Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Appealing to the Historical Jesus and his paradigm?

1 Peter 2:21

Indeed, into this you have been called, because the Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you a paradigm, so that you should follow in his footsteps.
I haven’t consulted the commentaries just yet as I’m away from home at the moment. But the issues in this verse seem to haunt me, so I must offer brief comments. Firstly we may question what is the this that Peter now refers to? And who specifically is Peter addressing? The household-slaves of 2:18-20, or does the apply to all followers of the Messiah? Given the placement of this section, it appears to be the climax of the household codes, and thus it applies to all of Peter’s audience. The “this” to which they have now been called, appears trickier to delineate. The direct context suggests that it is “doing right” or “doing good” to which these followers have been called (v. 20). It seems unlikely that they are specifically called to suffer, although suffering would be the natural result expected from the type of “good” they have been called to perform. But Peter once again, leaves open what this “good” consists of or amounts to.

Then we have the phrase, “Because the Messiah also suffering for you”. In light of the Messiah’s suffering, they are called to live lives that are good, or do what is right. There is an ethical response to the cross that Peter appeals to here. And this is precisely what Peter spells out in the next section of this sentence, “leaving you a paradigm/pattern/example” [The Greek word *hupogrammon* appears to be a hapax legomenon].
For Peter, Jesus embodies the quintessential life of faithfulness to God. As such, this life provides followers of Jesus with a paradigm to be imitated and implemented. Having seen Jesus’ intentional and missional life, the early followers are now expected to “improvise” their own lives of faithfulness towards God based on his life.[1]

But my question relates specifically to the final clause: “so that you should follow in his footsteps”. Is this a call to imitate the historical Jesus? Besides the fact that the next verses would seem to suggest as much, there is the old question of traditional material found in Peter. For the arguments see the works of Gundry and Best.[2] I’m interested to see if anyone knows whether or not this is some ancient idiom. Was this common among the moralist philosophers? Anyone know of any ancient Jewish sources that use this specific phrasing, or something like it? What exactly does “walking in his footsteps” entail?

Furthermore, are there other examples in early Christian literature [not Paul] that appeal to the historical Jesus as a paradigm for life/ethics.

These thoughts occupy my mind…

[1] Green, 1 Peter, pg. 84. On the notion of improvisation see N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (SPCK, 1992), pg. 140-142 and more specifically Samuel Wells, Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (Brazos, 2004).

[2] Robert H. Gundry, "'Verba Christi' in 1 Peter: Their Implications Concerning the Authorship of 1 Peter and the Authenticity of the Gospel Tradition," NTS 13 (1966, 67), 336-50. and R. H. Gundry, “Further Verba on Verba Christi in First Peter”, Biblica 55 [ 1974], 211-232; E. Best “I Peter and the Gospel Tradition” NTS 16 (1969-70) 95-113.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Luke and the Pastorals?

Ben Witherington has advocated the case, concerning the authorship of the pastorals, that “the voice is the voice of Paul, but the hand is the hand of Luke” suggesting that “these letters reflect a combination of Pauline and Lukan style.”[1] C. F. D. Moule put it this way: “Luke wrote all three Pastoral Epistles. But he wrote them during Paul’s lifetime, at Paul’s behest, and in part (but only in part), at Paul’s dictation.”[2]
This should give us cause for serious reflection. What is the apparent relationship here? Either the writer of the Pastoral Epistles is aware of the Acts, or vice versa? Or is there a connection in authorship? If the plausibility of the “we” passages in Acts is historically probable, chronologically, it seems possible that Luke and Paul were together long enough for Luke to have acted as an amanuensis for Paul. However, the proposal of Lukan influence in these letters has been seriously critiqued by scholars, such as I. H. Marshall who notes, “The hypothesis of a Lucan origin for the PE should be dropped from consideration.”[3] Thus, in response to Steph's question, my mental jury is still out on the possible and/or probable connections between these documents and authors. I think it's possible, but the question remains: Is it likely?
[1] Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, pg. 60
[2] C. F. D. Moule, “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reappraisal,” Bulletin of John Rylands Library 47 (1965): 434. Quoted in Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, pg. 58
[3] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 88

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dating the Pastorals

Brant Pitre and Richard Fellows are having an excellent discussion on dating the pastoral epistles. Check it out here. My jury is still out on this issue, especially since I've heard Luke could have composed these letters. Which makes things a whole lot more interesting...
S. G. Wilson notes the following parallels:
1. Paul looks back on his past career with some confidence, believing that he has fulfilled the tasks designated for him (Acts 20:18-21, 25-6; 2 Tim 4:6f.). Moreover, the striking metaphor of an athlete finishing his race is used in both Acts 20:24… and 2 Tim 4:7… At the same time he is deeply concerned with the fate of the church in his absence. This is indicated by the whole of Acts 20:17-35 and each of the Pastoral Epistles.
2. The problem Paul foresees and warns of is heresy, which will assault the Church from within and without (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim 1:3f. 3:1f; 6:20f; 2 Tim 2:14f. ; 3:1f.). The heresy appears to be an early form of Gnosticism and its centre is in Ephesus (Acts 20:17f.; 1 Tim 1:3). Paul urges constant alertness (Acts 20:31; 2 Tim 4:2f.).
3. The responsibility for resisting the false teaching is placed on the church leaders or on Paul’s assistants. The church leaders are, in both cases, elder-bishops (Acts 20:17-28; 1 Tim 5:17; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit. 1:5f.), and it is Paul’s example and instruction which will be their chief weapon (Acts 20:27, 30-5; 1 Tim 3:14; 4:11f.; 6:20; 2 Tim 1:8f., 13-14; 3:10f.; Tit. 1:5).
4. Paul speaks of his own suffering for the sake of the gospel (Acts 20:19-24; 2 Tim 1:11-12; 2:3; 3:11) and indicates that for him a martyr’s death lies ahead (Acts 20:25, 37; 2 Tim 4:6f.).
5. The ministers whom Paul appoints and exhorts are warned of the dangers of the love of money (Acts 20:33-5; 1 Tim 6:9-10; Tit. 1:11).
6. Paul commits his successors to the Lord and his grace (Acts 20:32; 2 Tim 4:22).[1]
[1] S. G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles (London, 1979) pg. 117f.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Banish Romans?

So, I have this (nasty? beautiful?) habit of waking up in the middle of the night with a million questions running through my mind. Usually they concern what I’m currently working on, but this morning was different. I’ve taken to reading “Monster Jewett”, you know, that mammoth commentary on Romans that took 25 years to research and write [and will probably take me almost as long to read, comprehend, digest and then respond to]. It’s really taking its toll on my intellectual abilities. I’ve read through his summary in The Cambridge Companion to Paul, I’ve followed his précis of the argument in The Romans Debate, and now I’m trying to read the actual commentary. SHA!
If Jewett is right, then most Roman’s commentaries have completely missed the point of Romans. But then again, is this not true for Cranfield, Dunn, and perhaps Wright as well? Which leads me to my point. If Romans is so plagued by the history of interpretation, and the “ugly ditch” that separates us from them, then would it not be helpful to ban all commentaries on Romans for the next hundred years and bury all those written already for the next two hundred years? At least this way, the next generation of scholars could start afresh, with fewer distractions.
Or perhaps, Romans should be left last to study. Romans was my first NT letter we worked through at college. I think I got an “A”. What a joke. I have no idea what Romans is about, what it’s trying to do, and how it’s trying to do it. I think the only clues I do have, is that it was written to various house and tenement churches, beset with racial strife and cultural barriers, explaining the MASSIVE and EXPLOSIVE implications of the gospel for the purpose of gaining a united apostolic base for the mission in Spain. Other than that, ask Jewett, Dunn, Wright, or perhaps Longenecker since he will be the next significant victim to fall prey to the allure and seduction of Romans.
Me, I’ll stick with 1 Peter for now. Romans can be avoided for at least a little while longer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1 Cor 14:26 - Then & Now

