Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wright and Dunn on the New Perspective

HT: Text, Community & Mission

Euangelion For those wanting more on the New Perspective: Mark Mattison: Summary of the New Perspective.

Dunn's seminal article that launched the NPP is available: The New Perspective on Paul - Dunn

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Carey on Fowl - Theological Interpretation

Greg Carey has a great set of reflections on Stephen Fowl's important little book, Theological Interpretation of Scripture. The first reflection is here, the second here, and now a third. I think Carey has done us a great service in offering his thoughtful responses. Do check it out, if you're interested in theological exegesis and interpretation - especially withregards to the issue of historical analysis. Carey has a great quote where he rhetorically asks: Isn't it wonderful how conflict often generates revelation? And isn't this a theological interpretation based on historical analysis? Do check these out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friendship in Antiquity & Philippians

The ancients valued friendship and spent much time discussing this concept. Here's a few quotes that illustrate their various views. I've specifically focussed on the concept of μιᾷ ψυχῇ as found in Philippians 1:27.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9.8.2
Men say that one ought to love best one's best friend, and man's best friend is one who wishes well to the object of his wish for his sake, even if no one is to know of it; and these attributes are found most of all in a man's attitude towards himself, and so are all the other attributes by which a friend is defined; for, as we have said, it is from this relation that all the characteristics of friendship have extended to our neighbours. All the proverbs, too, agree with this, e.g. 'a single soul', and 'what friends have is common property', and 'friendship is equality', and 'charity begins at home'; for all these marks will be found most in a man's relation to himself; he is his own best friend and therefore ought to love himself best. It is therefore a reasonable question, which of the two views we should follow; for both are plausible.
Plutarch, De Amicorum Multitudine 96F
[I]n our friendship's consonance and harmony there must be no element unlike, uneven, or unequal, but all must be alike to engender agreement in words, counsels, opinions, and feelings, and it must be as if one soul were apportioned among two or more bodies.
Euripides, Electra 1045
My dearest, you who have a name that sounds most loved and sweet to your sister, partner in one soul with her!
A helpful discussion of friendship in antiquity, from a biblical scholar, comes to us from Luke Timothy Johnson.

In the Greek world, friendship was among the most discussed, analysed and highly esteemed relationships. Epicurus included it among the highest goods available to humans. The Pythagoreans founded a way of life on its basis. For Plato, it was the ideal paradigm for the city-state. Even the more pragmatic Aristotle considered friendship the prime metaphor and motive for society. The word “friendship” was not used lightly in these circles, nor was friendship considered simply a casual affection. On the contrary, it was regarded as a particularly intense and inclusive kind of intimacy, not only at the physical level, but above all, at the spiritual…

To be “one soul” with another meant, at the least, to share the same attitudes and values and perceptions, to see things the same way. Indeed, the friend was, in another phrase frequently repeated, “another self.”

L. T. Johnson, Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004), 213-4.

This illuminates the genre of Philippians as a "Friendship" letter (Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 2-7 and deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, 653). It also suggests that the theme of unity in Philippians (O’Brien, Philippians, 38) is a central concern. I would also suggest that the element of κοινωνίᾳ (partenership/fellowship), is central in Philippians.
I'm struggling to find an adequate translation for μιᾷ ψυχῇ as one soul doesn't capture the concept in contemporary usage. One life is not much better. If anyone has ideas, let me know... Back to the drawing board... conceptually that is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roman Galilee?

The debate rages on about how much of an influence Rome had in Galilee. For a while it looked as if Sean Freyne's older view of Galilee, as considerbly Jewish had been surpassed by Mark A. Chancey, See his «City Coins and Roman Power in Palestine.From Pompey to the Great Revolt» in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine. Old Questions and New Approaches (Routledge, 2004). and M. Chancey, Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (Cambridge, 2005). But now Freyne has responded: Sean Freyne, “Galilee, Jesus and the Contribution of Archeology.” The Expository Times 119 (2008): 573-581 and Freyne, Sean. “Galilee and Judaea in the First Century.” Pages 37-51 in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine. Edited by Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M Young. (Cambridge University,2006). This appears to be a fluid area of debate, I'm not quite sure why, but let the discussion continue.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Philippians 1:28b

