Rabbi of the Church, Karl Barth. He notes this delightful quote:
theology is the servant of the church, “called to perform the simple task of being the place where the church evaluates its own proclamation against its given norm, revelation” (John Webster).
I think this admirably captures a significant part of what it means to be an academic Christian. Be sure to read all the propositions and learn from a great teacher.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Quotes of the Day

The bible’s witness to its subject matter is always true; the interpreter’s witness to the text, by contrast, suffers from various forms of existential short-sightedness, confessional tunnel vision, and cultural myopia. Yet the vocation of the interpreter is to be nothing less than a witness to the truth of the text and hence to the subject matter that it attests...
To become a Christian is not to become a subscriber to a philosophy; it is to become an active participant in God’s triune mission to the world, following Jesus in the power of the Spirit to speak and act in ways that fit the new created order "in Christ."
Kevin Vanhoozer: “Lost In Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics” in Whatever Happened to Truth? ed. Andreas Kostenberger (Crossway, 2006) pg. 93-129

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Have They Done?

I had planned to post my blog on James 5:6 this week, but what started off as a little idea has now transformed into a 3000 word essay which I'm really hoping to get critiqued by those interested in Jacobean studies. Either I am off with the fairies in proposing something radical about James' theology, or I have hit a nerve deep within the heart of James. I'll let others decide my fate.

In the mean time, I'm looking at getting Ben Witherington's new book: What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History. An Amazon reviewer made this comment that struck me: There are a few surprises along the way. Ben makes a powerful and convincing case that the beloved disciple who penned the fourth gospel is none other than Lazarus. He also holds (less convincingly in my view) that Joanna the wife of Chuza who traveled with the Lord's apostolic band (Luke 8:1-3) is in all likelihood to be identified with the female apostle Junia found in Romans 16:7.
If I am not mistaken, Richard Bauckham also proposes that Junia and Joanna are the same person [See his study: Gospel Women]. But the thought that Lazarus was the author of the Gospel of John? I know that I'm rather sceptical, and even stunned. Can't wait to read it though! I wonder how scholarship will receive such an argument. I'm particularly thinking of Martin Hengel's The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Collection and Origin of the Canonical Gospels.
For those interested: J E T S has added several decades of back articles onto their website, so be sure to check it out...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mailing Corinth

When we open the Corinthians’ mail, we find ourselves confronted immediately by some remarkable claims about God’s designs for the community of people to whom Paul writes. The opening sentence of the letter declares… that theCorinthians are a community specially summoned by God for service… This does not mean that the Corinthians have some special vocation that sets them apart from other Christians; rather, they – along with all other Christians – are set apart from a confused and perishing world, marked by God as God’s people. Paul regards all the members of all his churches as “the saints…” Thus, he and his readers are caught up in a cosmic drama, and they must play a distinctive role in God’s actions to rescue the world.

[1] R. Hays, First Corinthians (John Knox, 1996), pg. 15

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All's Fair in _____

Kim's Ten Propositions on War and Peace strike a chord deep within me, as I struggle with the whole issue. I'm glad that he referred to Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament which says:
“This is the point at which one of the methodological guidelines proposed in Part III must come into play: the New Testament’s witness is finally normative. If irreconcilable tensions exist between the moral vision of the New Testament and that of particular Old Testament texts, the New Testament vision trumps the Old Testament. Just as the New Testament texts render judgments superseding the Old Testament requirements of circumcision and dietary laws, just as the New Testament’s forbidding of divorce supersedes the Old Testament’s permission of it, so also Jesus’ explicit teaching and example of nonviolence reshapes our understanding of God and of the covenant community in such a way that killing enemies is no longer a justifiable option. The sixth antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount marks the hermeneutical watershed. As we have noted, the Old Testament distinguishes the obligation of loving the neighbor (that is, the fellow Israelite) from the response to enemies: [B]ut I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Once that word has been spoken to us and perfectly embodied in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we cannot appeal back to Samuel as a counterexample to Jesus. Everything is changed by the cross and resurrection. We now live in a situation in which we confess that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ (2 Cor. 5:19). Those who have been entrusted with such a message will read the Old Testament in such a way that its portrayals of God’s mercy and eschatological restoration of the world will take precedence over its stories of justified violence (pp. 336 & 7).”
I find this astoundingly true, and yet so hard to fully embrace, yet "what he says seems so right, it sticks with me" [echoes of Fort Minor, for those with ears to hear...]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Apostolic Authority?

What is apostolic authority, and how did it function among early Christians? The reason for this complex question is more than just mere curiosity.
In James, those who are sick are instructed to call the elders of the church for prayer and anointing (Jas 5:14). This instruction assumes the appointment of elders, but it says nothing else about their duties or position beyond this basic description of their pastoral care for the sick. James discourages the ambition to be a teacher on the grounds that teachers will be judged with greater strictness (Jas 3:1).
But who is James to a) write this letter to a group of churches, and b) why should these communities listen to him? Did these communities have to obey? What were the boundaries of their relationship? I realise this is almost impossible to answer due to the limited evidence, so if there is someone brave enough out there who can attempt to answer this from Paul, I'd be very interested in your response.
Does anybody know of any research on apostolic authority and how it functioned amongst early Christianity? I'm not looking for a study of elders and deacons, but rather apostolic authority. For example, what gave Paul the right to write to the Colossians [assuming that Paul wrote that letter]? Paul had not planted the church in Colossae, yet still felt compelled and able to write to them and instruct them in the faith. What would of happened if they refused? The same question can easily be applied to the Corinthian situation. What if those in Corinth said "NO" to Paul. Would they have been expelled from the wider Christian community? Would the elders have been replaced [assuming there were elders at Corinth]?
To make it even easier, are there any studies on "being an apsotle"? I know of C. K. Barrett's classic study: The Signs of an Apostle. But are there others? Any that you have read and found helpful? Perhaps a PhD for/from some poor soul?
Thanks for any help...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baptism in James?

Jas 2:7 provides us with an interesting piece to the perplexing puzzle of devotion to Jesus in James. The referents of James 2:7 are rigorously disputed among various scholars. What was that “beautiful/excellent name”? To whom did this name belong? What did it mean or entail to take on this name? James suggests that this ‘beautiful name’ was ‘invoked over’ them. What does that mean? To what event, if any, does it refer? Did it mean to take on the name ‘Christian’? Or did it refer to the cultic event within the life of countless believers, i.e., the baptismal rite? In his section on “Judean Jewish Christianity” Larry Hurtado suggests that Jas. 2:7 is an “allusion to the ritual use of Jesus’ name in baptism.”[1] Ropes and Moo, as well as others, remain sceptical as to whether this refers to a baptismal rite.[2] I shall, however, suggest that the data does not suggest an agnostic position and although one cannot be certain, plausible judgements may still be administered. The purpose of this discussion is to investigate Hurtado’s claim that this is an allusion to baptism in the epistle of James with reference to those whom he writes. These are all complex and interrelated issues to which we now turn.