Thanks to those who emailed me the articles, they were of great help.
I'm busy working on New Testament models of "worship gatherings" with a view to practical implementation. Personally, I'm glad that the NT doesn't give us an order of service. I like the variety of various churches. In fact, I would argue that variety is definitely needed.
I think what we need is to study the Scriptures and our context and negotiate what we deem the most essential elements and values of a Christian community, and then ask ourselves how we're going to put them together in a sustainable network of relationships that allows these elements and values to shape our praxis. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here, I want to analyse one verse that has been put forward as an "Order of Service".
1 Cor 14:26 What follows, then, my dear friends? Suppose that when you assemble together each contributes a hymn, an item of teaching, something disclosed, or speaks in a tongue, or puts the tongues language into words, the point remains: “let everything serve the building up of the community.” [Thiselton]
It is strange that the reading of scripture, prayer, the Eucharist, the offering, baptisms, church discipline, and various other elements should not be mentioned. This should quickly alert us to the fact that Paul is here more focussed on the communal work of the Spirit and Spirit activities, especially on the use and abuse of “tongues in the assembly”, whereas at other times he will encourage other elements, such as the public reading of scripture (1 Tim 4:13).[1]
Paul’s overarching principle in all these matters has consistently been the well-being and benefit of the community. Everything is to be done for the building up of the community (14:3, 5, 12 and 26). Paul is more concerned about strengthening the body, and correcting various over-emphases than he is on describing an orderly pattern of gathering for worship. We would do well to remember this thought as we navigate through this pericope.
Some have suggested that this verse (14:26) amounts to an “order of service” or “the description of a typical gathering for worship.”[2] Others then take this further and declare that this is a call to participatory, open, and interactive meetings. “Everyone”, it is suggested, must have the opportunity to share, and “everyone” must bring “a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation” (NKJV). But this seems highly unlikely for several reasons, the simplest being 1 Cor 12. Here Paul has clearly articulated that each member of the body is different, has a different gift, and thus will contribute differently to the gathered community. Thus, those without the gifts of knowledge or wisdom, cannot contribute a teaching. Those without the gift of tongues, cannot contribute a tongue. Those without the gift of discernment or interpretation, cannot discern or interpret a tongue. In fact, Paul makes this even more emphatic when he notes in 1 Cor 12:27-30:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

The clear answer to the final verses here are, “NO!” So, the point of the verse? We’re all different, so expect different people, with different gifts, to do different things. Those without the gift of teaching, should not bring an “item of instruction”, since that could be disastrous for a community concerned with truth and accurate doctrine.
In fact, it seems rather pastorally insensitive of Paul to suggest that people move in gifts they don’t have. And in fact, placing to much emphasis getting people to share creates an unhealthy environment. Gifts emerge within appropriate contexts. In a theological conversation or setting, my gift emerges. In a business meeting with lots of administration, I have little or nothing to say. And when I have tried to contribute, people look at me like I’m an alien – because I’m moving beyond my gifting. This is clearly not what Paul has in mind.
The first thing to note is that Paul does not expect “everyone” to participate. The logistics of having 40 or more people sharing and participating would be impossible for the early Church. A few reasons for this would include: a) Christians had to work, and since they met on Sundays, which was a working day, most of these gatherings took place before or after work, i.e., before sunrise or after sunset. The length of time it would take for each person to participate would make it unlikely b) The word “everyone” should better be translated “each one”, and by that, given the context and content of 1 Cor 12, Paul means “each one” with a gift in a specific area. Thus, teachers (those recognised as having a teaching gift) should share. Prophets, (those with a recognised prophetic gift) should share, if they feel prompted to do so.
So verse 26 is definitely a call for participation, but it is a call to the participation of those with a gift in a particular or specified area. And this list is definitely not exhaustive, because look at how many vital elements are missing. It also means that those with gifts in other areas, won't share in the Christian gathering. Thus, those with the gift of mercy will probably use their gift most of the time outside the community. Those with the gift of administration will be busy before or after the gathering, but probably not during. Again, 1 Cor 12 notes that these gifts are still to be honoured, even though they’re not seen in “corporate” times of worship.
Now, this should also be set within the context that Paul encourages prophecy as a gift available to one and all. And thus, everyone with a word of prophecy should be given an opportunity to share. And if someone with another gift feels they want to share, this should be submitted to the leadership that it may be assessed and encouraged (1 Thess 5:12-22).
[1] Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth, pg. 285

[2] Dunn, The Theology of Paul, pg. 583

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Looking for Two Articles!

Good old SAGE has provided us with free access to articles from various journals. Unfortunately, they are only providing access to journal articles after 1999. I'm in search of these two articles... Anyone who can help me will be readily rewarded with showers of praise and thanksgiving... Please get hold of me on: primalhcc AT gmail DOT com
Patterns of Worship in New Testament Churches : Ralph P. Martin Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Jan 1989; vol. 12: pp. 59 - 85.
The Testing of New Testament Prophecy : John Penney Journal of Pentecostal Theology, Apr 1997; vol. 5: pp. 35 - 84.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hebrew Scriptures & the NT

Chris Tilling asks the important question about how we understand the Hebrew Scriptures. He offers three positions. I'm currently reading David Horrell's guide to 1 Peter. It offers an introduction to "1 Peter", aimed at undergraduate students. He suggests that "1 Peter" is an important text not least for the ways in which it both reflects and constructs early Christian identity, in its relationships with Judaism and the Roman Empire.

I'm about to hit the two important chapters, 4-5, but with regards to Chris' question, Horrell makes this comment:

In effect, this constitutes a claim that the true subject of biblical prophecy – and, by extension, of the Jewish scriptures as a whole – is Christ, and that the fulfilment of what is said by the prophets is found in the Christian gospel and is appropriated by Christian believers. The author of 1 Peter shares with other early Christians the conviction that the coming of Christ marked the beginning of the end-times, the final act in God’s drama of salvation (1:20; cf. 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2).

Horrell, 1 Peter, pg. 62-63
My question now arises, if this is the perspective of NT authors, does this mean that we, being those who submit ourselves to the worldview of the NT, have to embrace this view? Assuming we could demonstrate that the authors of the NT held strictly to a Christological interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures, would we be bound to that hermeneutic?
I'm slowly creeping through the pages of Goldingay's offering: Israel's Gospel. I've never been so refreshed and envisioned by these scriptures as I am now. Goldingay has done a tremendous job of showing the dynamic vision presented in the Hebrew narratives. So now I'm stuck, am I constrained to reject his view, because that is not the view of the NT authors?
This is ofcourse a deeply theological question, and those concerned with history only have the freedom to choose their option. But do we?
These thoughts occupy my time... You got any on this matter?

Guess who's back?

ME!... So watch out blogosphere...

