God is beautiful
“The most elementary statement of theological aesthetics is that God is beautiful: not only that God is beauty or the essence and archetype of beauty, nor even only that God is the highest beauty, but that ... God is beauty and also beautiful, whose radiance shines upon and is reflected in his creatures.... God’s beauty is delight and the object of delight, the shared gaze of love that belongs to the persons of the Trinity.... True beauty is not the idea of the beautiful, a static archetype in the ‘mind’ of God, but is an infinite ‘music,’ drama, art, completed in—but never ‘bounded’ by—the termless dynamism of the Trinity’s life.”
—David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 177.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I'm busy working on two major - very unrelated - projects. These will radically affect the lives of many of my students - and the second project will radically affect my life. So here's hoping and praying for God's grace. To keep you busy though, I found these two articles:The Healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman: Miracle or Magic? by Donald Howard Bromley (Trinity College, University of Bristol) 1-20 God-Fearers: Literary Foil or Historical Reality in the Book of Acts by J. Brian Tucker (Michigan Theological Seminary) 21-39Haven't had a chance to devour them yet, still plundering my way through four commentaries on Colossians [thanks for the help and emails!] and hope to blog on this soon. Prayers are always encouraged, especially given this. And I must steal this quote from Ben:
Monday, February 27, 2006
The issue is finding a language game that adequately summarises what the early Christians actually say.
And I would add, that this game should also explain what they were thinking, and what that now means for contemporary followers of Jesus. Otherwise, the job is only half done.  McKnight, Jesus and His Death, pg. 348
Friday, February 24, 2006
As I perceive the theological scene today, we have far too many who want to agree that in Jesus Christ, that is, in history, God has acted definitively for the salvation of all people, far too many who think we do have a faith in history, but who for various reasons are unwilling to subject history to a careful examination because it might tip their boat of faith. I am contending that such people believe in faith, not in Jesus, not in what God did for salvation in Jesus, but in faith. Their creed then is: "I believe in faith, faith in the Christian interpretation of life. 
 McKnight, "The Hermeneutics of Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord" Ex Audito
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Incorporated Righteousness: A Response to Recent Evangelical Discussion Concerning the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness in Justification - Michael F. Bird
Toward A Biblical Model of the Social Trinity: Avoiding Equivocation of Nature and Order - J. Scott Horell
Law, Sin, and Death: An Edenic Triad? An Examination With Reference to 1 Corinthians 15:56 - Chris Alex Vlachos
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Contrary to a widespread view, none of the four Gospels was written only for one particular community; far less do they simply reproduce the views of one individual community. They give primarily the views of their authors. We cannot even say with certainty whether they ever came into being only in one community, for the missionaries of the early church traveled a great deal and could be authoritative teachers at different places. So we should stop talking automatically about 'the community of Mark', 'of Luke', 'of Matthew', 'of John' as the one really responsible for the composition of a Gospel writing and its theology. The four Gospels have nothing to do with 'letters' which were occasioned by a community. These are relatively rare in the New Testament and its environment. Even more nonsensical is the term 'Q community', i.e. the community of the Logia source (we do not even really know in what forms this source [or these sources] existed). The authors of these works do not represent the view of a collective community, but of an individual yet authoritative teacher of one or more communities (or a school), and in their quite different forms proclaim the one truth which should be binding on all believers. This is true regardless of the fact that of course authors were in constant dialogue with a community, or more frequently several communities, and with their disciples or school. Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, pg. 106-107
Ehrman goes on to discuss the criteria with which the early church used to decide what was to be "canonised". The quote by McDonald summarises, with references, essentially what Ehrman says about this process.
The generally accepted criteria for canonicity, however unevenly applied by the early church, included: (1) apostolicity, that is, whether a writing was written by an apostle (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.25.4–7); (2) orthodoxy, whether the writing conformed to a widely accepted canon of faith, or regula fidei (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.25.6–7 and also Serapion’s criteria for his rejection of the use and reading of the Gospel of Peter in his churches [c. 195] discussed in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 6.12.1–6) (3) antiquity, whether it was written during the apostolic period; and (4) usage, whether it was generally accepted in prominent or large numbers of churches and used in their worship and catechetical programs (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.24.18 and 3.25.6).
It appears at this point that Ehrman then leads himself into a bit of an historical conundrum. He argues, ala much NT scholarship, that the "authors" were manufactured and later added to the writings of the NT. This is especially made with reference to the gospels. But why would a document gain such a wide hearing, and authority if the author could not - at least to some degree - be verified or traced? Paul's letters were widely circulated beyond the churches that he specifically wrote to [Col 4:16; 2 Pet 3:16]. And with regards to the Gospels, Hengel's arguments [Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ] have been neglected by Ehrman, thus weakening his position considerably.  L. M. McDonald, “Canon” in DLNTD
In proto-orthodox circles it was not Jesus’ secret teachings but those found in apostolic authorities that were seen as authoritative. And just as important as his teachings were the events of his life. Accounts of Jesus’ life – his words and deeds, his death and resurrection – were eventually placed in circulation and accepted as sacred scripture, at least as authoritative for most proto-orthodox Christians as the texts of the Jewish Bible.
