May 22, 2010
For something different check out this post on the fifty most extraordinary churches of the world.
HT; Stephen Smuts
In John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch, he compares interpreting the Pentateuch to interpreting a Rembrandt painting (p. 150). Here is his paragraph.
Since the biblical narratives are like an artist’s painting, in order to understand a painting, we must look at what the artist has painted on the canvas. We would not attempt to understand a Rembrandt painting by taking a photograph of his model and using it to fill in places in the painting that are not clear or are cast in the shadows. That may help us see or understand the people and places Rembrandt painted, that is, his subject matter, but it would not help us understand the painting itself. To understand a Rembrandt painting, one must look at it and see its colors, shapes and textures. One must understand what he meant to do with each brushstroke. In the same way, to understand the Pentateuch, one must look at it and the words of its author.”
May 21, 2010
The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews that may be of interest from a Bible Exposition perspective include:
Dan W. Clanton Jr.
Daring, Disreputable and Devout: Interpreting the Hebrew Bible's Women in the Arts and Music
Reviewed by Dorothea Erbele-Küster
Carl S. Ehrlich, ed.
From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature
Reviewed by Aren Maeir
Richard A. Freund and Rami Arav, eds.
Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee
Reviewed by Wolfgang Zwickel
The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought
Reviewed by Louis C. Jonker
Anne-Marie Korte and Maaike de Haardt, eds.
The Boundaries of Monotheism: Interdisciplinary Explorations into the Foundations of Western Monotheism
Reviewed by Nathan MacDonald
Amy-Jill Levine, Dale Allison, and John Dominic Crossan, eds.
The Historical Jesus in Context
Reviewed by Shelly Matthews
Richard R. Losch
All the People in the Bible: An A-Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture
Reviewed by Peter Judge
Rivka Nir, ed.
Early Christianity: The First Three Centuries [Hebrew]
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz
Encounter with the New Testament: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Reviewed by Abson Joseph
David P. Wright
Inventing God's Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi
Reviewed by Frank H. Polak
Terry R. Wright
The Genesis of Fiction: Modern Novelists as Biblical Interpreters
Reviewed by James A. Metzger
Magnus Zetterholm, ed.
The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Adam Winn
May 20, 2010
The first issue of the new journal, Early Christianity, is now available as a free pdf here. This issues theme is new directions in Pauline theology.
New Directions in Pauline Theology
Michael Wolter: Die Entwicklung des paulinischen Christentums von einer Bekehrungsreligion zu einer Traditionsreligion 15–40
Judith M. Lieu: “As much my apostle as Christ is mine”: The dispute over Paul between Tertullian and Marcion 41–59
Matthias Konradt: Die Christonomie der Freiheit. Zu Paulus’ Entfaltung seines ethischen Ansatzes in Gal 5,13-6,10 60–81
John M. G. Barclay: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”: The Golden Calf and Divine Mercy in Romans 9-11 and Second Temple Judaism 82–106
Jonathan A. Linebaugh: Debating Diagonal Δικαιοσύνη: The Epistle of Enoch and Paul in Theological Conversation 107–128
Peter Arzt-Grabner, Neues zu Paulus aus den Papyri des römischen Alltags 131–157
Claire Clivaz, A New NT Papyrus: 126 (PSI 1497) 158–162
Robert Jewett, Romans (Mark Reasoner) 165–174
Martin Vahrenhorst, Kultische Sprache in den Paulusbriefen (Martin Meiser) 174–179
Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Francis Watson) 179–185
Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Ratio Religionis. Religiöse Philosophie und philosophische Religion in der frühen Kaiserzeit 189–191
Peter Arzt-Grabner, Neues zu Paulus aus den Papyri des römischen Alltags 131–157
Claire Clivaz, A New NT Papyrus: 126 (PSI 1497) 158–162
I recently posted on a quote from Timothy Wiarda on how to find theological themes in the Gospels. Wiarda goes on to address three concerns that some interpreters have about this exercise. (1) “Some fear that the formative power of these narratives will be compromised.” The idea seems to be that there is the potential that the power inherent in the story itself will be tempered by reducing it to a theological principle. (2) Some wonder whether one can properly draw theological principles for the post Easter church from pre-Easter historical descriptions. (3) Some have concerns at a theoretical level, namely that, “Theological concepts, which express universal principles in propositional form, belong to one order of discourse, while the concrete, history-rooted narratives of Scripture belong to another. How would you address these concerns?