Friday, September 26, 2008

the exile and return

of sean D. Well, some big things have been happening in my life lately. Changing jobs, leaving Primal, joining the staff @Jubilee. And now a travelling schedule that keeps me away quite a bit. So unfortunately there has been no time for blogging or anything else. Studying 1 Peter has been put on the shelf. But January holds hopes of returning to academic life, or at least a life where I can read academic books...! So for those of you who pray, please continue to do so, and include Susan and myself in them.
1 thess 2:12

Monday, August 25, 2008

Transition Time

Greetings Friends. Please pardon my silence but study has kept me preoccupied. That, and I've just changed jobs, churches and have some big plans in the pipe line. So this doesn't really allow me enough time to blog all the things I want to. But I'm hoping within the next couple of weeks things will settle and my research into 1 Peter can continue.
Take care, sean D.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Church in Early Christianity

As a pastor and New Testament student these two worlds often collide. Nowhere is this more evident at the moment than with many who are now engaged in what is quickly being labelled “A churchless faith”. Frank Viola and George Barna’s Pagan Christianity has advanced this view into a more popular arena. Ben Witherington has offered thoughts on the matter, even adding Howard Snyder’s review of Pagan Christianity to his blog.
Witherington recommends James Burtchaell's important monograph From Synagogue to Church. Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities (Cambridge U. Press, 1992), which I’ve now ordered and will devour soon. I’m sure Robert Banks’ book Paul’s Idea of Community would be helpful, and so I’ve added that to the list. Does anyone know of any other books on this topic? I’m specifically looking for the impossible, you know, books on characteristics of early Christian gatherings, the various ingredients that made up their gatherings. I’m also not wishing to confine this research to the New Testament documents alone, so I’m very interested in the Didache and other literature of early Christianity that may shed light on this topic. Can anyone recommend any helpful commentaries on The Didache? I’m caught between Kurt Niederwimmer and Aaron Milavec. Milavec looks to be exhaustive, having 1000pgs of comments and discussion. But the Niederwimmer is in a respected series. Anyone have any thoughts on either of these?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reflections on SBL 7-11 July 2008

Well, SBL International 2008 was fantastic. The academic environment was superb, and the bookshop – especially BRILL- made the experience fantastic. The highlight for me was probably hanging out with Warren Carter, and then Bruce Winter. Both men were friendly and very forthcoming with helpful ideas and critiques of my suggested research areas. Carter alerted me to some material he had written on 1 Peter, and then invited me to respond to him. I’ll be distilling my thoughts and then blog my response. Bruce Winter was so kind and helpful, a stunning example of scholarship and piety. Winter has done quite a bit of work on 1 Peter, but hasn’t published much of it. As my interests are now focussed on 1 Peter, he offered to review some of the stuff I’d be working on.
The best session for me was the Symposium on Bob Jewett’s Roman’s commentary. Doug Campbell, Paul Trebilco and Jewett’s response were outstanding. Eddie and I walked out thinking “do we know anything?” The level of discussion was just superb. Jewett even made his way over to us to find out what we were studying, how we found the session and what our thoughts were. WOW! My friends have now graciously agreed to buy me this commentary for my B-day. I love my friends…
The bookshop was quite helpful, especially the Brill titles that were heavily discounted. My semi-embarrassing moment came when I began to chat to a guy about Reinhard Feldmeier’s newly translated commentary on 1 Peter (which I’m hoping to review soon). This guy was quite persistent that this was one of the best commentaries on 1 Peter. I was a bit hesitant, and I’m quite happy that Achtemeier and Green are the best commentaries on 1 Peter, with Elliott a close second. The banter when back and forth for a while and then we parted ways. Later on, I was told that the person I was talking to was Carey C. Newman, who is down to write a commentary on 1 Peter for the Smyth & Helwys series! Next time I’ll be more careful before I just start blabbing… PS: I still think I’m right about Achtemeier and Green. Feldmeier is helpful, but nowhere near as helpful or insightful as the former two.
After SBL, I had lunch with my former mentor Mark Keown, lecturer in New Testament at Bible College of New Zealand. Mark had just come back from the Tyndale fellowship where he presented a paper on gospel proclamation in 1 Peter. I’m hoping to interact with Mark’s paper in a forthcoming blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Well, Sue and I fly out to NZ tomorrow for the international SBL in Auckland, and a great [and much needed] snowboarding holiday! For all those who've been emailing, I'll try get back to you, but otherwise, see you in August!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pauline Mission

In doing research on Mission in 1 Peter, I found parts of John Dickson's Ph D Thesis, which are very thought provoking, check it out...

Mission-Commitment in Ancient Judaism and in the Pauline Communities:
The shape, extent and background of early Christian mission.
The extent to which Jewish and Christian communities of the first century evidenced ‘proselytising’ tendencies has been hotly contested in recent research, with scholars tending either to deny outright or affirm emphatically the presence of ‘mission’ in the synagogue or the church. In a wide-ranging historical and philological examination of Second Temple Jewish literature and the epistles of Paul, Dr. Dickson offers a carefully nuanced picture of the shape and extent of mission-commitment in Judaism and early Christianity.
Click here to read: Table of Contents (pdf) Introduction (pdf) Chapter 1 Winning the Gentiles (pdf) Chapter 3 Heralds and partners (pdf)
Review 1 (pdf) in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Review 2 (pdf) in the Toronto Journal of Theology. Click here to go to the publisher

Mission in 1 Peter

Anyone got any clues as to articles, books or resources to consult for the theme of "MISSION" in 1 Peter? Torrey Seland will publish on this, at some point - but until then, any ideas?
There's definitely something to this theme in 1 Peter, and I'm hoping to explore this further this week... Willy let you know what I find...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God is no Spectator!

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

God is not a spectator, but a fellow-sufferer, who has himself absorbed the full force of evil. In the lonely figure hanging in the darkness and dereliction of Calvary the Christian believes that he sees God opening his arms to embrace the bitterness of the strange world he has made. The God revealed in the vulnerability of the incarnation and in the vulnerability of creation are one. He is the crucified God, whose paradoxical power is perfected in weakness, whose self-chosen symbol is the King reigning from the gallows.

Polkinghorne, Science and Providence, pg. 68

Compare this with yesterday's quote and one has a very interesting view of the atonement...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beyond Retribution

1 Peter 2:23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the One who judges justly.

Restorative justice cannot manufacture repentance and forgiveness. But by placing a concern for the healing of hurts, the renewal of relationships, and the re-creation of community at the heart of its agenda, it makes room for the miracle of forgiveness to occur and for a new future to dawn. Nothing could be more compatible with the message of the New Testament than this. For without diminishing the reality of evil, without denying the culpability of those who commit crime or minimizing the pain of those who suffer at their hands, and without dispensing with punishment as a mechanism for constraining evil and promoting change, the New Testament looks beyond retribution to a vision of justice that is finally satisfied only by the defeat of evil and the healing of its victims, by the repentance of sinners and the forgiveness of their sins, by the restoration of peace and the renewal of hope – a justice that manifests God’s redemptive work of making all things new.
Chris Marshall, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment (Eerdmans, 2001) pg. 284

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Atonement and 1 Peter

Chris Tilling offers a beautiful quote from M. M. Thompson's THNT commentary on Colossians and Philemon, about what the cross accomplishes. He then notes that his "inner jury is still out on the whole 'penal' issue. If you were to recommend any book on the penal substitution issue, what would it be?"
Well, the best book on the whole issue of the "atonement" that I've ever read is: The Nature of the Atonement (IVP, 2006), which is a "Four Views" book, so it has contributions by Greg Boyd (Christus Victor), Joel Green (Mixed Models), Bruce Reichenback (Healing) and Tom Schreiner (Penal Substitution).
Joel Green's offering has the following quote on 1 Peter, which is worth pondering:
Jesus' suffering is exemplary, providing a model for his followers of innocent suffering (1 Pet 2:19-20; 3:16-17; 4:1-2, 13-16); redemptive, providing a model for his followers of effective suffering (1 Pet 2:12, 15; 3:1-2); and anticipatory, providing a model for his followers of how God will vindicate the righteous who suffer (1 Pet 2:20; 4:13-14; 5:1, 10). This means that although it is true that Peter draws heavily on Israel's Scriptures, it is equally true that the biblical story is now fundamentally branded by the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus' execution functions for Peter as the conceptual scheme by which life is lived and the world is made to make sense. The cross of Christ provides a way of comprehending life, orients a community around its identifying beliefs and values, and guides the actions of those whose lives carry its brand. [pg. 183]
If one has to categorize 1 Peter's model of the atonement, it is surely Christus Victor, as 1 Pet 3:18-22 demonstrates. Jesus, though seemingly defeated at the cross, is vindicated into new life by the Spirit of God. This victory is then triumphantly announced to the demonic underworld, which signals their imminent demise. [For an interesting proposal of "how" the Spirit announces this victory see here].
On the whole "penal substitution" view, I still have one dangerous question: Show me a single verse that teaches the idea that God poured out his wrath on Jesus at the cross. This is my only objection to this view. It lacks biblical support. It sounds good, and theologically a good argument can be made for it, but where is the biblical support?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Exploring 1 Peter 3:18-22

