Thursday, August 30, 2007

Scholarship and Faith

I must confess that I do wonder about some "Christian" scholarship now days. I was reading Dodd's commentary on the Epistles of John this morning, and it just fed my soul. I read contemporary commentaries and I almost never feel that way. I remember reading Alfred Plummer's ICC commentary on 2 Cor. He kept referring to Jesus as 'the Master'. Reading through it, you got the feeling this was a man who actually took serious the Scriptures and actually loved Jesus.
Which brings me to my point: Are we actually serving people [Christians] by writing commentaries that hide our faith? Have we secularised commentaries so that it's strictly business? Exegetical business? Are we compromising on our faith by merely reporting on the analytical details or "the text"? G.B. Caird wrote hymns and songs, and by reading his commentaries you always get the feeling that he's telling you all the necessary details but he's also sharing his soul, and encouraging us to love GOD. Plummer's ICC commentary still managed to deal with the details and give you a glimpse at his relationship with GOD. Does the NIGTC, NICNT, WBC, or even BEC series ever give you this feeling? That these scholars actually love GOD and are teaching us the Scriptures because they believe in them and were trying to live by them?
Or is this too much to ask in a series, and we want to remain palatable and nice to the rest of the world? Do we do theology like Paul did theology? Giving glory to GOD as we teach and preach the gospel in our writing about GOD's word?
Witherington says:

Paul is a pastoral theologian who lives what he preaches and believes what he says. Experience, not just understanding, is the basis of expression in so much of what he says. However uncomfortable some of us may be with this, it is still an essential feature to understanding Paul’s theology. Nor should we overlook how much worship and Christian experience was the matrix out of which much Christian theological reflection came…

Ben Witherington, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Eerdmans, 2006) pg. 237

Think on these things...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Book Meme

Sean the Baptist notes the Book meme going around... These are books that I thoroughly enjoyed, struggle with, and go back to time and time again...

  • Gospels: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Bauckham
  • Pauline Studies: In Search of Paul by Crossan & Reed
  • Historical Jesus: Jesus and the Victory of God by N. T. Wright
  • Theology: The Suffering of God by T. Fretheim or The Drama of Doctrine by Vanhoozer
  • Pneumatology: God’s Empowering Presence by G. Fee
  • Science and Theology: The Faith of a Physicist by J. Polkinghorne
  • Ethics: The Moral Vision of the New Testament by R. Hays
  • Hermeneutics: Is There a Meaning in this Text? by K. J. Vanhoozer
  • Novels: I don’t read novels, but I did read Crossan's book on Jesus, does that count?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West

Mark Goodacre highlights the release of an epic essay by Stendahl, I quote the BlogFather in full...

Over on the Paul Page, they have made available online one of the most important articles on Paul written in the twentieth century. Perhaps the most important. With all the recent discussion on the biblioblogs about the new perspective on Paul, the reproduction of this essay, which predates yet anticipates the new perspective, is timely:

First, a big thank you to Mark Mattison for producing this. Second, a bibliographical note. Mark gives the bibliographical detail as Krister Stendahl, Paul from among Jews and Gentiles, published by Fortress in 1976. The original location for the article was Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963): 199-215.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Schweitzer's Famous Quote - Removed?

Scot McKnight in his short survey on the historical Jesus notes this famous quote by Albert Schweitzer.

“There is silence all around. The Baptist appears, and cries: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Soon after that comes Jesus, and in the knowledge that He is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls onward, and the mangled body of the one immeasurably great Man, who was strong enough to think of Himself as the spiritual ruler of mankind and to bend history to His purpose, is hanging upon it still. That is His victory and His reign.”

[Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, pg.370-371.]

If you follow the link in the reference, and scroll down to page 370-1, you'll see the quote in that edition. McKnight claims that the quote was removed from later editions of his work. My question is simply this: WHY? Did Schweitzer change his mind? Did later editors remove it, is there any explanation for this phenomenon, or is it just an enigma?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