ουκ αυτοι βλασφημουσιν το καλον ονομα το επικληθεν εφ υμας Is it not they who blaspheme the beautiful name that was invoked over you?

The Context

The context of our section provides few clues as to the practical referent. Thus we must ask, what is the rhetorical benefit of James’ question and how does it add to his argument? What images or stories does it evoke in the minds of those to whom James is writing? Is there a narrative sub-structure into which our piece of the puzzle will slot and therefore unlock the answer to our search? Once this is recognized, we may be in a better position to investigate the plausibility of this as a baptismal referent. The section begins in 2:1 with an acclamation that the Lord Jesus Christ is glorious. In vs. 5 James notes that the poor are chosen to inherit the kingdom.[3] Vs. 9 describes the command to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” as a royal law. Sandwiched between these two elements is our verse in question. Royal law and kingdom almost certainly provide the appropriate context to refer to Jesus. Furthermore, since James has already suggested that he is a slave of both God and the LORD Jesus Christ, and he has just referred to Jesus as “our Glorious LORD Jesus Christ” (2:1) we may be confident that James has Jesus in view here.[4]

Jews took very serious the charge of blasphemy (cf. Lev 24:15-16). It was because of Jesus’ supposed blasphemy that the ruling elite had him handed over to the Romans. Jews were prepared to fight and die for the honour of God’s name. God’s name was sacred and any attempt to defame it was met with serious resistance.

Blasphemy is an attempt to injure a man by gravely malignant speech; against God, it is the sin of attempting to bring him into dishonour by such speech.[5]

Thus, if James suggests that this name could be blasphemed, this implicitly suggests a serious reverence for whoever this refers to from James. We may assume this applies to the community as well, for James offers no defence of this position, but merely notes it. Moo notes that,

Because James supplies so little information, we can only speculate about the exact situation here. It may have been Gentiles profanely mocking the God whom believers claimed to worship. It may have been Jews criticizing Christian claims about Jesus. Or, more generally, it may have involved unbelievers making fun of Christian morality and worship practices.[6]

We may not have enough information to describe the exact situation to which James refers, but we must endeavour to understand the boundaries of what James may be referring to. What name could Jews and Christians revere so much? What did this reverence for a name suggest about their allegiance and commitment to the one named? The fact that James uses such a strong word (blasfhmew) suggests that whoever is being referred to is the recipient of a generous amount of cultic allegiance.

But who is the referent of this ‘beautiful name’? Martin notes that the name is either that of Jesus or “the Christian’s own title to faith.”[7] Adamson suggests that it refers to the name “Christians” (See Acts 11:26; 13:45; 18:6; 26:11, 28; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 Tim 1:13; 1 Pet 4:14, 16).[8] If Luke is correct in suggesting that the title ‘Christian’ was conceived at Antioch, then it seems unlikely that that is what James has in view here.[9] There is no reason to suggest that this title was in use within the communities to which James writes, so we can but speculate.

We should also pay careful attention to what James has written. Our verse refers to a single past tense event where the beautiful name was invoked over them. This suggests that the name is not currently being invoked over them, since they have already given themselves to this name. This makes the reference to “Christians” unlikely, as this would be a continuous name used to designate believers. Given the context of this pericope, as noted above, it seems more likely to refer to the actual name of Jesus, than to title the ‘Christians’. It becomes, therefore, important to appreciate the use of ejpiklhqe;n, as used when “someone’s name is called over someone to designate the latter as the property of the former.”[10] Davids notes that,

The phrase “to call a name upon one” is a septuagintalism, indicating possession or relationship, particularly relationship to God (Amos 9:12; Dt. 28:10; 2 Chron 7:14; Is 43:7; Jer 14:9; Pss. Sol. 19:18).[11]

Historical Options

Where was this name invoked over them? What options does early Christianity provide us with? Could we postulate a worship setting where the name of Jesus is invocated over believers? But then would this be a continuous element of worship gatherings or a single event? When pagans[12] converted, was the name of Jesus invoked over them? What evidence is there for this claim? The natural response to this is that the new believer would invoke the name of Jesus, not over them [as we have here in James] but they would just invoke it, requesting salvation. This at least is the Lukan and Pauline paradigm that we have from early Christianity.

So the one option, when discussing James, that springs to mind, is that of baptism. There are many examples of the name of Jesus being invoked at baptism (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48). Hurtado observes that,

The widespread acceptance of baptism in Christian circles as the defining initiation rite, and involving the ritual use of Jesus’ name as a constituent feature, is best accounted for by positing its origin among early, respected and influential circles of believers, among whom the Jerusalem church held unrivalled status.[13]

Based on this, and the notion that we have no other event that calls for such an invocation, we may plausibly suggest that Vs. 7 appears as a reference to the baptism rite that followers undergo to express their allegiance to Jesus the King. This verse then indicates that the name of Jesus was a particularly sacred name that was to be revered and not misused. Those to whom James is writing take offence from anyone misusing the name of Jesus, since that was the name of the one to whom they belonged, and to whom they gave their allegiance as the Glorious Lord Jesus Christ (Jas. 2:1).

this blog is a work in process :: thoughts expressed are not necessarily final judgements... Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? All Welcome...

[1] Hurdato, L. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003), pg. 202. Various other scholars have taken the same position. See P. H. Davids, The Epistle of James (Eerdmans, 1982), pg. 113-114; S. Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James (A & C Black, 1980), pg. 105; L. T. Johnson, The Letter of James (Doubleday, 1995), pg. 226; and P. J. Hartin, James and the ‘Q’ Sayings of Jesus (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), pg. 92 .

[2] Moo, The Letter of James, pg. 109; J. H. Ropes, St. James (T & T Clark, 1961) pg. 197

[3] The Kingdom of God is the central message of Jesus, but it was not an ubiquitous concept in Judaism thus making its appearance here more likely due to Jesus than anything else.

[4] Davids, The Epistle of James, pg. 113 writes “‘The good name called upon you’ is certainly the name of Jesus.”

[5] Adamson, J. The Epistle of James (Eerdmans, 1976), pg. 112

[6] Moo, D. The Letter of James (Eerdmans, 2000), pg. 109

[7] Martin, R. P. James (Word, 1988), pg. 67

[8] Adamson, The Epistle of James, pg. 112-13

[9] Contra Adamson, The Epistle of James, pg. 112

[10] Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Frederick W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979, [Online] Available: Logos Library System. See 2 Sam 6:2; 1 Kings 8:43; Jer 7:30; 14:9; Am 9:12; 2 Ch 7:14 and Ac 15:17.

[11] Davids, The Epistle of James, pg. 113

[12] Like L. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship (Paternoster, 1999), pg. 4 the word ‘pagan’ is employed to designate those that do not belong to Judaism or Christianity. It is not meant in a pejorative sense.

[13] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 203

Friday, September 22, 2006


Well, I'm going on holiday from now until the 1st of Oct. It'll be a great time to catch up on some necessary reading, planning my BIG DAY, and just chilling out in the surf.

I have much work to do on James and am enjoying applying Hurtado's grid to this letter. Whether or not it will yield fresh insights or merely suggest that James' vision of devotion to Jesus is akin to Paul's, is another question which only time [and critical evaluation by peers] will tell.