Probably ever Christian group of the second and third centuries ascribed authority to written texts, and each group came to locate that “authority” in the status of the “author” of the text. These authors were thought to be closely connected to the ultimate authority, Jesus himself, who was understood to represent God.
 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 233
 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 234
Friday, February 17, 2006
Chris Tilling had a wonderful little excursus on Universalism which was rather thought provoking and readily recognises the complexities of the issue. Then recently, someone brought up the topic of the Reformed Tradition's notion of “limited atonement”. I’m rather perplexed about these issues. Currently, I’m also reading Ben Witherington’s The Problem of Evangelical Theology. Ben deals with many of these things in the opening chapters [although, he misses some significant literature in this debate, which seems to weaken the overall argument – even though I find myself in much agreement with what he says. But what I’m curious about, is how people explain the follow scriptures: For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of ALL people, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:10he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the WHOLE world. 1 Jn 2:2Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for EVERYONE. Hebrews 2:9and through Jesus, God was pleased to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Col 1:20With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph 1:10 Now I recognise that these have been used to argue for universalism, and I’m not quite convinced of that. But how does someone who holds to limited atonement exegete these scriptures? Surely there must be one or two monographs that tackle this issue? Could the apostle Paul honestly have believed that Christs work was of only limited value? And is the issue in these verse relating possibly to the Jew/Gentile issue, and from that can we conclude that our questions regarding the extent of Christs work is unknown and cannot be known, because this is a question foreign to the text's worldview and story? Thoughts?
Even when he [Jesus] appears to abrogate the Laws of Moses in some of the so called Antitheses of the sermon on the Mount, he does so in order to bring out what is, in his judgement, their true meaning and intent: The Law says do not murder, Jesus says not to be angry; the Law says not to commit adultery, Jesus says not to lust; the Law says take an eye for an eye, Jesus says turn the other cheek [Matt 5:21-48]. The deep intentions of these laws, for Jesus, are to be followed, not simply their surface meaning. Jesus saw the Law as a direction from God about how to live and worship.
Christians saw Jesus not as the founder of a new religion that cast aside the old, but as fulfilment of the old, who brought something new to an understanding of God that was already anticipated in the Hebrew bible.
 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 232  Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 233
Thursday, February 16, 2006
There's a review of this book, HERE. Bart goes on to suggest that:
Given the nature of Christianity from the outset, as a religion that stressed proper belief and that required authorities on which to base that belief, literary texts very soon took on unusual importance for this religion. The apostles of Jesus were seen as authoritative sources of knowledge about what Jesus himself said and did. But apostles could not be present everywhere at once in the churches scattered throughout the empire. Apostolic writing therefore had to take the place of an apostolic presence and so the written word became a matter of real importance.
 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 231
Jesus and Archaeology is a new book that may prove rather useful. Archaeology still has many things to reveal about the life and world of Jesus of Nazareth. To touch a two-thousand-year-old pot held by a Jew who lived in a small village frequented by Jesus brings us closer to understanding those who were touched by Jesus. Jesus and Archaeology contains lectures that leading archaeologists and New Testament experts presented at a gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate the new millennium. Many contributors came directly from their excavations in places like Bethsaida, Capernaum, Nazareth, and Jerusalem to share their discoveries and insights, focusing on the question In what ways do archaeological discoveries clarify the world, life, and thought of Jesus of Nazareth? Readers of Jesus and Archaeology will gain many new insights into the life and times of this fascinating Galilean Jew.
I'm busy reading Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities. It's an easy read with many issues being glossed, but still worth it. The best chapter is on "The Invention of Scripture" where he deals with several pertinent elements, and makes some good points. A few quotes to get the brains tinkering away...
Why were these 27 books included, and not any others? Who decided which books to include? On what basis? And when? It is one thing for believers to affirm, on theological grounds, that the decisions about the canon, like the books themselves, were divinely inspired, but it is another thing to look at the actual history of the process and to ponder the long, drawn-out arguments over which books to include and which to reject. The process did not take a few months, or years. It took centuries, and even then there was no unanimity.
 Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pg. 230
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Articles by Dr. Köstenberger
- “The ‘Greater Works’ of the Believer According to John 14:12,” Didaskalia 6 (1995): 36–45. Reprinted in Studies in John and Gender.
- “The Seventh Johannine Sign: A Study in John’s Christology,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 87–103. Reprinted in Studies in John and Gender.
- “The Challenge of a Systematized Biblical Theology: Missiological Insights from the Gospel of John,” Missiology 23 (1995): 445–64. Reprinted in Studies in John and Gender.
- “Frühe Zweifel an der johanneischen Verfasserschaft des vierten Evangeliums in der modernen Interpretationsgeschichte,” European Journal of Theology 5 (1996): 37–46. Translated in Studies in John and Gender.