ἥτις ἐστὶν αὐτοῖς ἔνδειξις ἀπωλείας, ὑμῶν δὲ σωτηρίας
This is an extraordinarily difficult section to interpret. It offers various options which provide very different views, and has thus given rise to dispute among exegetes.[1] Before entering into such discussion, we should remember the context in which this section is found.
Paul has noted that his apparent misfortune has actually helped to advance the gospel (1:12-14). In 1:15-18 Paul describes those who preach Christ from both pure and impure motives, yet his perspective is one of indifference since what matters is that Christ is proclaimed, and in this Paul rejoices (1:18b-19a). Paul then describes his own struggle in prison, being seized by two options: life and death (1:23), and yet his perspective is that to carry on living will benefit others, and help to advance the gospel (1:24-26). We then arrive at what many have labelled the thesis statement (1:27-28a) of Philippians where Paul’s governing imperative is to “focus solely on living as citizens, worthy of the gospel of the Messiah.” Regardless of what happens to Paul, they are Stand firm in the Spirit, united together in one accord, striving together for the advancement of the gospel, not being intimidated by society.[2] In all this however, before approaching our particular phrase, we must remember Gorman’s insight that “when Paul writes autobiographically, he writes paradigmatically.”[3] Paul has not just recounted these details to merely inform the Philippians. Rather, he is intentionally describing his own response to suffering and trials, and providing them with a model of how to respond. With this in mind, we are now ready to read and interpret 28b.

ἥτις ἐστὶν αὐτοῖς ἔνδειξις ἀπωλείας, ὑμῶν δὲ σωτηρίας

For them this is a sign of destruction, but for you salvation

The questions which are raised include the following: What is the sign? What sort of destruction is this? Who is the sign for? Who is destroyed? How does the sign communicate, and what does it communicate?

As Fowl notes, most commentators understand that the “sign” or “proof” to which Paul appeals, is in fact the steadfast loyalty of the Philippian Christians in the face of great opposition.[4] Thus, the argument concerning the referent of the antecedent ἥτις, is inconsequential. What matters, is what follows next.

Fowl describes the position of many commentators on the next phrase when he writes:
The majority of the recent commentators and recent English translations take it that Paul is claiming here that the Philippians’ steadfast faith in the face of opposition is a concrete manifestation to their opponents of the opponents’ destruction.[5]
But is this necessarily the case? This reading raises the interesting question of how the opponents would interpret this sign? How would they see Christian faithfulness as a sign of their own destruction?[6] This appears implausible, and does not fit neatly with the context we have outlined above.[7]

Hawthorne and Fowl have advanced a view that I find particularly helpful in answering and explaining the questions raised above. They see this verse (28b) as offering two different ways of evaluating the Philippians’ faithfulness in the wake of fierce opposition. Hawthorne thus offers the following translation:

For although your loyalty to the faith is proof to them that you will perish, it is in fact proof to you that you will be saved – saved by God.[8]

The Philippians are to view their situation of persecution as a positive sign that they are remaining faithful, and are in fact living as citizens of heaven (1:27a; 3:20), even though those who oppose them view their faithfulness as a sign that they are going to be destroyed, through incarceration by officials and through punishments from the gods.[9] Just as Paul is currently in prison and suffering for his living worthy of the gospel (1:12-26), yet maintains a godly perspective, this verse shows us that Paul is exhorting these Philippian followers to remain faithful and live worthy of the gospel of the Messiah, despite the perspective of outsiders. As

Fowl concludes,
In 1:28 Paul is displaying two competing conceptions of the result of the Philippians’ adhering to their faith in the ways Paul admonishes. To the opponents, it is wilful flaunting of Roman authority and anticipates the Christians’ imminent destruction. In reality, it marks the salvation of the Christians. On this account, debates about whether the destruction/salvation pairing here refers to the temporal or eternal realm simply miss the point. The opponents view the Philippians’ physical destruction as testimony to their eternal perdition. For Paul and the Philippians, their steadfastness demonstrates their salvation, whether they live or die. It is simply the way they magnify Christ in their bodies (cf. 1:20).[10]
Granted this reading is not perfect, and the traditional interpretation is still plausible, we find this reading fits better with the context outlined, and thus should be considered carefully.

[1] G. D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1995), 168-170; G. F. Hawthorne, Philippians (Waco: Word, 1983), 58-60 and S. E. Fowl, “Philippians 1:28b, One More Time” in New Testament Greek and Exegesis: Essays in Honour of Gerald F. Hawthorne Edited by A. M. Donaldson and T. B. Sailors. (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2003), 167-179. “No one view stands head and shoulders above the rest. Indeed, all attempts to make sense of this verse end up having to supply words or concepts that are not directly expressed, but perhaps implied, in these two clauses.” (172).
[2] Fowl, 171 “As the rest of vv. 27-28 unfolds, it is clear that, for the Philippians, ordering their common life in a manner worthy of the gospel will require a set of practices in which they as a community will have to engage.”
[3] Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004), 258
[4] Fowl, 173. See Fee, 168-169 as well as M. Bockmuehl, The Epistle to the Philippians (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998), 101; P. T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991), 154.
[5] Fowl, 174. See Bockmuehl, 101; Fee, 168f.; O’Brien, 156-157. Fowl also notes this is the interpretation taken by many translations, RSV, NRSV, NEB, CEV, and NAB.
[6] Fowl, 174
[7] Beare, while taking this question seriously, proposes that the opponents would be affected psychologically by the Christians response. While this is possible, it unlikely this is what Paul had in mind. See F. W. Beare, Philippians (London: Black, 1959), 68.
[8] Hawthorne, 54
[9] Fowl, 176, “It is a concrete manifestation to the opponents of the Christians’ impending destruction, a destruction that would have entailed not only physical death but also the judgement of the gods.”
[10] Fowl, 176