So to those still slogging away, give it your best but don't over do it. You may love work as much as you like, but it will never love you back. So don't forsake your family or friends.

I'm off to the beach, it's a sunny day, no cloud in the sky and it appears the Almighty has provided a stunning set coming through with a slight off-shore wind.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quote of the Day

There where other kingdoms. There was the kingdom of Herod, the kingdom of Caesar. Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God is what life on earth would be like if God were king, and those other guys weren’t.”[1]

[1] Marcus Borg, from NBC Dateline and Jesus with Borg, Crossan, Evans and more...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul University:
"The Kingdom of God is picking the one term that will make the Romans listen. They considered themselves the Kingdom of God. Theirs was the power and the glory, 25 legions or so, too. When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he is saying as clearly as is possible in the 1st Century, ‘In your face, Caesar.’"
From the interesting NBC Dateline and Jesus with Borg, Crossan, Evans and more...

Wright article

It's a neat snippet from his celebrated intro to Christianity: Simply Christian. I read it a while back and absolutely loved it. Very helpful, concise and clear. A great resource for those "Just looking." James W. Sire reviews Simply Christian in his article: Echoes and Voices From Beyond.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

OT in the NT

Anyone read Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament? The usual heavey hitters are all there, Porter, Evans, Köstenberger and more. I'm not just interested in it because of the article by Kurt Anders Richardson, on Job as Exemplar in the Epistle of James. I'm very interested in the whole subject, especially with regards to the Gospels and Acts.
Thoughts, comments, criticisms?
Let them be known now, before I take the plunge...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Devotion to Jesus in James

Larry Hurtado has done a tremendous amount of ground-breaking research into devotion directed towards Jesus of Nazareth.[1] Hurtado defines ‘devotion’ as: “beliefs and related religious actions that constituted the expressions of religious reverence of early Christians.”[2]
Exclusivist monotheism is the crucial religious context in which to view Christ-devotion in early Christianity, and was a major force shaping what Christ-devotion looked like, but monotheism hardly explains why devotion to Jesus emerged. What was the impetus? There are really two questions involved. (1) Why was there such a focus on, and thematizing of, this particular figure, Jesus? (2) Why did Christ-devotion assume the proportions it did in early Christianity, i.e., amounting to a new binitarian devotional pattern unprecedented in Jewish monotheism?[3]
At an astonishingly early point, in at least some Christian groups, there is a clear and programmatic inclusion of Jesus in their devotional life, both in honorific claims and in devotional practices. In addition, Jesus functioned in their ethical ideals and demands, in both interpersonal and wider social spheres.[4]
Based on this, I wish to suggest that the scattered Jewish-Christian communities, to which James writes, represents communities that were devoted to Jesus. More so, I wish to suggest that James is an exhortation to Jewish-Christians to intensify their devotion to Jesus by embracing and implementing the teachings of Jesus, which James viewed as authoritative for communal praxis and thus honouring to God.
Although having surveyed the epistle of James in an article on “Christology” in the Dictionary of Later New Testament and its Developments, Hurtado has not [to my knowledge] applied his insights to the letter of James regarding early Christian devotion to Jesus. This appears to be a depressing lacuna in Hurtado’s research, since I hope to show that James is an important piece of evidence when studying devotion to Jesus in early Christianity.[5] Hurtado lists six specific practices that constitute a novel and remarkable pattern of devotion to Jesus that is seen across the spectrum of our earliest sources.
    1. Hymns about Jesus sung as part of early Christian worship;
    2. Prayer to God “through” Jesus and “in Jesus’ name,” and even direct prayer to Jesus himself, including particularly the invocation of Jesus in the corporate worship setting;
    3. “Calling upon the name of Jesus,” particularly in Christian baptism and in healing and exorcism;
    4. The Christian common meal enacted as a sacred meal where the risen Jesus presides as “Lord” of the gathered community;
    5. The practice of ritually “confessing” Jesus in the context of Christian worship; and
    6. Christian prophecy as oracles of the risen Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of prophecy understood as also the Spirit of Jesus.[6]

In future posts, I'd like to explore some of these facets in James. What do you think?

[1] Studies devoted to this topic by Hurtado include, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003); How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (Eerdmans, 2005); One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Judaism (Fortress, 1988) and At the Origins of Christian Worship: The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion (Paternoster, 1999)

[2] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 3

[3] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 53

[4] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 4. Italics original.

[5] I find it annoying that James is so often neglected in NT research. Many books claiming to be thematically based on the writings of the NT, flatly ignore James. In a book devoted to the ethics of the NT, Richard Hays [The Moral Vision of the New Testament] offers a mere four references to James! Hurtado’s magisterial study offers a mere three references to James, and fails to interact significantly with this important document. Could this be evidence that Luther has infected modern scholarship to such a degree that many simply ignore James as a second-rate document?

[6] Hurtado, How on Earth did Jesus Become a God?, pg. 28. See also Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship, pg. 74-94

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fee on Christology

Apparently Gordon Fee is about to publish a massive study on Pauline Christology. Here are a couple of lectures devoted to that topic by Prof. Fee.

An exhaustive study of Pauline Christology by noted Pauline scholar, Gordon Fee. The author provides a detailed analysis of the letters of Paul (including those whose authorship is questioned) individually, exploring the Christology of each one, and then attempts a synthesis of the exegetical work into a biblical Christology of Paul.

The author’s synthesis covers the following themes: Christ’s roles as divine Savior and as preexistent and incarnate Savior; Jesus as the Second Adam, the Jewish Messiah, and Son of God; and as the Messiah and exalted Lord. Fee also explores the relationship between Christ and the Spirit and considers the Person and role of the Spirit in Paul’s thought. Appendices cover the theme of Christ and Personified Wisdom, and Paul’s use of Kurios (Lord) in citations and echoes of the Septuagint.

“Anyone who has read even a smattering of Paul’s writings recognizes early on that his devotion to Christ was the foremost reality and passion of his life. What he said in one of his later letters serves as a kind of motto for his entire Christian life: ‘For me to live is Christ; to die is [to] gain [Christ]’ (Phil. 1:21). Christ is the beginning and goal of everything for Paul, and thus is the single great reality along the way.”—From the Introduction.
Ryan Lectures Dr. Gordon Fee, Professor of NT Studies, Regent College “Toward a 'High' Christology in Paul” listen/download

Ryan Lectures Dr. Gordon Fee, Professor of NT Studies, Regent College “Paul and 'Son of God' Christology” listen/download

Ryan Lectures Dr. Gordon Fee, Professor of NT Studies, Regent College “The Origins of Pauline Christology” listen/download

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Converting James

John Painter has challenged the tide of scholarship on the historical James, suggesting a new hypothesis to explain the extant evidence that we have. Painter calls for a re-evaluation of three widely held positions: [1]

  1. James and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus were not believers during Jesus ministry.
  2. James became a believer through a resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.
  3. A transition from Peter’s leadership to that of James was necessitated by Peter’s forced flight from Jerusalem

The last of these three is, at this point of the discussion, unimportant. What I wish to respond to is Painter’s claim that James was a follower of Jesus pre-crucifixion. That means that the first two positions are related and should be dealt with together.