1 Thess 5:14 - Leaders or Congregation?

In his homily on 1 Thessalonians 5:14, John Chrysostom argued that it referred to those who lead, or "rule." This has not found favour among contemporary commentators such as Bruce, Best, Morris, Green and now Witherington. I, however, like to swim against the tide of scholarship often and wish to suggest that Chrysostom was actually on to something that is too easily dismissed by our regular commentators. Look carefully at the passage:
But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to recognise those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13 consider them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not annihilate the Spirit’s fire. 20 Do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 25 Beloved, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The question at the transition in vs. 14 is pivotal, who does Paul address? The leaders or the community? Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia held the view that the leaders are here being addressed.[1] Contemporary commentators, however, have suggested that the whole church is in view here. Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional in that of course it is applied to the whole community, but it is the leaders who are to model this to the others. Because Paul has urged the leaders in vs. 12 to admonish the community, Paul probably still has in mind the leaders, but this of course applies to the entire community. In fact, Paul may be addressing the leaders in front of the community so that the community is aware of the leaders responsibility to them, and the churches responsibility to each other.
The strongest critique of the position that it is the leaders to whom Paul is referring to in vs. 14 comes from E. Best in his celebrated commentary on the Thessalonian Epistles.[2]
(i) The position of the leaders as a definite group is not as clearly defined in v.12 as this view supposes; there will have been at this early stage of development in the Thessalonian community considerable fluidity as to who the leaders were and what their duties were. The much more clearly cut situation depicted in the Pastorals comes from a later date.
(ii) Verse 16ff are certainly addressed to the church as a whole; there is nothing to suggest a change of subject between v.16 and v.15; v.15, as Rom 12:14-17, is most easily understood as spoken to the community as a whole, an probably a common tradition underlies both 1 Th 5:12ff and Rom 12:9ff; finally there does not appear to be any change of subject between v.14 and v.15
(iii) If v.14 is addressed to the leaders then there is a change of subject from vv.12f; but v.14 is introduced by practically the same phrase as v.12, and if a change of subject were intended we should expect some greater contrast.
(iv) Brothers as in v. 12 indicates the community at large and not a group within it.
(v) In fact Paul elsewhere uses phrases like those of v.14 to address communities as a whole rather than their leaders; although the same words are not used the conceptions of the second and third phrases are found in Gal.6:1; Phil 2:4 and in 2 Cor 2:7; 7:13; 1 Th 3:17 leaders are encouraged by ordinary church members. We thus conclude that in our verse Paul is laying a duty on all the members of the church.
We'll deal with these objections and in doing so, suggest why Chrysostom and others are actually on to something important. (i) This objection assumes to much and neglects the fact that in vs. 12, the leaders are identified as a specific group. We have no real data concerning the developmental stages of leadership among early Christianity and to assume some sort of evolutionary model is to go beyond the specific evidence of vs. 12. It is most likely that Christianity merely assumed the leadership structures of the Synagogue and/or cultural structures.
With regards to (ii), I would concur with Best that the subject has not changed and that this refers to the entire community. But we must pay careful attention to whom Paul's primary directives are to here. Paul is directing the leaders in this final pericope, and he is doing so in a public letter so that they may do likewise to the community. The subtle change in primary audience happens in vs. 14. Paul addresses the entire community, about the leaders (this includes the leaders being addressed) and then in vs. 14 he addresses the leaders about the community (this includes the community being addressed). Otherwise the repetition of brothers is unnecessary - why not just carry on with the exhortation? But because I contend the exhortation is to all, but specified groups within the all and in front of the all, this makes more sense of the data.
(iii) Best is again correct that this is addressed to the whole community, but Paul is addressing the leaders and the community, and does not want to make a greater contrast. Vs. 14 is directed to the leaders, so as to motivate and direct the entire community in these directives.
(iv) We agree, but "brothers" in vs. 14 could be primarily directed at the leaders, and it makes more sense to hold this because Paul has already addressed the community about the function of leadership in vs. 12-13 and now primarily addresses the leaders as to their further duties in front of the congregation so that the congregation can also follow these directions but also allow the leaders to especially model this and fulfill these duties.
(v) We do not deny that Paul uses these terms and actions for the work of the whole church, but Paul is especially interested in emphasizing the role and function of leaders here, in front of the community. This in fact makes sense of 1 Th 5:27, where Paul writes: I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. Who is the "you"? And then who is the all of "them"? Surely, Paul and the apostolic team have written to the leaders, and now wish this letter to be read, as instruction, to the whole community.
Thoughts, comments and criticisms are welcome...
[1] See also C. Masson, Les Deux Epitres de Saint Paul aux Thessaloniciens (Paris, 1957).
[2] Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, pg. 229