Timothy Wiarda's new book Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 85–6, 88–9.
May 19, 2010
Charles Talbert makes some interesting points concerning Luke's view of the Law based on the Jerusalem decree in Acts. Rather than try to summarize his argument, I have included it in toto.
"It is clear that Luke reads the Scriptures as prophecies that are being fulfilled in Jesus and his followers. There is a new covenant in place (Luke 22:20; Acts 2). Soteriological benefits flow from the exalted Christ, not from the law (Luke 24:46–47; Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38–39). As a result, the repentance demanded of Israel and of Gentiles alike has to do with one's response to Jesus as Messiah (Luke 12:8-9; Acts 3:22-23). The ethnic dimensions of the law are still appropriate (Acts 21:20), though not demanded (Acts 10:28, 48), for ethnic Jews. They, moreover, have no soteriological benefits even for Jews (Acts 15:11). The only ethnic aspects of the law applicable to Gentiles are certain of those designed to facilitate social interchange between ethnic Jews and Gentiles who live among them (Lev 17–18; Acts 15:20, 29). These have no soteriological benefits for the Gentiles who observe them (Acts 15:11). Their observance by Gentile Messianists is not because of the authority of the law. It is rather because these customs are the minimalist concession that communal spirit demands to enable ethnic Jews and Gentiles, all of whom have become believers in Jesus the Messiah, to live together in unity. They are chosen not because they are a direct obligation of the law but because they are what is likely to be a source of controversy between Jewish and Gentile Messianists living together (Blomberg, 53–80; Seifrid, 39–57)."
Charles H. Talbert, Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, rev. ed. (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005), 135.
I am inclined to agree with Talbert. Talbert's point is even stronger for me because I do not see the prohibitions as originating in Leviticus 17-18 (see my article "A Reexamination of the Prohibitions in Acts 15," Bibliotheca Sacra 161 : 449-68).
May 18, 2010
See this post on studying biblical languages as a spiritual discipline.
One area in the New Testament corpus that often gets short shrift are the Pastoral Epistles. So I was delighted to receive a copy of Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology of the Pastoral Epistles from B&H Academic. I hope to post excerpts from some of the essays in this volume shortly. But for now, here is the publisher’s description
Description of the Book:
After a lengthy period during which scholars paid relatively little attention to the Pastoral Epistles, a spate of studies has suddenly appeared in print. However, except for a small number of commentaries, critical scholars have by and large neglected evangelical scholarship on these letters. To fill in this gap, this volume offers a collection of important essays written by evangelicals on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. The book aims to inform readers of the history of scholarship on these letters and examine thoroughly Paul’s theology in the Pastoral Epistles.Contributors include several scholars who have done previous advanced work on these letters: I. Howard Marshall (University of Aberdeen, Scotland; Recent Study in the Pastoral Epistles), Andreas Köstenberger (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary[SEBTS]; Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges), Terry L. Wilder (B&H Publishing Group; Authorship), F. Alan Tomlinson (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary [MBTS]; Purpose/Stewardship), Greg Couser (Cedarville University; Doctrine of God), Daniel L. Akin (SEBTS; Christology), Ray van Neste (Union University; Cohesion and Structure of the PE), B. Paul Wolfe (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Use of Scripture), Ben Merkle (SEBTS; Ecclesiology), George Wieland (Carey Baptist College, New Zealand; Soteriology), Thor Madsen (MBTS; Ethics), and Chiao Ek Ho (East Asia School of Theology, Singapore; Missiology).