Was Jesus' mother and brothers were among his retinue during the Galilean ministry (John 2:12; 7:3-5; Mark 3:21 // Matt 12:46 // Luke 8:19) ? Painter argues that the Gospels’ treatments of Jesus family must be read against the Gospel writers editorial tendencies.[2] In both Mark and John, the brothers of Jesus “are portrayed as ‘fallible followers’ rather than as outright unbelievers.”[3] Painter notes:

The overall effect of John 2:1-11, 12, is to lead the reader to the conclusion that the mother and brothers of Jesus were among his intimate supporters. This impression is not altogether undone by John 7:3-5, in which the narrator informs the readers that they did not believe in him at this stage. Yet, the impression that his brothers were followers is confirmed by the presences with Jesus.[4]

Painters conjecture seems unwarranted for several reasons. Firstly, in the absence of positive evidence suggesting James [not just the brothers in general] was in fact a disciple of Jesus [pre-crucifixion], all that Painter’s argument can do is cast doubt as to when James converted.

Secondly, there appears to be several strands of data that lead us to conclude that James was not in fact a disciple of Jesus. From the traditions in Mark, through Matthew and Luke to John, the evidence for James as a disciple is particularly scant and flimsy. The internal evidence from John’s gospel is insufficient to warrant Painter’s conclusion. This is especially evident from the fact that a presence with Jesus does not automatically entail that presence being a disciple. Many people were with Jesus at various stages of his ministry. Not all of them were disciples, and to suggest that just because one was with Jesus made them a disciple, is to go beyond what evidence we have.

The least we can conclude is that according to John 2, Jesus’ brothers [does this have to include all his brothers or just a couple?] may have, at one point early in his ministry, been followers. But by John 7 they have abandoned the way [cf. James 5:19-20, where James could be highlighting wisdom from his own experience though this remains speculative]. Mark 3:21 & 6 suggests that the brothers of Jesus took offence at his ministry. Witherington notes:

Thus, as minimum, we must conclude that mark in vv. 20-21 is presenting the unflattering picture of Jesus being misunderstood by his own family. They either thought he was unbalanced or, at least, not in control of the situation he was precipitating. If the latter, then they may be trying to protect Jesus rather than remove him from the public scene because of the shame and controversy he was bringing on his family. Yet the verb, which occurs again in 6:17 and 12:12, is a strong on and refers in those texts to attempts to arrest Jesus. Here it must mean at least that they have come to restrain Jesus, a forceful action… Seen from the perspective of honour and shame conventions, it is possible to see the action of the family as an attempt to protect their own family honour rather than protect Jesus in particular. They did not want him to disgrace the family.[5]
Witherington’s argument is historically more probable and plausible than the one reference from John. Thus, this explains why Jesus’ brothers felt it necessary to be close to Jesus. They felt the need to protect the honour of their family, and thus restrain their deviant older brother.
[1] John Painter, Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Fortress Press, 1999), 13
[2] Ibid., 15.
[3] Ibid., 17.
[4] Ibid., 18
[5] Witherington, The Gospel of Mark, pg. 155. Witherington goes on to suggest “There may also be this further connection between the family passage and the passages about the scribes – the reference to a house divided against itself could in fact be taken as an allusion to Jesus’ own household.” Witherington further notes that “The door is left open for Jesus’ physical family to join the family of faith in 3:35, but Mark does not suggest that the family, even later, walked through that door.” Pg. 156

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Justification by Doubt

Ben Witherington has some good thinking in his post: Justification by Doubt. I wish I had read this ages ago. It reminds me also of a choice quote from William Baker in his article on Jacobean Christology where he writes:

“instead of treating the text as an accumulation of sterile facts and sifting through them to rational, theological conclusions, we should treat the text as we would a friend whom we love and respect. In doing so, we listen carefully to everything it wants to say before dissecting its terms… It means asking the text if our interpretation is an appropriate estimate of its words because we love our friend so much we don’t desire to knowingly misrepresent her... To read the text at distance, or with so-called healthy, academic scepticism without also reading it as a message from a caring friend is to misread it and truncate our theological calling.”

Baker, W. R. “Christology in the Epistle of James” EQ 74:1 (2002) 47-57, pg. 49

So often, if one does not embrace a hermeneutic of suspicion, one is summarily disqualified as an able exegete or historian of early Christianity. Well, such was my experience at Auckland University. Is there any way to reverse this tide of destructive deconstruction? Does faith provide an air of optimism regarding study of ancient texts?
Think on these things...

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Nemesis Repents...

I've finally convinced my Nemesis to join me on this blog. His own blog Hermeneutica has proved helpful to many and I'm hoping that Eddie will share some of his more technical insights here. I fear this may be prohibited by the fact that Eddie has just become a father, which is just so exciting. But hopefully he'll find time amidst the studies, nappies and duties as a faithful husband to share some of his thoughts and get us thinking...
The aim of this blog is multi-valent, but mainly it is devoted to biblical studies and historical research into the origins of Christianity. While I'm working in the field of Jacobean studies [James], Eddie is working on various other things and so I hope and pray that these will be both intellectually and spiritually stimulating.
So enjoy...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Christology of James

The problem before us is clear. Granted that James was a 1st century Jewish writers, we may assume his familiarity with title LORD as a strict referent to YHWH. However, in this Jewish letter James explicitly identifies the referent of LORD as Jesus. This leads us to the perplexing question at hand: Is there a single instance in James, where LORD is explicitly used of YHWH and it clearly and explicitly cannot refer to Jesus? The reason for this question is clear: Having identified Jesus unambiguously as LORD in two explicitly clear passages, shouldn’t our hermeneutical strategy be to assume that every other reference of LORD is still to Jesus, unless it is exegetically implausible?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bauckham on James

Richard Bauckham - James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage (Routledge, 1999). This I read in conjunction with his essay "The Spirit of God in Us Loathes Envy: James 4:5" in The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins: Essays in Honour of J. D. G. Dunn (ed.) G. Stanton, B. W. Longenecker, S. C. Barton (Eerdmans, 2004). In this latter essay, Bauckham technically advances the case that James 4:5 be translated: The Spirit of God in Us Loathes Envy (the very title of his essay). Bauckham suggests that:

"The quotation in 4:5 provides the scriptural basis for this by pointing out God's enmity twoards envy. This contextual consideration makes it much more likely that, if this proposal for translation is correct, then refers to the divine Spirit rather than the human spirit. A reference to the human spirit here would be an unnecessaryily indirect way of pointing out God's own opposition to envy...

