Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pre & Post Easter..

If belief in the resurrection is to be more than a glossing over of facts which hare otherwise thought to be depressing, if it is to be a real endorsement of Jesus as the Messiah and as one who achieved what he set out to do, then it must uphold both the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of History. It must be able to confirm not only Christian convictions about God’s eternal plan of salvation in his “only begotten Son,” but also the purposes and expectations of the country carpenter from Galilee who was crushed by a power-hungry Jerusalem aristocracy in co-operation with the flawless machinery of the Roman imperial occupation forces. The resurrection can only establish that Jesus succeeded if it also confirms that the pre-Easter Jesus fulfilled his purposes.

- M. Bockmuehl, This Jesus, pg. 96-97

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'm with Mike!

I am definitely siding with Mike on this one! Contra Ben Myers, I think that the resurrection is clear in what it is, and what it means despite the fact that there is much that is mysterious. 1 Cor 15 is a difficult passage, but I think Paul is clear enough so as to communicate that there is both a clear continuity and discontinuity with regards to the resurrection body of Jesus. “The Resurrection is not simply resuscitation; it is transformation, the changing of the present mode of physicality into a new mode, of which Jesus in his risen body is the only prototype, but for which the transformation of a seed into a plant can function as a general analogy.” Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, pg. 140. It is a transformed-physicality [to borrow Wright's language.]
I'm disappointed that Tom Wright has made these statements. I understand how he has come to this conclusion, but I think it depicts a flight from understanding the very identity of what it means to be a Christian in the 1st century and, therefore, now. The early Christians identified themselves with the crucified and risen Messiah who is Lord. To deny the resurrection, the concrete raising of Jesus of Nazareth from the grace, would have been an anathema to the early Christians.
I can't conceive of a New Testament writer who would say that one can follow Jesus, but deny the heart of the gospel, the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If Christ has not been raised, we are most of all to be pitied. And by raised, Paul - a 1st century Jewish Pharisee, has a very clear understanding that this is in direct continuity with the Jesus who died bodily, and this is also a physicality that has startling and peculiar features. Another helpful article on this is of course, R. H. Gundry, “The Essential Physicality of Jesus' Resurrection according to the New Testament” in Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ eds. J.B. Green and M. Turner, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994)
The bodily resurrection of Jesus is part and parcel of the new covenant marker that followers of Jesus identify with. Deny this, and one parts ways with the 1st century Christians.






So how does this compare with that tricky Pauline passage you've been attempting to exegete?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Enigma of Devotion...

Early Christian devotion to Jesus certainly justifies attention, for it is remarkable in a number of respects. First, this high reverence for Jesus in early Christian circles contrasts strongly with the very negative treatment of him by others, both during his historic lifetime and thereafter. Initially, Jesus was probably a follower of the fiery contemporary prophet of national repentance known as John “the Baptiser,” but after John’s arrest and execution by Herod Antipas (the Roman client-ruler of Galilee), Jesus emerged more saliently as a prophet-like figure in his own right. He clearly and quickly became a controversial and polarizing figure for many, perhaps most, who had occasion to consider him seriously, and he remains so today.
By all indications, during his own historic lifetime Jesus became known in at least parts of Roman Judea through the proclaiming the immanent arrival of God’s “Kingdom.” To judge from many of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, the coming of God’s kingdom would comprise a genuine “regime change,” and it represented values and purposes significantly different from those dominant in the religious and social structures of his day. In addiction to proclaiming and teaching about God’s kingdom, Jesus also seems to have engaged in other activities that had the effect of drawing further attention to him but were primarily intended to demonstrate something of the power and purposes of the divine kingdom that he announced. These other actions included calling a band of followers, pursuing an itinerant teaching activity, and taking controversial positions on some matters of religious practice. Both followers and opponents perceived Jesus as being able to perform miraculous healings and other deeds of supernatural power.
In view of the nearness of God’s kingdom and the radical differences that it represented, Jesus seems to have urged his hearers to commence re-ordering their attitudes and behaviour accordingly, and immediately: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). The were to live their lives in the “now” with a view toward, and their conduct shaped by, the future (but imminent) full manifestation of God’s rule.
…Jesus activities clearly generated responses that ranged from a devoted following to mortal opposition, and these reactions to him became much more significant than was probably realised at first. The mortal opposition was manifest in Jesus’ arrest, his denunciation by the Jerusalem Temple authorities, and his brutal execution under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. In the Roman arsenal of execution measures, crucifixion was the particular option for those of lower social orders, especially those deemed guilty of threatening Roman rule. The aim was not simply to terminate an offender’s life; it was a public degradation and humiliation of the victim, and was intended to exhibit to all onlookers (and it was conducted as public spectacle) the consequences of daring to challenge Roman authority.
But against all odds, as it must have seemed at the time, in Jesus’ case crucifixion did not have the result intended by his executioners. The form of his execution certainly indicated that he had generated severe hostility. But his grisly death did not by any means end the controversy that he had ignited over what to make of him and his message. Instead, with surprising rapidity, the controversy only became greater, and his followers exhibited a much more startling level of devotion to him. Perhaps within only a few days or weeks of his crucifixion, Jesus followers were circulating the astonishing claim that God had raised him from death and had installed him in heavenly glory as Messiah and the appointed vehicle of redemption. Moreover, and still more astonishing, these claims were accompanied by an emerging patter of devotional practices in which Jesus figured with an unprecedented centrality. For example, Jesus’ name was invoked as part of the process of initiation into the early circles of those who identified themselves with reference to Jesus. In short, from a surprisingly early point after his death, Jesus’ followers were according to him at a level of devotion that far exceeded their own prior and impressive commitment to him during his lifetime.
- Larry Hurtado, How on Earth did Jesus Become a God?, pg. 3-5