1. Andreas Köstenberger – “Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges in Interpreting the Pastoral Epistles”
2. Terry Wilder – “Pseudonymity, the New Testament, and the Pastoral Epistles”
3. E. Alan Tomlinson – “The Purpose and Stewardship Theme within the Pastoral Epistles”
4. Ray Van Neste – “Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles”
5. Greg Couser – “The Sovereign Savior of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus”
6. Daniel Akin – “The Mystery of Godliness Is Great: Christology in the Pastoral Epistles”
7. George Wieland – “The Function of Salvation in the Letters to Timothy and Titus”
8. Benjamin L. Merkle – “Ecclesiology in the Pastoral Epistles”
9. B. Paul Wolfe – “The Sagacious Use of Scripture”
10. Thor Madsen II – “The Ethics of the Pastoral Epistles”
11. Chiao Ek Ho – “Mission in the Pastoral Epistles”
12. I. Howard Marshall – “The Pastoral Epistles in Recent Study”
May 17, 2010
Sometimes in our propensity to only use recent commentaries we can miss helpful insights from older works. I was reminded of this recently as I was working through material Luke’s presentation of the Mosaic Law in the Book of Acts. Albert Barnes (1798–1870) observed the following in his comments on Acts 21:20 regarding the reference to the Law of Moses.
"They still observe the Law of Moses. The reference here is to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, etc. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we are to remember: (1) That those rites had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance. (2) That the apostles conformed to them while they remained at Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them, Acts 3:1; Luke 24:53. (3) That the question about their observance had never been agitated at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority. (4) The decision of the council (Acts 15) related only to the Gentile converts. It did not touch the question whether those rites were to be observed by the Jewish converts. (5) It was to be presumed that as the Christian religion became better understood-that as its large, free, and catholic nature became more and more developed, the special institutions of Moses would be laid aside of course, without agitation and without tumult. Had the question been agitated at Jerusalem, it would have excited tenfold opposition to Christianity, and would have rent the Christian church into factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine. We are to remember also: (6) That, in the arrangement of Divine Providence, the time was drawing near which was to destroy the temple, the city, and the nation, which was to put an end to sacrifices, and effectually to close forever the observance of the Mosaic rites. As this destruction was so near, and as it would be so effectual an an argument against the observance of the Mosaic rites, the Great Head of the church did not suffer the question of their obligation to be needlessly agitated among the disciples at Jerusalem."
Albert Barnes, Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Acts of the Apostles, Designed for Bible Classes and Sunday School (New York: Harper & Bros, 1869), 290.
May 16, 2010
Paul Wolfe, one of my former professors, has written a nice article ("Appraising New Testament Studies," Southwestern Journal of Theology 52 , 74–82) summarizing and evaluating some recent trends in New Testament studies. Wolfe focuses on four areas of New Testament interpretation.
A present preoccupation – Anti-imperial interpretation (e.g., R. Horsley)
A new paradigm for old evidence – the New Perspective on Paul (e.g., E. P. Sanders, J. D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright)
A restatement of old assumptions – a general rather than specific audience for the Gospels (R. Bauckham)
A Rereading of the New Testament – Theological interpretation (e.g., B. Childs, D. Treier, M. Bockmuehl)
Wolfe also offers the following observations concerning the future of these developments.
“It generally takes at least a generation, and often longer, for a new development to get enough traction to affect a broad range of interpreters and then begin showing up in subsequent works. The New Perspective on Paul is already deeply entrenched in one form or another and will likely be a development with significant pedigree. The abandonment of the search for the historical audiences or communities of the Gospels is likely too much to ask of main stream scholarship. Evangelicals and lay readers already approach the Gospels with little concern for such a search, so Bauckham’s thesis is not so much of a development as a sophisticated foundation for an approach already widely in place. Unfortunately it will continue to be ignored by most of main-stream scholarship. It is too early to tell if the current trend of anti-Imperial readings of the NT will have much of a legacy. I doubt so, for such readings are under the spell of the current secular political climate, which the readings themselves may not outlast. Theological reading of the NT is gaining significant traction and looks to be a major development with staying power. It, too, is already widely practiced.”