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.