Friday, April 21, 2006

Journal Updates...

The Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism has been updated, with these two articles:
Craig Evans: Messianic Hopes and Messianic Figures in Late Antiquity
Richard Van Egmond: The Messianic ‘Son of David’ in Matthew
The Journal, Biblica has also been updated: NT articles include,
Christian Stettler: The 'Command of the Lord' in 1 Cor 14,37 – a Saying of Jesus?» , Vol. 87(2006) 42-51.
Thomas B. SLATER, «Translating αγιος in Col 1,2 and Eph 1,1» , Vol. 87(2006) 52-54.

Quote + Article...

Doctrine that does not lead to doxology is demonic (Jas. 2:19).
Well, that's what: R. Paul Stevens, "Living Theologically: Toward a Theology of Christian Practice," Themelios 20.3 (1995): 4-8. has to say...
Very good... (HT: Rob Bradshaw)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rabbi Evans

Craig A. Evans has just launched his new website. He is a first rate NT scholar with a very impressive list of publications (you can download some of his articles under the studies tab).
Hat tip to Alan Bandy...


[P]roposing, as a historical statement, that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was empty because his body had been transformed into a new mode of physicality...will of course evoke howls of protest from those for whom the closed world of Enlightenment theory renders any such thing impossible from the start. But if Christianity is only going to be allowed to rent an apartment in the Enlightenment's housing scheme, and on its terms, we are, to borrow Paul's phrase, of all people the most to be pitied--especially as the Enlightenment itself is rumoured to be bankrupt and to be facing serious charges of fraud.

N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus, pg. 124

A Massive HOLE!

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian purpose to stop it up with?... the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church... remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself.

-C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament, Studies in Biblical Theology 2/1 (London: SCM, 1967), pp. 3,13.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

a relentless tyrant

DEATH is the ultimate weapon of the tyrant; resurrection does not make a covenant with death, it overthrows it. The Resurrection, in the full Jewish and early Christian sense, is the ultimate affirmation that creation matters, that embodied human beings matter.

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

Simply Wonderful

Tom Wright's new book Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense is a breath of fresh air to my soul. It will become a classic. It will enrich you and give you a sense of the glory of God. It will inspire you to action... It will... Because...

When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done…

Tom Wright – Simply Christian

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Virgin Birth?

Chris Tilling discusses the Virgin Birth and poses a difficult question. I have discussed the Infancy narratives and the issues of history. But the theological question is quite hard. I must confess that I follow Wright wholeheartedly on this one. His essay, God's Way of Acting is the best treatment of it that I have read.
No one can prove, historically, that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. No one can prove, historically, that she wasn't. Science studies the repeatable; history bumps its nose against the unrepeatable. If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different. But since they do, and since for quite other reasons I have come to believe that the God of Israel, the world's creator, was personally and fully revealed in and as Jesus of Nazareth, I hold open my historical judgment and say: If that's what God deemed appropriate, who am I to object?
Thus, I find it hard to really object to it...