- “Jesus as Rabbi in the Fourth Gospel,” Bulletin of Biblical Research 8 (1998): 97–128. Reprinted in Studies in John and Gender.
- "A Comparison of the Pericopae of Jesus' Anointing." Pp. 17–47 in Studies in John and Gender (New York: Peter Lang, 2001). Read the Article.
- “Jesus the Good Shepherd Who Will Also Bring Other Sheep (John 10:16): The Old Testament Background of a Familiar Metaphor,” Bulletin of Biblical Research 12 (2002): 67–96. Read the Article.
- "'What is Truth?' Pilate's Question to Jesus in Its Johannine and Larger Biblical Context." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48/1 (2005): 33-62. Read the Article.
- "The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel." Trinity Journal 26 NS/2 (Fall 2005):205-42. Read the Article.
- "The Moral Vision of John." Midwestern Journal of Theology (forthcoming). Read the Article
Friday, February 10, 2006
New Articles... The Reaction to the Bible in Paganism By John Granger Cook The Religion Report: Tom Wright The New Perspective on Justification by Richard D. Phillips. The Ultimate Sinner’: Paul & the Antichrist in Political Context by James R. Harrison.
J.J. Kilgallen:, «What Does It Mean to Say That There Are Additions in Luke 7,36-50?» , Vol. 86(2005) 529-535. Given the early development of the tradition about the divinity of Jesus and the Marcan, then Lucan conviction about his authority to forgive sins, it seems reasonable to see how Luke 7, 47-50 are not an addition from outside the story of the woman, Simon and Jesus. Rather, they can be seen as known by earliest editors of the story, with the story passed on and developed as circumstances required.
David Aune in his recent essay: "Stories of Jesus in the Apocalypse of John" in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, has some delightful things to say about Narrative Discourse.
Stories and descriptions cannot easily be translated into ideas - nor is that translation necessarily even desirable. The meaning of a concrete event, whether in history or in story, is the series of events with which it is causally related, not a supposedly "deeper" allegorical or symbolic reading of the events, characters, and actions that constitute a realistic narrative.  Unless we wish to turn [scripture] into something they are not, it is simply not acceptable to sever meaning from the mutual implications of events in the order of their narration. The more I read scripture, the more Hays idea of a "narrative substructure" [not saying Hays came up with the idea, that's just where I read it first] resonates with my understanding and conviction. Aune consistently speaks of the "Master Story" but this must also be, aside from what he notes, the story of scripture so far. Theological discourse has far to often resorted to unhelpful philosophical speculation that negates, neglects and forsakes the stories and STORY of scripture. With a return to narrative criticism and discourse, we may see biblical theology unleashed and released from various philosophical agendas that have kept the truth hostage and students in darkness... Meaning is found in a narrative of relentless grace and embarrassing kindness that has rescued us from the tyranny of propositional programs and awkward speculation. [Jn 8:31, then 32.]
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
E. P. Sanders helpfully outlines the way in which Palestinian Judaism worked. He describes a fivefold soteriological pattern: Jews believed (1) that they were elected by grace; (2) that God gave the commandments as a gift; (3) that obedience to the commandments brings blessing while disobedience brings cursing; (4) that repentance and atonement for sin (5) will yield God’s forgiveness. Sanders terms this pattern of religion “Covenantal Nomism.
 C. C. Newman, Dictionary of NT Background: Righteousness
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
I'm snowed under still, but this week looks promising. In my attempt to catch up with what's going on in the Blogosphere, I have an exegetical question/quibble.
Tyler Williams alerts us to the post by Steven Harris at Theology and Biblical Studies: which deals ably with the contentious issue of the Apostle Paul's attitude to women in the church in his post "Silent women in the church?." Steven looks specifically at 1 Corinthians 14 and explores whether the text itself is corrupted, and if not, whether Paul's directives in this passage are meant for all believers at all times, or whether they are specifically related to cultural issues being faced by the church at Corinth. My question relates to adding "As in all the churches of the saints" to the exegesis of "women should be silent in the churches." Why doesn't [can't?] "As in all the churches of the saints" refer back to "for God is a God not of disorder but of peace." ? This seems just as plausible. Or have I missed something?This line of thinking is strengthened by the exegetical conclusions of Fee, Keener, and others. But I've not seen this line advocated or pursued, which caution's my confidence in this position. Comments or critiques?
Revelation offers not an esoteric and encoded forecast of historical events but rather a theocentric vision of the coming of God’s universal kingdom, contextualised in the late first-century world dominated by Roman power and ideology. It calls on Christians to confront the political idolatries of the time to participate in God’s purpose of gathering all the nations into his kingdom. Once Revelation is properly grounded in its original context it is seen to transcend that context and speak to the contemporary church.
– Richard Bauckham.
The author is not just trying to comfort his audience with the truth that God is in heaven and that all will on day be right with the world. He is calling them to repent, believe, and behave in light of the coming redemptive judgment. He is also trying to re-vision the world taking into account the divine actions above, within, and beneath the surface of history’s tapestry.
- Ben Witherington.