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bar Kokhba Coins Discovered

GNEWS announces a discovery of important coins from the Bar Kokhba revolt. This is an exceptionally important find as it illuminates an area we are still quite ignorant about. This movement was finally dealt with by the Romans who annihilated, exterminated and eradicated them from the land (See Dio Cassius 59.13.3) in about 135 CE.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Role of Audiences in Interpretation

In light of my previous post, the Blog Father has just alerted us to The Role of the Audience in the Interpretation of Paul’s References to the Jewish Scriptures by Dr. Christopher D. Stanley.

πολιτεύεσθε - Phil 1:27a

Phil. 1:27a Μόνον ἀξίως τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Χριστοῦ πολιτεύεσθε
Only, live as citizens (πολιτεύεσθε) worthy of the gospel of the Messiah...
Reumann: This point only: Exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ...
NLT: But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven.
NKJV: Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...
NCV: Only one thing concerns me: Be sure that you live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Christ.
Living Bible: But whatever happens to me, remember always to live as Christians should
As you can see, contemporary English translations opt for the word live but probably because we don't really have many alternatives, and thus lose a particular nuance of the Greek word. Thus, Reumann's translation is interpretive, but carries the particular nuance of the Greek.
πολιτεύεσθε is a fascinating word with a rich heritage. R. R. Brewer, "The Meaning of Politeuesthe in Philippians 1:27," JBL 73 (1954) provided us with a helpful survey of how this word is used in various civic and Pauline contexts. He suggested that it was a way of describing one's obligations as a citizen. Then came E. C. Miller, "πολιτεύεσθε in Philippians 1:27: Some Philological and Thematic Observations," JSNT 15 (1982). Appealing to its use in the LXX (Esth. 8:12; 2 macc 6:1; 11:25; 3 Macc 3:4; 4 Macc 2:8, 23; 4:23; 5:16) and Josephus (Vita 12; Letter of Aristeas 31) Miller suggested that this refers to "the Jews living in fidelity to Torah as God's chosen nation."
Enter the discussion on Paul's understanding of this word in Phil. 1:27. Scholars are quick to note that Paul does not employ his usual word for "life" (An example is περιπατεω, as in 1 Thess 2:12; Rom 13:13; etc.). Given that Philippi is a Roman city, an imperial outpost if you will, should πολιτεύεσθε be taken as a reference to living as a citizen of Roma, or as those who conduct themselves faithfully in light of the Gospel's teaching, as God's chosen people? Are these mutually exclusive options, or can one be a dual citizen?
Perhaps Paul has left open the ambiguity of citizenship in this passage, and chooses to unveil that only in 3:20?
Bockmuehl is probably right to read this as a politically relevant act, which in the context is distinguished from alternative lifestyles that might have been chosen... The rhetorical force of Paul's languge is to play on the perceived desirability of citizenship in Roman society at Philippi, and to contrast against this the Christian vision of enfranchisement and belonging... Paul interposes a counter-citizenship whose capital and seat of power are not earthly by heavenly, whose guarantor is not Nero but Christ. (Bockmuehl, Philippians, pg. 97-98).
At play here is the sticky hermeneutical issue of how much we allow Paul's audience to determine the meaning of the passage. While Paul may be reading this word in light of it's usage in the LXX (plausible), would the Philippian audience be aware of this (unlikely)? Or would the majority of them understand it the way Romans usually understood it? Bockmuehl's interpretation probably navigates through this impasse.

Friday, September 04, 2009

How to Read Revelation - Bauckham

Richard Bauckham preached at Crisweel College on How to Read the Book of Revelation. This is an excellent message. Thanks to Craig Downey, who runs a good blog [Lion and the Lamb] for this notice.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Great Resources

There are some really helpful resources, podcasts and general stuff around at the moment, so here's a list of a few.

Now go and enjoy these!