This section of Peter is arguably the hardest. There are several interpretive options at the level of grammar, vocab and background influence. But my concern will not be to solve all those obscure details, Achtemeier has shown which option is most plausible, and I would like to build on that proposal here. But before I do, let me summarise my position:
Firstly, I contend that 3:18b should be understood as "He was put to death by the flesh, and brought to life by the Spirit". Thus, humanity was the agent of Jesus' death, but the Spirit was the agent that brought Jesus back to life. Furthermore, it appears that this forms a [temporal?] sequence which then leads onto verse 19.
That means that verse 19 cannot be understood as a reference to a decent into hell, since Jesus has already been raised, as noted in verse 18. So what does verse 19 mean? The Greek states ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν, which I have translated as "by the Spirit Jesus also ascended and made a proclamation to the demons in prison." It appears to me, and please correct me if you think my understanding has gone astray, that the Spirit is the agent that declares the victory of the resurrection. What was declared to the "spirits" which I take to mean "demonic forces" was that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
But the more interesting thing here, and admittedly this is conjecture, is exactly how does the Spirit make this proclamation? I would like to propose the following. 1 Pet 1:12, notes that “…in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…” Does Peter understand the announcement of vs. 19 to be done through the Spirit by means of the Christian community? Thus, the community of followers is understood as the couriers of the message of Jesus' victory over the enemy.
Admittedly, this is a conjecture. But if Peter has set up an understanding that the Spirit is the agent from heaven that announces the victory of Jesus through Christians, then perhaps he is being consistent in his understanding and we should understand this verse to entail that the announcement of Jesus' victory of death, and the demonic forces that played a role in his execution, is communicated through these believers amidst their situation and circumstances. They are to continue a full frontal declaration, despite their suffering/persecution, of Jesus' victory as the Messiah and Lord.
Any thoughts or responses? Have I missed the point completely, or is there something here?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dr Barth and Dr Seuss

There's some amazing stuff going on around the web, and I'd love to chat about all that I've been up to here, but time doesn't permit such joys just yet. So here's a poem to cheer you up!
For those who are familiar with Barth's major themes, this is really done well.
HT: Ben Myers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Xenophobic Attacks in SA

Please pray for us.
The violence in South Africa is now only 2km down the road from our community offices, and many of our people are fleeing the violence and uncertainty. I had to instruct our volunteer staff from the UK not to go into our townships today, as the tension escalated. Our building is now being used as a Safe-Haven for those seeking a hiding place. This could entail our building becoming a target for violence.
Please pray for us: we need wisdom and God's intervention.

Finally - Achtemeier!

Finally, after waiting nearly 16 weeks, Paul J. Achtemeier's commentary on 1 Peter has finally arrived on my desk... Even with the silly mistakes on the back of the commentary [it has recommendations for Attridge's commentary on Hebrews, instead of this commentary on 1 Peter] this will prove to be a valuable contribution to my studies.
Although I'm half way through 1 Peter already, I couldn't delay research/preaching any longer, this commentary will still prove to be useful. Perhaps I'll be able to blog more about it soon. But work here is keeping me thoroughly busy... take care, ciao

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I don't know how this happened. One minute it was a friendly discussion, the next I'm down to teach Daniel 4 at one of our largest churches. How did I, a New Testament geek, get asked to teach on Daniel 4? Of course, this perplexed status is no reflection of disbelief in the authority of the Hebrew testament, I just don't usually teach on it - so naturally, I'm terrified! Perhaps Daniel 7 could be done, [for then I could just teach on how the early Chritian writers appropriated this material] but Daniel 4?
So if anyone has any recommendations on commentaries or articles on Daniel that I should read, now would be the best time to make note of that! The stuff I've read already makes my head squirm with complex debates and discussions I know almost nothing about...
In other words: HELP!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review of Green

Joel Green's commentary on 1 Peter is reviewed by Nijay Gupta, and I could not agree more with this review. Green has opened up the theological aspects of 1 Peter, and in so doing, has set a model for how theological exegesis should be done. I'm loving every page of this commentary, and would highly recommend it as one of the best ever written. Two quotes to stir your interest:

To read 1 Peter is to be told not how we might think about God, but what God thinks of us. Here in 1 Peter is an invitation to adopt God’s way of seeing things and to live accordingly; perhaps better, 1 Peter offers not so much an invitation as an exercise in formation in the character and ways of God. This entails allegiance to Jesus Christ, and not Caesar, as Lord.

Following the Christ who was crucified on a tree determines both internal and external relations; it is profoundly political and missiological act (external) and a commitment to indwelling a terrain determined by the sanctifying Spirit and intramural hospitality (internal). The homeless people of God comprise God’s household under construction, and a priesthood whose vocation it is to mediate God’s presence wherever they find themselves. As they journey through suffering in hope of eschatological honour, they bear witness in the present to the coming new age.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Review of Elliott's Commentary

Thanks to Bryan who notifies us of an online review of John H. Elliott's commentary on 1 Peter by none other than Paul Achtemeier. The link is to a formal review in the Biblical Theology Bulletin.
Achtemeier's review is favourable, and very worthwhile in seeing what are the major issues, and where these two giants agree and part ways.
Thanks Bryan!

Book Reviews

Thanks to Torrey Seland for alerting me to his book review on The Pentecostal Commentary on 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude by Rebecca Skaggs, Pilgrim, 2004pp. xiv + 176. This caused me to look for other book reviews on 1 Peter, since that is the focus of my attention these days. I found some good reviews, such as:
1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter Achtemeier, Paul Fortress, 1996
Reviews: 1 Review by J. Ramsey Michaels
1 Peter Jobes, Karen H.Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005
Reviews: 1 Review by John Elliott, published 10/15/2006
Reviews: 1 Review by Timothy Wiarda, published 5/26/2007
Argument and Theology in 1 Peter: The Origins of Christian Paraenesis Thurén, Lauri Sheffield Academic Press, 1995
Reviews: 1 Review by M. Eugene Boring
Reviews: 1 Review by John H. Elliott, published 4/14/2007
Compositional Transitions in 1 Peter: An Analysis of the Letter-Opening Tite, Philip L. International Scholars Publications, 1997
Reviews: 1 Review by John L. White
First and Second Peter, James, and Jude Perkins, Pheme John Knox Press, 1995
Reviews: 1 Review by Andrew Chester
Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community, and Christology in 1 Peter Bechtler, Steven Scholars Press for the SBL, 1998
Reviews: 1 Review by Troy W. Martin
Reviews: 2 Reviews by Timothy Wiarda, published 10/16/2007
Patrick J. Hartin, published 3/8/2008
Honor, Shame and the Rhetoric of 1 Peter Campbell, Barth Scholars Press, 1998
Reviews: 1 Review by David De Silva, published 3/15/2000
However, one soon discovers that there are some significant books that have not been reviewed. None of John H. Elliott's books on 1 Peter have been reviewed. [The search results said "Try Again"]. Ok, so it's going to be tough to review a 956pg commentary, but someone out there should do it! Although Troy Martin has reviewed a book, see above, his book on 1 Peter remains un-reviewed. I find books reviews from this site generally very helpful, unless they're in a foreign language! So for those who love book reviewing, there's some openings here.
BTW, for some fortunate soul, there is Reading First Peter With New Eyes: Methodological Reassessments of the Letter of First Peter Webb, Robert and Betsy Bauman-Martin, editors T&T Clark, 2007 available for review. So get on to that, and when you're done with it, send it to me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fee on Galatians

Apparently, Gordon Fee's commentary on Galatians is available.