Understanding James as deploying here a wisdom pneumatology () fits very well with our proposed understanding of the quotation in 4:5. Both the wisdom from above of 3:13-18 and the Spirit of 4:5 are opposed to envy." [pg. 278]

Bauckham's book on James is not for the novice. It has loads of excellent historical analysis and probes various historical issues. But I've got to wonder if this book was just written for scholars. Yes, he does have a superb section the contemporary application of James in the final chapter. Yes, he does have an excellent introduction. But other than that, and his section on James in canonical perspective, this book is exegetically thin. [Not something I was expecting, but maybe that's my problem?]
Bauckham's outline is helpful and his analysis of ancient wisdom compared with James is also insightful. I would have liked to see Bauckham develop his Christological Monotheism and the Identity of God in James' letter more. The conflation of LORD, a title reserved for YHWH, used for Jesus as well as GOD needs to be thrashed out by Bauckham's tinker.
Overall, Bauckham is a fantastic scholar and there are tons of useful insights. Maybe not as helpful for the preacher as for the scholar, but still well worth the effort. And the fact that Bauckham keeps up to date with theologians is astounding.
Make sure you check this out...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Another Article Update

Whoops, I forgot to mention these:
STEPHEN J. BEDARD: Paul and the Historical Jesus: A Case Study in First Corinthians
James Darlack: Resources on James I'm slowly realising the value of this collection by our blogosphere's resident Jacobean expert. Check it out, and savour what's available.
Off to write a message on Devotion to Jesus in James...
If it's any good I may even post it!

Articles update...

The Journal of Philosophy and Scripture has a new set of articles available:

Spring 2006 Volume 3, Issue 2

Lieven Boeve Catholic University of Leuven Negative Theology and Theological Hermeneutics [PDF]

David Alstad Tiessen Wycliffe College, University of Toronto Textuality, Undecidability, and the Story of Jesus [PDF]

James Wetzel Villanova University The Shrewdness of Abraham [PDF]

One should also pay careful attention to Rob Bradshaw's blog. Rob is unleashing some serious articles that many will not be able to find anywhere, except online now, due to Rob's efforts. I make mention again of the excellent article: Rev. George B. Caird, Jesus and the Jewish Nation. The Ethel M. Wood lecture delivered before the University of London on 9 March 1965. London: The Athlone Press, 1965. Pbk. pp.22. and C.H. Dodd, "The Framework of the Gospel Narrative," Expository Times 43 (1932): 396-400.
Lastly, Bird, Michael F. "The Formation of the Gospels in the Setting of Early Christianity: the Jesus Tradition as Corporate Memory," Westminster Theological Journal 67.1 (2005): 113-94, has been made available on Apollos.
Happy Reading...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Off the Back of a Bird

Thinking about Bird’s recent comments:

The problem is, and I think Kloppenborg and Allison are trying to address it in their own way, to account for the fact that we have a very Jewish letter here, obviously written by a Christian, but it has so little explicitly Christian content. Is that because the author simply drew on a synagogue sermon and made a few cosmetic Christian changes (Dibelius), because it was written largely to non-Christian Jews (McNeil, Kloppenborg, Allison), or because the author drew on the traditions most familiar to him (Jewish Wisdom, Jesus Tradition, or perhaps even Stoicism [?]) in order to offer exhortation and spiritual discipline to a group of Jewish-Christians located somewhere in rural Syria? As the flurry of commentaries by Allison, Kloppenborg, Painter, and McKnight come out we can look forward to seeing how they answer such a question.

Several thoughts bombard my mind as one reads this. Firstly, is James anymore or less Jewish than the rest of the NT? Can we plausibly offer a distinction between Judaism and Christianity when James writes? Yes, there is the distinction that the Lordship of Jesus offers, but what else? The first Christian writers were all thoroughly Jewish, except for perhaps Luke (who was probably well educated in Judaism/LXX!). Is James the shock to the system that reminds NT scholars that they are dealing with 2nd Temple Jewish documents?
Johnson argues that “James’ Christianity is neither Pauline nor anti-Pauline but another version altogether.” Since I am inclined towards this view, why must James be either Christian (Pauline?) or Jewish? Should we expect anything less than what James is, if it was written to Jewish Christians? Graham Stanton writes: “once one accepts that Jesus traditions have been used at James 2:8 and at James 5:12, it becomes more likely that the writer has drawn on Jesus traditions elsewhere.” If this is accurate, then we are experiencing the conversion of James. Someone who was a thorough 1st century Jew, has now encountered the Messiah, the LORD JESUS, and this writing represents part of the ‘first-fruits’ of reflection on what that means. Thus, it appears McNeil, Kloppenborg, Allison have embarked on a journey which leads to a dead end.
Glad to see the Bird moving beyond Paul and Jesus into the rest of the NT. Some good thinking going on in his response to the Kloppenborg.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Book Meme

1. One book that changed your life: Jesus and the Victory of God: Wright
2. One book that you’ve read more than once: God Crucified (Bauckham)
3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Davies & Allison on the Gospel of Matt
4. One book that made you laugh: On Seeing and Noticing: Alain De Botton
5. One book that made you cry: The God of Jesus: Patterson
6. One book that you wish had been written: Any Jewish Christian writing back to the author of any of the canonical gospels
7. One book that you wish had never been written: Contagious Holiness: Blomberg
8. One book you’re currently reading: Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Johnson
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Drama of Doctrine: Vanhoozer [I just can’t seem to find time to finish it!]
10. One last book that you love: The Moral Vision of the NT: Hays

Who does “LORD” refer to in James?

William Baker EQ 74:1 (2002) 47-57 take issue with Hurtado's claims, posted above, about a few references of LORD. Does it refer to Jesus or GOD? By what criteria shall we measure this? Is the ambiguity intentional?

Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." Jas. 4:15 – Does this refer to Jesus or the Father?
As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Jas. 5:10 – This appears to be more of a reference to YHWH or the Father than Jesus, so what reason could Hurtado have for thinking this refers to CHRIST? I was surprised to see that Hurtado fails to deal with James in his tome: LORD JESUS CHRIST, since that is the opening verse in James! Scant attention is paid to the allegiance/devotion to Jesus represented in this letter. Maybe a lacuna for some other soul to fill? The constant neglect of James in my various readings provokes odd theological thoughts... More on those, perhaps later.
In Jas. 5:7, 8, 14, 15 – LORD = Jesus.

In Jas. 1:7; 3:9; 4:10; 5:4 – LORD = Father.
Jesus is clearly referred to as LORD in six of the 15 uses of LORD in James. So what kind of Christology does James have? It seems impatient to suggest that James has a low Christology, given that the title LORD is used. I can concur that James does not develop a Christology, but to suggest that his Christology is some how inferior to Paul is premature.
Does James has a Christology similar to that of the Sphinx in Gone in 60 Seconds?
If his premature demise has, in some way, enlightened the rest of you as to the grim finish below the glossy veneer of criminal [sinful?] life, and inspired you to change your ways, then his death carries with it an inherent nobility. And a supreme glory. We should all be so fortunate.
While not specifically referring to the death of Jesus, does James' Christology function in the same way? As a moral exhortation to the communities that pledge allegiance to this king?
I'll pause for reflection and comments before launching further...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Jesus and the Jewish Nation

Quite frankly this is STILL one of the best articles I have ever read. Inspiring, incisive and prophetic. This should be required reading for anyone and everyone engaged in historical Jesus research. Thanks much to Rob Bradshaw's efforts! Pass this on, and read it! Read it! Read it!