Gospel? Genre?

Chris Weimer said... "As a genre, a gospel is a theological treatise in the form of a biography. I think the Gospel of Judas fits that description."

Now, I'm not as interested in this with regards to the gospel of Judas, but I am very interested in this with regards to the general definition of gospel, with regards to genre. Especially given the work of Richard A. Burridge in What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography.
  • What do you think? [Especially my nemesis who has my copy of this brilliant work!]
  • How would you define "gospel" with regards to genre?
  • How would you define the gospel genre of the usual suspects? [Matt, Marko, Lukas and Johno]
  • Would theological treatise include historical narratives that account for actual events?
  • Would Luke's genre and John's genre be different, significantly different?

These thoughts capture my imagination as I head off to Stellenbosch university library to read debates about the resurrection of Jesus between, Habermas and Flew; Craig and Ludemann and more recently, Crossan and Wright.

Since this will be the topic of my Easter announcement.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's Coming... !

It is COMING... And it looks to be a BEAUTY!

The Gospel of Matthew was placed first in the New Testament canon, and not without reason. By the time the canonizing process began in earnest in the fourth century, Matthew was the most popular and widely-used Gospel for a whole host of reasons. In the Western Church, certainly one of these reasons was because the book gave especial prominence and a special role to Peter in relationship to the community of Christ. This Gospel was also popular because it begins with a genealogy of Jesus’ lineage, it offers a church order of sorts, and it is the only Gospel to mention the ekklesia. It also had a fuller Easter story than we find in the earlier Gospel, Mark. Indeed, it was a much fuller Gospel in most respects.

In this highly-anticipated volume of the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series, Ben Witherington III, renowned author of more than thirty books on the New Testament, considers the fullness that the Gospel of Matthew offers for those who both study and attempt to live out the words of Jesus today. As with each volume in this series, Witherington’s groundbreaking new commentary connects the insights of biblical scholarship to the larger world of faith.

Autobiography as Paradigm

J. B. Hood notes a quote from Michael Gorman's "Theological Introduction to the Letters of Paul." I went to look up this quote, and found the whole section rather helpful, so here it is:

When Paul writes autobiographically, he writes paradigmatically. On the surface 1 Cor 9 sounds like a self-defence of apostolic rights, which in part it is. But the whole purpose of Paul’s assertions or fights is to show that he, like the Corinthian elite, had legitimate rights that could be deliberately suppressed as an act of cruciform love and, ultimately, of true freedom. In this chapter Paul establishes his apostolic rights (9:1-12a, 13-14); narrates his renunciation of them as a fundamental part of his apostolic identity and modus operandi (9:12b, 15-18); and explains his tow motives for doing so – to ‘win others’ through Christ-like freedom and love (9:19-23), and to insure his own participation in the eschatological victory (9:24-27).

Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord (Eerdmans, 2004) pg. 258

If this is valid, that when Paul writes autobiographically, he writes paradigmatically; then this allows a great deal of Pauline material to become useful and not just informative. It allows a for an interesting hermeneutical key that may unlock Paul's arguments and set the stage for a better or more comprehensive understanding of the letter in which the personal narrative is shared. One immediately thinks of Galatians 1-2 and Philippians 3. For my purposes, I want to think if this could, and if so - how, relate to Colossians 1:24-2:5. But for now, that's another blog...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Michael Pahl has excellent Thoughts on Inerrancy. This is a great response to Chris Tilling's recent series on Inerrancy. Be sure to check it out...

Faith Based Scholarship

Alan Bandy's Café Apocalypsis has an profound series on "Faith-Based Scholarship"

There are several helpful interviews with good scholars, which include: Michael Bird, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, Craig Evans, Andreas Kostenberger, Scot McKnight, and Mark Goodacre. I must confess, Mark Goodacre and Craig Evans were the most helpful and inspiring, but the others, including a few secular respondents were also very helpful. Take time to savour the wisdom these scholars share...

CTR & Stuff...

Slowly the Criswell Theological Review is posting some fine articles on a number of issues.

There are also other articles on The Emerging Movement, and many more are to be added, so keep a close eye on what's happening there...

I've just got back from a conference with my NewFrontiers family, which was good. New forms of leadership emerging, the task of theological education in Southern Africa, what the Spirit is saying to the church's, all these were discussed and prayed about which was excellent.