Gordon D. Fee, Galatians: A Pentecostal commentary on Paul's Letter.
ISBN 978-1-905679-02-7

But I can't seem to find it anywhere, except here: Anyone got more info? Anyone know any more about the series, or read one of the commentaries?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Top 10 Influential Scholars

Following from Nijay Gupta, here is my list of influential scholars.
    • N. T. Wright. Jesus and the Victory of God awoke me from a deep ignorance concerning the historical Jesus, exegesis, and what good scholarship looks like. The New Testament and the People of God is a must read for every student of the NT. And, his work on the resurrection is WOW! Then add his Romans commentary, his work on Colossians, and his popular commentaries that my wife loves! Wright is the most influential person in my thinking.
    • Gordon Fee. I remember spending hours and hours as an undergrad reading his 1 Corinthians commentary and his popular hermeneutics book: How to Read the Bible for All it's Worth. Great commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, even if it was far too short. Excellent exegete, always fair, and never boring.
    • Richard Bauckham. Singlehandedly Bauckham has shifted the focus of NT studies in such diverse fields. His work on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is stunning, 2 Peter and Jude, probably the best commentary on those letters. His stuff on James is great, and the theological reflection exceptionally helpful. The man is a legend, and a contender for the greatest NT scholar alive. Never following the trends, he carves the evidence and shows how things worked back then. Brilliant.
    • Craig Evans. Solid historian, opened my eyes to the backgrounds of the NT. Loved his book: Jesus and His Contemporaries, and his new work on Jesus and the Satan will be very good.
    • I. H. Marshall. The Dean of NT studies. I remember reading an article on predestination in the NT, which changed my whole understanding. His Luke commentary is still great, and it was published the year I was born! All his commentaries are worth consulting, and his NT Theology is very helpful and informative. Can't wait to read his commentary on John, and his work on Romans.
    • Ben Witherington. He's probably taught me more about rhetorical aspects of interpretation than anyone else. Very helpful commentaries that are always close to my research. Always makes me think about the context of the NT letters.
    • Wofhart Pannenberg. Proved to me that systematic theology wasn't an utter waste of time. His three volume Systematic Theology is the best systematic theology I've ever read, although Stanley Grenz come's a close 2nd. Pannenberg showed me how exegesis and theology can work together, and exegesis is the building blocks of Systematics.
    • Joel Green. I've not read too much of his stuff, but what I have read has shaped my thinking. His commentary on 1 Peter is the best I've read so far, and his commentary on Luke is also probably the best. His book on the atonement really helped me think through the issues.
    • Richard Hays. The Moral Vision of the New Testament and his The Faith of Jesus Chrst are exceptional offerings from a scholar who has a clear passion for Scripture and the Church. I'm always happy and challenged when I read his commentaries on Galatians and 1 Corinthians. Hays convinced me that the subjective genitive is the best solution to the Pistis Christou debate. Sorry Nijay!
    • C. K. Barrett. One of the best scholars ever. Barrett's commentary on John persuaded me that biblical studies was far better than systematics and philosophy. His commentaries on Paul's letters are all worth serious scrutiny, and his latest offering on Acts is kick ass good.
    • Greg Boyd. I first read Boyd's Cynic, Sage or Son of God, and thought it was a helpful response to the Seminar's mistakes. Then I read his popular book: Is God to Blame? which caused an intellectual conversion, and shaped my whole theology. It's one of the most influential books I've ever read.

So, who's your most influential scholars?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Redemption from the New Perspective?

N. T. Wright's article: Redemption from the New Perspective? Towards a Multi-Layered Pauline Theology of the Cross
Originally published in Redemption, ed. S. T. Davis, D. Kendall, G. O’Collins (Oxford: OUP) 2006, 69–100. is now available online.
Be sure to check it out...

1 Peter 1:1-2

I'm working my way through 1 Peter at the moment, and it's a real eye opener.

Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη

These opening verses have generated further discussion since the release of John H. Elliott, “A Home for the Homeless: A Social-Scientific Criticism of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy”, 1990. (Wipf and Stock, 2005). {Keith Jagger provides a succinct review.} Basically, concerning the opening verses, Elliott argues that words like paroikoi (2:11), paroikia (1:17), and, parepidēmoi (1:1; 2:11) alert us to the social reality of the audience.
The latter (parepidēmoi ) has been translated as “exiles”[1], “sojourners”[2], “strangers in the world”[3], “foreigners”[4], “resident aliens”[5], “visiting strangers”[6] and “scattered people”[7]. Finding an adequate way of translating these terms is difficult for much debate and discussion has arisen due to their natural referents. The two important questions here are:
  1. Are these terms metaphors for the community, or are they legal terms suggesting a definite people group?
  2. Do they refer to people that held this status before becoming followers of Jesus, or as a result of following Jesus and becoming part of the Christian community?
  • And finally, does it have to be either/or or is it possible that writing to such a large group of people would probably entail a mixture of the above views?
Despite the concerns raised by some commentators, Elliott does not deny the metaphorical/religious sense of these terms (pg. 48-49). Apparently Torrey Seland's article "παροικoς καὶ παρεπιδήμος: Proselyte Characterizations in 1 Peter?" BBR 11 (2001): 239-68, is the article to read that offers criticisms of Elliott's view. But a trip to the library will have to wait until next week sometime [unless someone has a digital copy?].
For now it is enough to note that the opening verse of Peter are very important in understanding the entire ethos and message of 1 Peter, something I did not realise until closer inspection.
[1] NRSV
[2] Witherington, 1-2 Peter, pg. 63; Senior, “1 Peter”, pg. 25; Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter, 118.
[3] NIV, Green, 1 Peter, pg. 14; Michaels, 1 Peter, pg. 3.
[4] Jobes, 1 Peter, pg. 58, Goppelt, A Commentary on 1 Peter, pg. 61
[5] Boring, 1 Peter, pg. 54
[6] Elliott, A Home for the Homeless, pg. 47
[7] Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, pg. 39.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reading 1 Peter

I'm currently reading everything on 1 Peter that I can get my hands on. This will be my reading for the next two months as I prepare to teach a course on 1 Peter at our Church. Hopefully, Achtemeier and Elliott will arive soon, so that I can delve into those two, but currently this is what I'm reading:

  • Gerald Bray, ed. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (IVP, 2000)
  • E. G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Essays (Macmillan, 1947)
  • J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude (A & C Black, 1969)
  • L. Goppelt, 1 Peter (Eerdmans, 1993)
  • J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter (Word, 1988)
  • M. Volf, “Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation between Church and Culture in 1 Peter.” Ex Auditu 10 (1994): 15-30. Available online and accessed 2008-04-14.
  • P. Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude (Westminster, 1995)
  • Scot McKnight, 1 Peter (Zondervan, 1996)
  • M. E. Boring, 1 Peter (Abingdon, 1999)
  • G. Stanton, “1 Peter” in The Eerdmans Bible Commentary eds. J. D. G. Dunn and J. W. Rogerson (Eerdmans, 2003)
  • D. P. Senior, “1 Peter” in 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter D. P. Senior and D. J. Harrington (Michael Glazier, 2003)
  • J. B. Green, “Faithful Witness in the Diaspora: The Holy Spirit and the Exiled People of God according to 1 Peter” in The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins: Essays in Honour of J. D. G. Dunn eds. G. N. Stanton, B. W. Longenecker, S. C. Barton (Eerdmans, 2004)
  • K. H. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker, 2005)
  • D. A. Carson “1 Peter” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament eds. G. K. Beal and D. A. Carson (Baker, 2007)
  • Ben Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians (IVP, 2007)
  • J. Green, 1 Peter. Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 2007)

Volf's paper: Soft Difference, is outstanding and I would encourage anyone interested in 1 Peter to read this, in fact anyone interested in the Church and Culture should read this. Is there anything else on 1 Peter that is just a must read? Please, post it or email me...