Christology of James - Hurtado

The Epistle of James is mainly concerned with exhortation about right behaviour; its Christology is implicit and largely a reflection of what the author and first readers held as traditional. Whatever one’s view of the question of authorship, the attribution of the document to James the brother of Jesus, the description of the addressees as “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (Jas 1:1) and other factors, including the strongly eschatological outlook (e.g., Jas 5:1–9), combine to give the document a Jewish Christian flavour. It is therefore interesting to note what the author and readers (who either were Jewish Christians or revered Jewish Christian traditions) must have regarded as traditional and uncontroversial Christology.

Jesus bears the titles Christ and Lord (kyrios) in formulaic expressions (Jas 1:1; 2:1). Indeed in James 2:1 we have mention of “the glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (tou kyriou hemon Iesou Christou tes doxes), giving a particularly sonorous and honorific expression. In several other cases Jesus is probably intended in references to “the Lord.” This holds for James 4:15, for example, where the will of “the Lord” is to govern Christian decisions. In James 5:7–11 it is also probable that Jesus is the “Lord” whose coming is awaited (Jas 5:7–8) and the judge standing at the door (Jas 5:9), in whose name the OT prophets spoke (Jas 5:10) and whose mercy and compassion are applauded (Jas 5:11). In all these cases it is noteworthy that Jesus is referred to in roles associated with God in the OT.

Jesus is likewise probably the “Lord” in whose name the sick are to be anointed and who will raise the sick and forgive their sins (Jas 5:13–15). There is probably a reference to Jesus’ name in James 2:7 as “invoked [in baptism?] over you” and blasphemed by opponents. This emphasis upon the sacred significance of Jesus’ name accords with references in Acts 1–11 and other evidence of Jewish Christian attitudes.

In addition many commentators have noted that this epistle is full of allusions to sayings of Jesus preserved in the Synoptic Gospels. This indicates both a familiarity with the Jesus tradition and a practical acceptance of Jesus’ authority as Lord of Christian behaviour. We may say that James emphasizes the practical and ethical consequences of the christological convictions shared by the author and intended readers.[1]
[1] Larry Hurtado “Christology” in Martin, Ralph P.; Davids, Peter H. Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments (IVP, 2000)

Friday, July 14, 2006

St Andrews - Hebrews

St. Andrews is hosting an international conference on Hebrews and Theology. Many of the short papers are available online here. Key note speakers include R. Hays, M. Hooker and John Webster.

Convener of the conference is none other than Richard Bauckham, who recently penned: "Monotheism and Christology in Hebrews 1," in L. T. Stuckenbruck and W. E. S. North ed., Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism (JSNTSS 263; London/New York: Continuum [T. & T. Clark], 2004) 167-185.
For all you Hebrews students, check it out...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Outrageous Questions

Many of the books that I have read [Johnson, Davids, et. al.] refer to the possibility of James having the same provenance as the infamous "Q" source [P.J. Hartin James and the Q Sayings of Jesus (Sheffield: JSOT press, 1991), Martin, James, lxxvi]. Given the allusions and possible quotations that James has to Matt & Luke, what is the relationship between James and Q? I have only questions at this stage, and they are pretty outrageous questions!
    1. Did Q look like James in its structure and content? [Will Kloppenberg's forthcoming commentary on James argue this?]
    2. Did James have access to Q when he wrote his letter? [Will Allison's forthcoming commentary argue this? As does P.J. Hartin James and the Q Sayings of Jesus (Sheffield: JSOT press, 1991)]
    3. Was James the collator/redactor of Q ? [a PhD idea for some poor soul?]
    4. Or worse [better?], did James author Q ? [Who's brave enough to suggest that?]

But, given the fact that I am a Q sceptic, like Mark Goodacre [See The Case Against Q], how do those who reject the existence of a documentary Q, explain the Jesus tradition in James?

    1. What is the relationship between Matt and James? [There's more likely a relationship between Matt/James then Luke/James, or did I miss something?]
    2. Was Matthew, James' scribe? Or vice versa?
    3. Or, if Martin [James, lxxvii] is right about the two stage production of James, did Matt edit James? [Martin proposes an Antiochene provenance based on Zimmermann's Die urchristlichen Lehrer (Mohr, 1984)]
    4. Is there space for James in the Synoptic Problem? (Did Matthew have access to James?) [According to the Blog Father, Michael Goulder actually proposed that James had access to Matt. But when do we date them then?]
    5. Could one postulate an early date for the gospel of Matthew, based on the early dating of James? [Who could propose this argument and actually get away with it? Bauckham? Hengel? Wenham?]
    6. Or do we just assume it's oral tradition and carry on as usual? [This appears to be the view of Brosend, James and Jude, pg. 11]
    7. What could be the possible criteria for postulating these theories? How would we judge them?

There seems to be a real hesitancy for scholars to engage these questions. So why not just expand your mind and let your presuppositions go, and imagine quite a few variant scenario's for the relationship between James and the Jesus traditions... Which one's are more plausible or probable than others? And why?

A future blog will hopefully catalogue the various sayings of Jesus compared with James. I'm trying to get my hands on Dean Deppe's study [The Sayings of Jesus in the Epistle of James], which most regard as very influential in this realm of Jacobean studies.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Political Theology?

James Darlack, the resident blogosphere's Jacobean expert, has an interesting post on James' Political Theology. In an article by Stuart Laidlaw on James' Theology, Laidlaw focusses on Barrie Wilson of York University:
. . . James was continuing with the teaching of his brother, emphasizing a more political form of religion that stressed the coming of a messiah to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel. . . . The theology of James, with its emphasis on political change as a way to address poverty and injustice, is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago, Wilson says.
Darlack then questions: Does care of widows and orphans, a disdain for economic favoritism and the denunciation of social injustice necessitate "political religion" or prophetic religion?
My question is simply: Why [and if so, how?] are these two mutually exclusive? Politics and religion are insepparable, and it was it not the burden of the prophets to influence/direct Jewish politics? Jesus was certainly a prophet, but he was also engaged in serious politics [hence Roman opposition]. Now, while I'm not convinced that either James or Jesus sought to overthrow the Romans and restore the Kingdom of Israel [unless one meant a non-violent overthrow through passive resistance], James may still be a political manifesto for those living under the royal law - the Torah of King Jesus.

Imaginary Conversation

Ben Myers has a delightful imagined conversation between Barth and Bultmann. I don't read novels, but if there were more written like this, that so succinctly explicated theology, I would surely start this journey into imagination.
[For those with ears to hear, I side with Brian Smith (a closet ........)]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stuff On James

There are few resources available on James, that have not already been mentioned by James Darlack's blog: But these are a few that may be missing from his list...

