Tag Archives: New Testament

When God Spoke Greek — Book Blog Tour

When I was approached about participating in the Book Blog Tour for Timothy Michael Law’s new book, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, I was beyond excited. I have, in the past, lamented how in all my years of theological training I have never once had a class on the Septuagint. I can count on one hand the number of times the Septuagint was mentioned in New Testament classes (usually in relation to how the NT author quoted the Old Testament), and I don’t think the Septuagint was ever brought up in an Old Testament class. Given this gap, I was hoping that this new book would help fill the gap. I can say with confidence, that this book definitely begins to fill said gap. Timothy Michael Law notes in his introduction that he was wanting to make the Septuagint more accessible. And he does.

 

Now, it’s important to note that I’m coming at this book as a seminary student, an aspiring theologian, and a person involved in church ministry. As such, the questions that I bring to this book include:

 

  • Would this book work as a textbook for college students? Would this book work as a textbook for seminary students?
  • Would this book have helped my studies as a student?
  • What are the theological implications of the NT authors quoting the Septuagint, especially when it differs from the Hebrew text?
  • Would this book be helpful for teaching lay people in the church about the history of Scripture?

Now onto my look at chapters 11 and 12!

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In chapter eleven, TML begins by talking about the Septuagint influenced the transmission of Scripture into other languages. For example, the Latin Scripture were produced, not from the Hebrew text, but from the Greek. It is also from the Septuagint that the earliest Coptic, Armenian, Gothic and Arabic translations were produced. TML goes so far as to say, “Had there been no Septuagint, and had early Jewish converts remained in a Semitic world, the church may never have moved outside of its Palestinian birthplace.” (129)

He then looks at Philo and Josephus’ use and explanations of the origins of the Septuagint. For Philo, it was important to justify the text and he set out to demonstrate how it was divinely inspired. Josephus, on the other hand, is not so interested in justifying the divine inspiration of the Septuagint, so much as just reporting how the Hebrew Scriptures came to be translated into Greek.

By the 4th century, we find Eusebius arguing that “God providentially guided a translation into Greek so that when the Savior of the world did appear the nations would recognize him. This was the time when God spoke Greek.” (131) TML writes that by the 4th century, “the idea that the Septuagint was the inspired word of God was already so deeply rooted in the church that it allowed these writers to speak of it as the preparation for the gospel and as the superior, indeed, the only, word of God for the church.” (132)

TML then asks one of the questions that I myself was bringing to the text: “In what ways did [the Septuagint] contribute to the theological and exegetical formation of the early centuries of Christianity?” (132) He notes that the Latin and Greek Fathers were not concerned with how accurately the Greek translated the Hebrew, and that “presumably most Christians would have viewed the Hebrew Bible as strictly Jewish scripture, but the Septuagint was the treasure of the church.” (133) He explores examples of typological exegesis that were common because the Septuagint’s translations of key words like “Lord,” and “Anointed” made it easy for readers to see foreshadowing references to Christ.

As well, the Septuagint became extremely important theologically as the early church struggled against heresies. Over and over, it was the Septuagint and not the Hebrew texts that the Church Fathers would return to over and over again to craft a coherent defense of the faith.

TML concludes the chapter by noting that it wasn’t just theology that was profoundly influenced by the Greek text. Indeed, the Septuagint played a role in also developing preaching, liturgy and Christian piety (aka spiritual formation). Ultimately, “Most Christians would have heard the Septuagint taught and would have been shaped by it without knowing anything about its relationship to the Hebrew.” (139)

In chapter twelve, TML looks at Origen and his influence on biblical scholarship in the early church. He argues that Origen’s “textual scholarship inadvertently hastened the end of the Septuagint’s prominence in the church.” (141) Origen’s study of Scripture was extensive. He was continually learning about exegetical methods, not only from Christian scholars in Alexandria, but also from Jewish and Greek (secular) scholars. It was this deep passion for exegesis that led Origen to compile the Hexapla: “a six-columned Bible in which he placed six different biblical texts in parallel columns.” (143) This project made the differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts stand how. But how would Origen explain the differences? “When the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint were at odds with one another, there were two possible explanations: copyists introduced genuine errors in the transmission of the manuscripts, or Providence introduced the divergences for the church’s edification.” (144) TML is quick to note that Origen had great respect for the Septuagint and that “Origen’s aim was never to dislodge the Septuagint from the lecterns of the churches in favor of the Hebrew Bible.” (145)

So how did this massive exegetical work by Origen hasten the demise of the Septuagint’s prominence in the church? By accident!