I think I've finally cracked the first two chapters of 1 Peter, and so if I find time I'll blog about it. There's some great nuggets from Joel Green's excellent commentary, especially the way he translates the passages. Very helpful. Anyway, back to the books... Oh, and my laptop got a nasty virus called "stupid" and deleted by HDD, so I'm busy with that too...

Chat soon...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

SBL International Meeting - Auckland 08

The Program for the SBL International Meeting in Auckland is now up and available for perusal. There are no definite times but the basic outline of what's happening is available and it looks very interesting.
Will you be attending? What will you try and focus on? I think Bruce Winter's session is going to be fabulous...

A Pile of Books?

So, I have this pile of books that I don't know what to do with... Any ideas?

Basically, these are brand new books that people have given me as gifts, that I already have, or don't want. So yeah... I'm in a lucky position...

Thoughts? Ideas? Sale?

I've also got a list of second hand commentaries that I'm going to sell in NZ. So if anyone wants one of those, I'll post the list when I get there...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Its a Girl!

Well now its official. My next little contribution to the world will be a girl!

Yes, our little family is extending with the more than welcome addition of a third child. And just as nappies/dippers were fading out of the picture...

The 29th of August is the due date, and my lovely wife Tracy is doing so well with the pains and discomfort of pregnancy. How can you honestly thank someone enough for giving you a child?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Off to Zambia

Greetings Friends...
Well, Susan and I are off to Zambia for 10 days, so I'll be outta of blogging action - leaving my laptop behind...
We're helping friends with the launch of our new Church: Jubilee Community Church in Livingston, Zambia.
Susan and myself will also take a couple of days to see the Victoria Falls, and enjoy the people.
I'll be taking along Joel Green's commentary on 1 Peter, as well as Ruth Anne Reese's THNT commentary on 2 Peter, Jude. Both of these are really good...
Have fun, I'll blog some photo's when I get back...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SBL International Meeting 08

Well, I've just booked our plane tickets to Auckland, New Zealand and we're so excited! This will afford me the opportunity to attend the SBL International Meeting, hosted by Auckland university this year! We'll be in NZ for a month, where I'll be able to try out my new ROME ANTHEM (For those who don't know what that is, it has nothing to do with ancient history, but rather soft powder and killer airs... It's the otherside of my life, besides books! {and my wife, if she is reading this...}).
Is anyone else from the blogosphere going to SBL in Auckland this July? I'd be happy to connect and show you around, and even show you where a couple of really good bookshops are!
Otherwise, see you there! And sorry for those who will be missing out...
Eddie and I plan to have as much fun as possible! I'm really hoping for a great line up!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bauckham Lecture Online

Richard Bauckham delivered the annual Drumwright lectures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The lectures in total are three with the theme being "Eyewitnesses in The Gospel of Mark" : March 6, "Eyewitnesses: Simon Peter" (10:50 AM) March 6, " Eyewitnesses: Bartimaeus" (7:00 PM)March 7, "Eyewitnesses: The Three Women" ( 11:00 AM).

Furthermore, the first of the three lectures has been posted online. Bauckham has changed the order of the lectures leading off with the Bartimaeus lecture first. The video can be accessed here. The audio can be found here. I do hope the remainder of the lectures will be made available as well.
HT> Matt

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Selwyn on Peter's Audience

Reading through the commentaries on 1 Peter, I'm struck by this response by Selwyn to the view that first Peter is primarily directed to a Jewish audience.
This interpretation of the facts, however, encounters serious difficulties at certain points, and, though sufficient to put the extreme “Gentile” view out of court, is too narrow for its parts. While, for example, the “vain conversation” (ματαία ἀναστροφῆς) {1:18} of the readers’ life before conversion admits of the view that they had been lapsed Jews, the description of it as “handed down by tradition from your fathers” (πατροπαραδότου) {1:18} could hardly have been used of any but Gentiles. Again, though many Jews may have fallen into the vices named in iv. 3-5, they are typically Gentile excesses, and certainly no Gentile could have been “surprised” if Jews abstained from taking part in them. Further, the careful attention given in ii. 18ff. to the duties of slaves, even though based on common sources, indicates that there were many slaves among St. Peter’s readers; and it is most improbably that these were Jews.[1]
I'm beginning to think that Witherington has succeeded in demonstrating that a Jewish contingent among a Gentile Christian community is probable, but not that 1 Peter is predominantly addressed to a Jewish Christian community. But I'm continuing to read Witherington, as he has definitely made his case well, if not ultimately persuasive.
[1] Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter, pg. 43

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Not so Idle thoughts" article...

Ben Witherington “Not so idle thoughts about eidolothuton,” TynB 44.2 (1993), 237-54.

Does anyone have a digital copy of this article, that they'd like to please email to me? [primalhcc AT gmail . com] Thanks!


It is commonly assumed that eidolothuton is a polemical term created by early Jews to refer to meat sacrificed to a pagan god. An exhaustive search of the data in the TLG and in the papyri casts doubts on this hypothesis. All of the references to eidolothuton in the sources are found in Christian texts, with two exceptions; and both of these exceptions may have been influenced by Christian redaction. In any case, it appears that neither of these texts antedates the Corinthian correspondence. Thus, this term may have originated in early Jewish Christianity.

A study of all the NT references to eidolothuton reveals that this term in the early period was distinguishable from hierothuton (sacred food), and that it meant meat sacrificed to and eaten in the presence of an idol, or in the temple precincts. Numerous reference to eidolothuton in the Greek Fathers show that Chrysostom and others understood this to be the meaning of the term in Acts 15 and in other contexts.

Several possible implications of the above are: (1) the Decree in Acts 15 is about Gentiles refraining from meals and immorality in pagan temples, not about them keeping a modicum of Jewish, or Noachic food laws; (2) 1 Cor. 8-10 reflects Paul's acceptance and implementation of the Decree; (3) Galatians was written before the Decree and reflects the struggle that led to the Decree; (4) Paul and James were in basic agreement in regard to what Gentiles needed to do to maintain table fellowship with Jewish Christians-avoid pagan feasts and immorality. Neither imposed circumcision or food laws on Gentiles. The latter was the position of the Judaising faction in the Jerusalem Church who were more conservative than James, Peter, or Paul. As C. Hill's recent 'Hellenists and Hebrews' shows, F.C. Baur's view of early Christianity is no longer adequate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

1 Peter 4:3 - written for Jews?

Torrey Seland provides a helpful overview of Ben Witherington's arguments for a predominantly Jewish audience of 1 Peter. I agree with Seland that Withering has mounted an impressive case for a Jewish audience.

Doing some research I found this statement by Craig Keener:
An audience in Asia Minor might consist mainly of Jewish Christians, but Peter’s audience probably includes Gentile Christians (cf. 1:18; 4:3–4).
Craig Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (IVP, 1997).
The type of commentary doesn't allow for footnotes, but Keener is well known to be an authority on first century sources and places. And thus he appears to confirm Witherington's position that these areas had sizeable Jewish-Christian population.