Douglas Moo reviews William R. Baker's book: Personal Speech-Ethics in the Epistle of James. Moo is concerned about the exegetical intergration of background material and the exegesis of James provided by Baker. Although Moo has a helpful comment to make about Dissertations, I fear he is being too critical at this juncture. Many I have spoken to thoroughly recommend this work But unfortunately it is FAR too expensive [Do a search on Amazon UK or USA] and no library around here has a copy, so we shall have to delete that from the reading list.
I'm also trying to get my hands on: Joel Marcus, “The Evil Inclination in the Epistle of James,” CBQ 44 (1982). 606–21. If anyone has a digital copy or knows a site that has it, I would be rather happy to get my paws on it... Ebsco only goes back to 1990 with CBQ and our library is missing that specific volume... :(

Other than that, its back to the drawing board: thinking outrageous thoughts on James and Political Theology...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Old Resources - New!

James Darlack lists some old resources on James that have been made available. I hear that Manton's exposition, while more devotional, is still very good. Be sure to check these out...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Secret Mark

I suggested to Rob Bradshaw a while ago that he should get G. B. Caird's lecture: Jesus and the Jewish Nation and upload it. So he decided to try and get the whole series of Ethel M. Wood lectures, the first of which is linked below. It's great to see this happening, and the first of hopefully many to come is:

Prof. F.F. Bruce, The 'Secret' Gospel of Mark. The Ethel M. Wood lecture delivered before the University of London on 11 February 1974. London: The Athlone Press, 1974. Pbk. ISBN: 0485143186. pp.20.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Church on James

Hebrews-James by Edgar V. McKnight & Christopher Church [Smyth & Helwys commentary series.]
In his accompanying commentary on the Letter of James, New Testament scholar Christopher Church presents the letter as something of a biblical and historical fossil, a surviving representative of a once-flourishing Jewish Christianity. The Letter of James exposes a form of early Christianity distinct from the Pauline line that later predominated. In the picture that is created of this early Christian community, we find concerns over ethical responsibility and social justice that still serve to define Christian communities today.
The 30pg intro and comments on Jas. 1:1-27 are available for free download. You have to scroll down to pg 59 to get to the start of the James introduction. It looks to be rather useful, with colour charts and diagrams, with photo's. Check it out...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Philosophical Humour...

Monty Python's International Philosophy.
I certainly concur with Cynthia Nielson, this is FUNNY!
Unfortunately, many will not appreciate the humour represented. But at least some will identify with the losing team.... [I too cried when the Germans lost...]

Brosend on James

The New Cambridge Bible Commentary on James and Jude by William F. Brosend, II was recently released and Cambridge offers there usual free excerpt. The table of contents are also available as well as a sample chapter. The Blurb reads:
This is the first commentary to focus exclusively on the two letters written by the 'brothers of the Lord', James and Jude. Each letter is discussed on its own merits, and interpreted as having been written early in the life of the Church - it is posited that the letter of James may be one of the oldest Christian writings as well as an early witness to the teachings of Jesus. Particular attention is devoted to understanding the social worlds of James and Jude and to interpreting the significance of their message for our day. Of special interest is the focus on the 'ideological texture' of James, in particular on James' working out of the ethical implications of the teachings of Jesus on poverty and wealth.
This looks good and promises many homiletical as well as exegetical insights... Check it out...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Outline of James

1:1 - Greetings
1:2-27 Introductory Summary of Exhortations
1:2-4 - Face the testing of your faith with Joy and endurance
1:5-8 - Ask God for wisdom, in faith and without doubting
1:9-11 - Let the lowly believer rejoice in being raised up and the rich in being brought low
1:12-16 - Your are blessed if you endure testing – which comes not from God but from inner desires
1:17-18 - God is a generous and faithful giver, who through his word has made us the beginning of his new creation
1:19-21 - Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger
1:22-25 - Be doers of God’s word, and not merely hearers
1:26-27 - The nature of false and true religion
2:1-5:20 Twelve Extended Exhortations
2:1-13 - Favouritism conflicts with the law of love
2:14-26 - Faith without deeds is dead
3:1-12 - The threat and power of speech
3:13-18 - The nature of false and true wisdom
4:1-10 - A call to turn from friendship with the world to friendship with God
4:11-12 - Exhortation not to judge each other
4:13-17 - The arrogance of business people
5:1-6 - The oppression of landowners
5:7-11 - Endure patiently the testing of your faith, because the Lord’s coming is near
5:12 - Speak the plain truth
5:13-18 - Pray for the suffering, the sick, and all in need of forgiveness
5:19-20 - Take responsibility for mutual correction
James does have an overall aim: to move his readers towards ‘perfection’ (1:4; 3:2) through fulfilment of ‘the law of freedom’ (1:25; 2:8, 10, 12) and through the wisdom God gives (1:5; 3:17). But this does not entail persuading his readers through an argument pursued sequentially through the letter. It entails providing his readers with a compendium of wisdom instruction on a varied range of topics relevant to fulfilling the law, implementing the wisdom from above, and attaining perfection. In so far as James has a coherent vision of the way he and his readers should live, there will be thematic connections between his treatments of these various topics, but this kind of coherence of thought should not be confused with the notion of sequential development.[1] [1] Bauckham, James, pg. 67

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Commentaries on James

Parableman lists these as forthcoming commentaries on James. I'm mostly looking forward to Allison, McKnight and Witherington. Joel Green may surprise me, I hope but Kloppenborg probably won't.

Dale Allison (ICC) - it will be good to see how Allison handles the echoes of Jesus' teachings in James.

Bill Baker (Two Horizons NTC)

Daniel Doriani (REC)

Timothy George (BTCB)

Joel B. Green (NT Library)

John S. Kloppenborg (Hermenia) - how has James appropriated the 3rd strata of "Q"? Or is James the source of "Q"?

Dan G. McCartney (Bakers Exegetical CNT)

Scot McKnight (NICNT replacement) - What exegetical insights will McKnight bring to the table? A New Vision for Israel perhaps? (cf. Jas 1:1)

Ben Witherington (Letters and Homilies of the NT, fall 2007) - Sapiential Sage?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Shifting Focus - to Jacob/James

When Mike Bird posted his thoughts on being a Specialist of a Generalist, I didn't agree with him. I love the gospels, especially Matt and I prided myself on the fact that I did every single paper available at Uni on the gospels and Jesus. I did Romans and Galatians as fill in subjects, they were very good.
Then, Alan Bandy got me hooked on Revelation. I spent a whole summer vacation reading little else except Bauckham, Beale, Osbourne, Witherington and then Aune. I didn't finish it all - not even close. But I did learn that there was more to life than Gospels and Paul. Then I did a series on Colossians, which was kinda fun but it felt so familiar. I was back in a comfort zone. Now I've embarked on a journey with James - inspired by James Darlack's blog. It has been so fascinating and I'm beginning to think that Bauckham is on to something with his focus on NT letters outside the Pauline corpus.
For the next while this blog will focus all things Jacobean. As I learn, and think out loud, I invite others to email or post questions and comments that will engage with James and the scholarship that surrounds the Brother of Jesus, the friend of God [to borrow Johnson's title of this collection of studies].
So sit back, and enjoy the ride...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Dom Henry Wansbrough has lots of materials available. Check out his Booklets for some great teaching materials, including a new Introduction to Mark (Word Document), 2006. [HT: Mark Goodacre]
Thanks to those who are sending in their reflections on James. Again, the invitation is open to anyone. I've had such a splendid response so far, so thanks to all. And keep them coming!
For more info, see: An Invitation to James.

