May 15, 2010
"Analyzing a Gospel narrative’s plot and the way it presents characters shows us what a story is primarily about. This in turn points us toward the subject area in which we should expect its principal theological message to lie. A narrative’s theological themes generally correspond to its story themes, as these are revealed through its plot and character portrayal."
Timothy Wiarda, Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 61.
May 14, 2010
I am still slowly making my way through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch. Here is some food for thought from his fourth chapter entitled "Finding the Big Idea in the Final Composition of the Text" (p. 149).
"I have argues that when speaking of the meaning of the ‘words’ (verba) of the Pentateuch, we should be careful to distinguish between the author’s meaning and the ‘things’ to which his words point, which as such have a meaning of their own. The Pentateuch is about real events, and its words point (literally or figuratively) to things in real life. One must keep in mind that the author’s words are not the things themselves. The words only point to those things. You cannot smoke the word pipe. The thing to which that word points, however, you can smoke.
"To illustrate a similar point, the Belgium artist Rent Magritte painted a realistic picture of a pipe. A caption on the painting reads, ‘This is not a pipe.’ Magritte’s point, of course, was that the pipe was a painting of a pipe and not the pipe itself.
When the Bible describes ‘things’ in the outside world, like pipes, it does so with words. The biblical authors did not draw pictures. They ‘wrote’ pictures using words, much like an artist uses paint and brush strokes. Each word is an author’s brush stroke. The Pentateuch is thus much like a verbal painting of historical events. Its words point to real events, and they tell us about those events. To experience the events, all we need to do is read the Bible. It is the next thing to being there. It is the closest we have to being there. To experience the biblical events as the author intended, one must keep a close eye on the author’s words. We would miss his point if we tried to find out about these events apart from his words.”
May 13, 2010
“Acts 15 is central to Luke’s story because it addresses the crucial question at the heart of the expansion of the church from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth: Will the Jerusalem church sanction unhindered outreach to the Gentiles? Paul and Barnabas had extended the frontiers of the church from Antioch to Cyprus and the province of Galatia (Acts 13–14). For continued growth, cultural questions had to be faced. Must new converts first become Jews, embracing a foreign lifestyle, and thereby blunt the force of the gospel? Or could converts remain culturally Gentiles, in full and unfettered contact with family and friends? The fate of the expansion of the church and its character lay in the balance as the church debated the question. The passage thus addresses whether the early impetus to the ends of the earth would be fulfilled or whether it would be checked. Luke’s primary purpose is to underscore the fact that the Jerusalem church embraced the Gentile mission, a decision that enabled the church to continue growing to the ends of the earth. In the process Luke prioritizes mission over cultural constraints.”
David K. Strong, “The Jerusalem Council: Some Implications for Contextualization,” in Mission in Acts: Ancient Narratives in Contemporary Context, American Society of Missiology Series 34, ed. Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004), 197.
May 12, 2010
See Bill Mounce's post on the biblical languages in life and ministry here.
One reason that I believe that the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was such a significant event both literarily in Acts and historically in the early church is the presence of key figures, notably Peter and James and Paul and Barnabas. The former pair represents the Jewish mission and the Jerusalem church and the latter pair represents the Gentile mission outside of Jerusalem and Judea. The significance of Peter and James is noted by H. C. Kee who states:
“The author of Acts highlights the importance of the question [whether Gentile converts need to keep the Mosaic Law] by locating the discussion and resultant decrees within the context of the apostolic council in Jerusalem. The authority of the decisions reach by the council is emphasized by the fact that the two pronouncements are uttered by the leader of the original group of disciples, who was also the pioneer on outreach to the Gentiles – that is Peter – and then confirmed and specified by the new leader of the Jerusalem-based apostles – that is James.”
Howard Clark Kee, To Every Nation under Heaven: The Acts of the Apostles, New Testament in Context, ed. Howard Clark Kee and J. Andrew Overman (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 180.
May 11, 2010
Articles (links are to abstracts):
Going Hungry for a Purpose: On Gos. Thom. 69.2 and a Neglected Parallel in Origen
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;32 379-393
Seeing God ‘in a riddle’ or ‘face to face’: An Analysis of 1 Corinthians 13.12
Harm W. Hollander
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;32 395-403
Paul and the Law: What he Does not Say
Brian S. Rosner
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;32 405-419
Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: A Response
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;32 421-430
Susannah Heschel’s Aryan Grundmann
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;32 431-494
According to this Yahoo article, theology degrees are the third worst paying degrees. We come in just ahead of elementary education and social work. Of course Yahoo's article only addresses compensation in this age and not the age to come.
May 10, 2010
"Since the positions taken on these two issues by Judean Messianists run counter to the experience of Paul, Barnabas, and the church at Antioch (11:19–30), the matter needs to be settled in Jerusalem. The assumption is that Jerusalem has the authority to decide the issue. Why Jerusalem? Whereas for ancient Greeks Delphi was the center of the world, for Jews Jerusalem was (Ezek 5:5; 38:12; Jubilees 8:19; 1 Enoch 26:1; Rev 20:8–9; b Sanhedrin 37a). To it Jews came on pilgrimage; to it they sent offerings. From it letters went out to the Diaspora to give guidance (2 Macc 1:1–10a; 1:l0b–2:18). Acts notes the links between Jerusalem and the developing mission (8:14–15; 9:27; 9:32–11:18; 11:22–29; 12:25; 15:4). The Twelve are tied to Jerusalem (8:1). It is, therefore, the center of the true tradition of the Messianists."
Charles H. Talbert, Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, rev. ed. (Macon, GA: Smith & Helwys, 2005), 129.
May 9, 2010
Dr. Timothy Wiarda graciously agreed to answer five questions about his new book Interpreting Gospel Narratives (see this post). Dr. Wiarda is professor of New Testament Studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. Prior to that he taught for fifteen years at Singapore Bible College and has also been a tentmaker in Algeria and pastor of a church for international workers in the Arab country of Oman. He holds degrees from Wheaton College (B.A., M.A.) and London School of Theology (Ph.D.).
Question: How did Interpreting Gospel Narratives come about?
I became interested in the way Gospel narratives work while doing doctoral research on Peter in the Gospels, and also through teaching courses on the Gospels. I wanted to put together in an organized way some of what I was seeing in Gospel narratives.
Question: Why did you write Interpreting Gospel Narratives?
I was hoping to help interpreters better understand and appreciate the richness of the Gospel’s narrative material.
Question: What is the main thesis of the book?
The book has several mini-theses. These include that Gospel writers take pains to portray individual characters in meaningful ways, that narrative design and theological purpose work together in Gospel narratives, and that the Holy Spirit bears testimony to Christ in and through the intended messages of the Gospel writers.
Question: Who do you think should read this book?
I have two audiences in mind; first, those who preach and teach the Gospels, but then also scholars who continue to investigate the nature and meaning of the narrative material in the Gospels.
Question: What do you hope to accomplish through this book?
I hope to raise awareness of some neglected or underappreciated aspects of the Gospels.