I must confess that 1 Peter 4:3 sill suggests to me a Gentile audience. I'm struggling to see how this can refer to Jewish Christians.
ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις ἐπιθυμίαις οἰνοφλυγίαις κώμοις πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις
You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.
Witherington’s comments on 1 Pet 4:3 are all the more therefore surprising as he notes the following concerning this verse:
Notice that all of these vices listed are things that went on at pagan festivals or dinner parties, including in temples. Drunkenness and orgies are forbidden, but notice also the prohibition against idolatry, here called “disgusting” or “lawless [athemitois] idolatry. Pagan idol feasts is a subject that Paul addresses as well at length in 1 Corinthians 8-10, as does Acts 15’s decree articulated by James, and we may see this as one subject for taboo in Revelation 2-3 as well. Second Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is the Pauline form of the same advice: “Do not become entangled in pagan idol feasts and so be unequally yoked spiritually with unbelievers.” The association of idolatry and immorality is quite natural in Jewish polemic, because it all happens in the same venue: the pagan temple.[1]
It is exceptionally difficult to see how this refers to a Jewish audience. Can we suppose that all Jews living in the area’s of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, have been engaged in such activities? Or is this just hyperbole? Can we imagine a sizeable population of Jews, even Hellenized Jews doing all this? Engaging in orgies?[2] Idolatry? The question then becomes, in what sense were they still Jewish?

Yes, Witherington can marshal texts from early Judaism that warn of “debauchery”[3] and “idolatry”[4] but what help are these texts in illuminating the situation at hand?[5] Was Peter aware of these texts? Would Peter have referred to all Jewish Christians of these areas the way he does in this vice list? One should also note that some early commentators on this passage suggest a Gentile audience.[6] Thus, there is no consensus or unanimity among patristic commentators that Peter writes to a Jewish-Christian audience.[7]

[1] Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter, pg. 196. Witherington does reference an earlier article of his, “Not so Idle Thoughts about eidolothyton,” TynBul 44, no 2 (1993): 237-54. So one wonders if this advances his case for understanding this as referring to Jews. [If anyone has a digital copy of this article and would like to send it to me, I would be MOST grateful!]

[2] Michaels, 1 Peter, pg. 223, translates vs. 3 as “There was time enough in the past to have done what the Gentiles wanted, as you went along with them in acts of immorality, lust, drunken orgies, feasts, revelries, and lawless acts of idolatry.”
[3] Testament of Judah 14:2-3
[4] Testament of Judah 23:1
[5] Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter, pg. 196-7
[6] See ACCS 11:112. Thus, not all patristic commentators viewed 1 Peter as written to Jewish Christians.
[7] Contra what Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter, pg. 17 appears to suggest.

My Students!

This year, I had the privilege of teaching these fine students the first nine chapters of Acts. We had a great, but rather intense time, of working through all the introductory issues, and some exegesis!
They were a great bunch of people, and I look forward to hanging out with them in March, for the next installment - Acts 10-19!
So if you're one of them, get cracking!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jesus, the Jumper!

In the quest for the historical Jesus over the years, various elements of Jesus identity, mission and message have been emphasised.[1] I am convinced now, that we have missed a significant part of Jesus’ identity as a JUMPER. Jumper's are a peculiar breed in Scripture, and because there are not many of them, this is often overlooked when studying Jesus. But before we look at the Hebrew background, let us offer some definitive gospel passages that suggest Jesus’ identity as a Jumper.
Luke 24:31 αὐτῶν δὲ διηνοίχθησαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτόν καὶ αὐτὸς ἄφαντος ἐγένετο ἀπ' αὐτῶν.
Luke 24:35-39 "καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐξηγοῦντο τὰ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ καὶ ὡς ἐγνώσθη αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου ταῦτα δὲ αὐτῶν λαλούντων αὐτὸς ἔστη ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς εἰρήνη ὑμῖν πτοηθέντες δὲ καὶ ἔμφοβοι γενόμενοι ἐδόκουν πνεῦμα θεωρεῖν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τί τεταραγμένοι ἐστέ καὶ διὰ τί διαλογισμοὶ ἀναβαίνουσιν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν ἴδετε τὰς χεῖράς μου καὶ τοὺς πόδας μου ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός ψηλαφήσατέ με καὶ ἴδετε ὅτι πνεῦμα σάρκα καὶ ὀστέα οὐκ ἔχει καθὼς ἐμὲ θεωρεῖτε ἔχοντα."
Lukan scholarship is more hesitant to state a fully fledged “jumper” identity, even though scholars like Nolland will reference Philip jumping as a parallel.[2] Even the superb commentary by Green fails to interact seriously with this issue.[3] Time did not permit me to further analyse other commentators, but it is unlikely that they have given this much thought! John 20:19 οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς εἰρήνη ὑμῖν
John 20:26 καὶ μεθ' ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ πάλιν ἦσαν ἔσω οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Θωμᾶς μετ' αὐτῶν ἔρχεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ εἶπεν εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
Johannine views of Jesus are more definitive in noting Jesus’ identity as a Jumper. Thus, Craig Keener, commenting on John 20:19 notes that:
John may wish to underline the nature of the resurrection body – corporeal (20:20) but capable of acting as if incorporeal (20:19), though presumably not like the “phantoms” of Greek though that could pass through the thong of a bolt in a door (which would contradict the image of 20:20)… the repetition of the closed doors in 20:26, again as the context of Jesus’ sudden appearance among them, is emphatic; John wishes to underline that Jesus appeared despite closed doors and to the disciples’ astonishment.[4]
Ben Witherington suggests that:
Although, the Fourth Evangelist does not engage in speculation about the matter, he clearly portrays Jesus in all the Easter stores as having differing properties from those he had before the crucifixion. He is seen as still a physical human being, but one who is also much more, and can appear in or disappear from a room without using a door.[5]
Beasley-Murray notes that this incidence “shows the ability of Jesus to presence himself in any place.”[6] This final quotation from Beasley-Murray concludes our scholarly evidence for the notion of Jesus as a “jumper”.
My case is simple. Having seen the movie: Jumper, on Saturday night, I am convinced that this is not only our destiny but a common scriptural phenomenon. Scripture is full of Jumpers! The first of course is Enoch (Gen 5:24); then Elijah (2 Kings 2:11 ); Jesus (Matt 28:9; Luke 24:35-39; John 20:19) and finally Philip (Acts 8:39-40). There don’t appear to be any references to Paul jumping, unless one counts 2 Cor 12:2. But this would have to be a “in body” experience for it to count as “jumping”.
Recognising that Jesus is probably the more difficult case to prove, it nevertheless appears to be the case. Questions however do remain. When did he become a Jumper? Was it only after the resurrection, as Witherington suggests? Whatever the explanation, given the reasons listed above, I submit to you that the BEST explanation is that Jesus was a jumper. Thus, Jesus, and then the first followers, are following in the prophetic steps of the past, possibly claiming their mantle of gifting. This suggests a strong intimacy with the Spirit as the means by which people JUMP. And because Jesus was a jumper, that is our destiny. And that looks FREAKIN AMAZING!
So where would you jump to?
For those of you who have not seen the movie, can you please do the appropriate research as to times and venues and make a point of seeing this. If for no other reason than to give yourself a break from reading.
[1] For a helpful introduction to research see G. Theissen and A. Merz, The Historical Jesus (SCM, 1998) and C. A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries (Brill, 1995) pp. 1-49.
[2] Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53, pg. 1206
[3] Green, The Gospel of Luke, pg. 853-55
[4] Craig Keener, The Gospel of John, 2:1201
[5] Ben Witherington, John’s Wisdom, pg. 342
[6] Beasley-Murray, John, pg. 378