Friday, June 23, 2006

πιστις in Matt & James

Jason Hood has an excellent post on πιστις in Matt's Gospel. I concur heartily with his conclusions, and think that one should almost never distinguish to sharply between faith as belief and fidelity. This almost always seems to obscure the text.
As I write on James, I note that: "James uses the word [πιστις] to denote a trusting of God that produces a life of obedience towards God." Fidelity and Belief are two sides to the same coin, and should not be arbitrarily seperated. Yes, one can be observing one side of the coin, or the other. But they remain as close to each other as ever. Faith that is not faithful is like water that is not wet...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Colossian Hymn

Larry Hurtado briefly discusses the Colossian hymn/poem in his massive study: Lord Jesus Christ. Drawing on the work of Christian Stettler, Der Kolosserhymnus: Untersuchungen zu Form, traditionsgeschichtlichem Hintergrund und Aussage von Kol 1,15-20 WUNT 2/31 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) Hurtado comes to the following conclusions:
  • On account of the self-contained nature of the passage, its compact phrasing, and its cadences (more evident in the Greek than in translation), 1:15-20 is widely thought to be a devotional poem or “hymn.”[1]
  • Unity and coherence speak against adaptation of an existing hymn.
  • Probably originated in the context of Christian worship.
  • Conceptual categories most likely derived from Greek speaking Jewish circles [LXX].
  • Stettler characterizes this as a “Christ-Psalm” lauding Jesus in the cadences of the Psalter.

What is most interesting to note is the lack of attention paid to προτοτοκος. Hurtado does not even entertain the thought that the mutation/explosion among early Christians as to the worship of Jesus, may have gone astray from monotheism to an adoptionistic Christology [a thought entertained by Dunn in Christology in the Making?]. Unless προτοτοκος is adequately dealt with, this conclusion remains a distinct possibility. Col 1:15-20 must be carefully exegeted to see if this conclusion is warranted. Failing that, an analysis of devotion to Jesus within a monotheistic framework remains incomplete.

I hope to address προτοτοκος in an upcoming blog...
Your thoughts?

[1] Hurdato, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 505

Biblica Articles

Wim J.C. WEREN, «The Macrostructure of Matthew’s Gospel: A New Proposal» , Vol. 87(2006) 171-200. The weakness of the proposals concerning the macrostructure of Matthew’s Gospel made by Bacon and Kingsbury is that they depart from rigid caesuras, whilst a typical characteristic of the composition of this Gospel is the relatively smooth flow of the story. On the basis of the discovery that the various topographical data are clustered together by means of three refrains we can distinguish three patterns in the travels undertaken by Jesus. This rather coarse structure is further refined with the use of Matera’s and Carter’s distinction between kernels and satellites. Kernels are better labelled as “hinge texts”. The following pericopes belong to this category: 4,12-17; 11,2-30; 16,13-28; 21,1-17; 26,1-16. Each of them marks a turning point in the plot and has a double function: a hinge text is not only fleshed out in the subsequent pericopes but also refers to the preceding block. It is especially these “hinge texts” that underline the continuity of Matthew’s narrative and should prevent us from focussing too much on alleged caesuras.

Peter SPITALER, «Doubt or Dispute (Jude 9 and 22-23). Rereading a Special New Testament Meaning through the Lense of Internal Evidence» , Vol. 87(2006) 201-222. The middle/passive verb diakri/nomai occurs twice in Jude’s letter. It is usually rendered with the classical/Hellenistic meaning “dispute” in v. 9, and the special NT meaning “doubt” in v. 22. Beginning with a brief discussion of the methodological problems inherent in the special NT meaning approach to diakri/nomai, this article offers an interpretation of vv. 9 and 22 based on the letter’s internal evidence. The content of Jude’s letter permits diakri/nomai to be consistently translated with its classical/Hellenistic meaning, “dispute” or “contest”.

Robert L. MOWERY, «Paul and Caristanius at Pisidian Antioch» , Vol. 87(2006) 221-242. A recently-published Latin inscription from Pisidian Antioch refers to four benefactions that a prominent citizen named Caristanius had provided to fulfill a vow on behalf of the emperor Claudius. Since this inscription refers to the year 45/46 CE, it refers to benefactions that may have been provided near the time when Paul arrived in the city. After surveying the contents of this inscription and reviewing scholarly opinion concerning the date when Paul arrived, this paper reflects on the ethnic diversity of first century Pisidian Antioch, the religious beliefs reflected in Caristanius’ vow, the likely impact of his benefactions on the residents of the city, and the possibility that he may have been one of “the leading men of the city” mentioned in Acts 13,50.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Invitation to James

Earlier this month I issued An Invitation to James. Thank you to those that have responded and this is a little reminder that studies are due within the next 9 days...
Richard Bauckham on James arrived, so I'll be plundering my way through that soon! For those who don't know what's going on, we finally decided that we [PRIMAL, the church I lead] would work through The Epistle of James this winter [July/August for those in the Southern Hemisphere]. So I issued an open invitation to one and all to write a 1pg reflection on either James' life, teaching, epistle or anything else relating to James and his mission.
The target audience is a group of uni students. No Greek or Hebrew, unless you explain it. The guiding principle is J.I. Packers "Theology is for Doxology: That is, the praise of God and the practice of Godliness." You may email your reflections to me: primalhcc AT gmail DOT com... No attachments please, unless you arrange it with me first... This gives you some time to offer a thought or meditation on this enigmatic letter. Recognition will be given to each contributor, put a little precis of yourself at the bottom of your piece.
If you're keen, get writing and I may even post a few of them that are really good...

NT Theology?

My nemesis, Eddie, asks this absurd question: Is NT theology really just a series of Christian and Ecclesial footnotes to the Hebrew scriptures? I should think not. But then again, I'm a NT Geek, so I have to say that! But seriously now.
Can we really relegate the incarnation to a footnote? Can we relegate the Coming of God in his Spirit, poured out on all flesh, to a footnote? Can we relegate the unveiled identity of God in the trinity to a footnote?
While the Hebrew scriptures provide the [sufficient?] necessary (?) background for adequately understanding the meaning and message of the NT, it is by no means the crown of revelation. That belongs strictly to the NT in describing the impact of Jesus and the Spirit. I think Goldingay is providing an unnecessary reaction to the stark neglect of studying the Hebrew scriptures by NT scholars. Although the study of intertextuality has become more popular, there is still a need for NT Scholars to know and understand the entire Hebrew worldview and story so as to better understand the NT.
That's why I think it's vital that NT Scholars read good books on the Hebrew scriptures. Not necessarily massive tomes, though I hope to one day soon attempt to read Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament, but good solid books that aid our reading of the NT.