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Audience of 1 Peter [II]

For those interested in the discussion between myself, Joel B. Green and Torrey Seland regarding the audience of 1 Peter, and more specifically Ben Witherington's arguments for a predominantly Jewish audience then check out the intro to 1 Peter by Witherington and Torrey Selland's post 1 Peter written for Jews? (II).
Reading through Witherington's arguments, they don't appear as weak as I had first imagined. His explanations for the critical passages [1:14, 18; 2:10, 25 and 4:3-4], appear to be reasonable, even though I'm still not convinced that his case is a strong one. The link above, to the introduction, is a valuable resource if you don't have the book yet [Yes, mine did arrive yesterday!].
On other matters related to this, Joel Green, author of the THNT commentary on 1 Peter, has directed my attention to E. Randolph Richards' book, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing. I'm hoping that this will deal with the issue raised in Green's commentary, quoted before, regarding "Letter-Carriers" as performers and interpreters of the epistles that they carry and deliver.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Audience of 1 Peter

Over at Torrey Seland's blog, there is an interesting conversation regarding Ben Witherington's proposal that the audience of 1 Peter is mainly Jewish. Joel Green, author of the new THNT commentary on Peter offers his thoughts on Seland's blog. As Seland notes, this goes against the scholarly trend, which sees this epistle as written to a predominantly Gentile audience. I find myself in agreement with Seland who states: "I came to realize that the descriptions inherent in passages as 1:14, 18; 2:10, 25 and 4:3-4 were hard to read as labels of former Jews." So it will be fascinating to see how Witherington handles these texts and the scholarship surrounding them.

My copy of Witherington's commentary will arrive today hopefully, and then perhaps I can make further comments on this interesting topic. I must confess to be enjoying 1 Peter rather more than expected. Not that I anticipated anything bad, but Joel Green's commentary is thoroughly helpful and absolutely brilliant in the exegesis and theological commentary. Anyone interested in 1 Peter should check this out immediately!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Letter-Carriers as Performers

In reading through Joel Green's excellent new commentary on 1 Peter, he makes this comment that I think aids our discussion on authorial intent, audience understanding and the Hebrew Scriptures.
To say that the majority of the first audience of 1 Peter was comprised of Gentiles is not say that all were Gentiles, and we can imagine that Jewish Christians within the communities to which this letter is addressed would have been able to draw ongoing attention to the scriptural allusions and echoes that dot the landscape of the letter. Second, the person or persons who conveyed the letter across the area of Asia mentioned in 1:1 would have served not only as letter-carriers but also as performers of the letter, interpreting it to these groups of Christians. We can imagine their attending to the interplay of the letter with its scriptural intertexts. Third, it should not be forgotten that Israel’s Scriptures comprised the Bible of those early Christians, so that we would be mistaken were we to suppose that even Gentile converts would not have been progressing in their intimacy with the words of Scripture.[1]
Could we postulate that Timothy, Silvanus or whoever takes this letter, would preach and interpret 1 Thessalonians for the community of believers? Obviously, Green is writing about 1 Peter, so the circumstances are different, but could we postulate a similar scenario for the Thessalonian correspondence? My question is then simply: What evidence do we have of Letter-carriers performing this function? Anyone know of any literature on this matter? It seems a priori plausible, but is there evidence for this?
[1] Green, 1 Peter, pg. 6

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Authorial Intent and Community Understanding

My thanks to both to all those offering very helpful questions and comments. I think this topic is one that has the capacity to really open up further understanding of both Paul and his epistles. I want to respond to the questions and comments, and so will begin with Nijay’s comments on my post.

It seems reasonable that our understanding of each of the communities to which Paul writes, can only be re-constructed from the details and evidence in Paul’s writings. For example, we may know much about Thessalonica from other sources, but save Paul’s letters and perhaps Acts, we know nothing of the community of believers in Thessalonica. This means that we must engage in what scholars have called “mirror-reading.”[1] However, utilising Chris Stanley’s categories noted before, I think it is a safe assumption that each of Paul’s communities would at least be a minimal audience.

(c) The 'minimal audience' - '...people in this category were aware of the high degree of respect given to the Scriptures in Christian circles. As a result, they would have been inclined to take seriously any argument that claimed to be grounded in the biblical text. But their ability to follow the argument of a passage laced with quotations would have been limited' (69).

If Paul’s usual modus operandi included studying and arguing from the Scriptures - with the Jews and perhaps others (Acts), and the LXX was the Bible of the first Church (1 Tim, public reading of Scripture), then I’m confident that Paul would have instructed his communities to read and learn Israel’s scriptures, with the teachings (letters? 2 Pet 3:16?) of the Apostles, and perhaps Jesus tradition (gospels?). Perhaps Hays has overstated the case of re-constructing the audience’s Scriptural understanding as merely guesswork. It seems that we can have certain parameters within which to construct our understanding, these premises seem likely candidates as boundaries to any hypothesis.

But we must also think historically. Is it plausible that the Thessalonian community, given its age, situation, and circumstance held anything more than a minimal understanding? Amidst the persecution, daily life, eschatological confusion of these believers, is it likely that they were competent with the LXX? To me this seems to be a stretch of the imagination. A minimal audience, yes. A competent audience, no.
Nijay poses the most fascinating question, which is what generated my thoughts in this area. Is Paul competent enough to use arguments that his audiences would understand? This is the question which must guide our thinking. With Nijay I agree that it seems clear that Paul was competent. But this does not solve our initial question. Since Paul was competent to use arguments that the audience would understand, what would suggest that Paul is using an argument which is determined by a Scriptural or Hebrew context, or whether Paul was using a Roman context? According to Tom Wright, Paul moved in three worlds: The world of Judaism, The world of Rome, and the New world inaugurated with Jesus.[2] Each of these play a role in our exegesis of the Pauline letters. But does one of them govern a text, idea or praxis, and if so, how do we determine which one governs and at what times?

So back to my original example: 1 Thess 4:3-7

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; 4 that each one of you know how to acquire/control your own vessel/organ/wife in holiness and honour, 5 not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.

Does an allusion to 1 Sam 21:5 appear more likely? Or is there another background that suits the context better? Is it plausible that these young Christians in Thessalonica would pick up on an allusion to such an obscure text is Samuel? Thus, determining the translation of “organ” and thus the interpretation that this refers to sexual activity. Or, does the word mean “wife” which thus changes the interpretation to ethics in courtship.
What factors persuade us in either direction? The lack of scriptural quotations in Thessalonians as a whole, could be indicative of an audience unfamiliar with Scripture, and that's why Paul builds no technical argument for any of his positions from the Hebrew scriptures. He reasons rather, from "the word of the Lord." [It would be interesting to see what Michael Pahl says about this....] In fact, based on the text of Thessalonians, it seems more likely that "the Gospel" functioned as the authority that determined life, faith and obedience. The Hebrew text features little in Thessalonica, even if Paul was an informed author. He used arguments his audience could understand, and technical arguments based on the Hebrew scriptures would possibly be misunderstood, and would be unnecessary for Paul's purposes... Perhaps?
There is another meta question that looms in our discussion, the question of authorial intent, and modern reconstruction. In the words of J. A. Fitzmyer in his comments on Acts 5 and the possible backgrounds being alluded to, he asks the pregnant question, “Who is seeing the connection between them, Luke or the modern commentator?”[3]
More thinking is required on my part before wading further into that intellectual arena...

[1] J. M G. Barclay, “Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case,” JSNT 31 (1987) 73-93.
[2] N. T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective (Fortress, 2005) pgs. 3-13
[3] Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles, pg. 319