“If Origen included the Hebrew Bible in the first column of his Hexapla, didn’t that imply it was worth studying? The fifth column, in which he had created a hybrid text composed of the church’s Septuagint with additional readings from other Greek Jewish versions, may have begun as a scholarly tool for exegesis, apologetics, and textual analysis. But the new fifth column text was soon copied with the signs [that noted divergences from the Hebrew] removed and was dispersed widely. It moved out from a scholarly and professional realm, where caveats could have helped to prevent its misuse, and into the church. Unintentionally, Origen’s work contaminated the stream of biblical transmission: from the fourth century almost all Septuagint manuscripts had been influenced by the so-called Origenic, or Hexaplaric, version.” (145)

And this contamination was not gradual. Instead “it exploded on to the map and changed the course of the Septuagint’s history thereafter.” TML concludes the chapter by noting: “A new spirit was unleashed, and if scholars had not noticed before the divergent nature of the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible they would soon find it impossible to ignore. The final days of the Septuagint in the West had begun.” (150)

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So would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Reading this book has begun to fill in some of the gaps of my theological education. If I was teaching a course, how would I use this book? If I was teaching a class on the Patristic Fathers, either at the college or seminary level, this would definitely be on the syllabus as a required reading. If I was teaching a survey NT or OT class, I wouldn’t necessarily assign this book, but would instead create a lecture or two on the Septuagint based on the material in this book. At a church level, I think it would be fantastic to do a small group study on the history of Scripture and use this book as one of the materials to be read over the course of a season (with 13 chapters plus a postscript, this book is ideally laid out for a fall (Sept-Dec) or spring (Jan-Apr) weekly study group).

My only real complaint is that once again a publisher has decided that a book aimed at a general audience needs endnotes. Publishers, please stop doing this! A general audience will not be put off by a few footnotes, and footnotes actually make the book easier to read.

 

You can follow the rest of the Book Blog Tour on When God Spoke Greek here.

 

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Review: Paul In Fresh Perspective

Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright is based on a series of lectures delivered between 2004 and 2005. His aim, through these lectures, is “to let in some new shafts of light on Paul” (p. ix). He does this by dividing his lectures into two sections: themes found in Paul’s writing, and structures of Paul’s theology. While this book, in part, builds on his previous work on Paul, (notably, What St. Paul Really Said, Climax of the Covenant, and his commentary on Romans), it also points to Wright’s next project, namely the fourth volume in his series, Christian Origins and the Question of God.

In chapter one, Wright introduces the world, or more specifically the worlds, of Paul: Judaism, Hellinism, Rome, and the ekklesia. Wright argues that the narratives of these different worldviews all influenced Paul’s theology and thought, and that the focus in Pauline studies on narrative structures “is one of the most significant developments which the ‘new perspective’ revolution has precipitated” (p.8). Wright briefly outlines the shift from the “old perspective” to the “new perspective” and argues that many of the ideas in modern Pauline scholarship were/are born out of specific cultural and interpretative contexts that are now being evaluated and brought to light. (For example, he talks about how Ephesians and Colossians being seen as pseudo-Pauline arose out of a very specific context: German existentialism).

In chapter two, Wright explores the interconnectedness of the themes of creation and covenant. Building off of Psalms 19 and 74, Wright presents three Pauline texts (Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Cor 15; Romans 1-11) that display the same pattern of fusing creation and covenant together, even when the terms “creation” and “covenant” aren’t specifically referenced in the text. Wright’s thesis is that the Old Testament, and thus Paul in retelling the narrative in light of the work of Christ, portrays God as the creator God who is the covenanting God, and vice versa (p.24).

In chapter three, Wright focuses on the themes of Messiah and the Apocalyptic. He argues that this pairing of themes demonstrates that for Paul, the “apocalypse of the Messiah as Israel’s king and therefore the world’s true Lord challenges…the grand claims of the pagan empire” (p.40). Wright rightly challenges the modern misunderstandings of “Christ” that downplay the Jewishness of Jesus’ title. Wright then looks at the themes of Gospel and Empire in chapter four. Wright argues that not only was Paul discussing the Gospel as fulfillment of Israel’s narrative, but he was also subverting (implicitly and explicitly) the ideology of the Roman Empire (pg. 59).

Wright then shifts from themes in Paul’s writings to the structure or shape of Paul’s theology. Wright critiques previous attempts to structure Paul’s theology, because they ended up emphasizing certain doctrines at the expense (or outright dismissal) of other doctrines. Wright suggests the adoption of a three-fold Jewish framework that would categorize Paul’s theology under “one God,” “one people of God,” and “one future for God’s world”, and then tweaking it to focus on the Messiah and the Holy Spirit (p.84). Chapters five, six and seven look at each of the three aspects in turn, and these chapters form the beginning sketches of Paul’s exploration of the Christological and pneumatological foci of each category.

In his concluding chapter, Wright looks at some of the corollary questions that arise from his proposed restructuring of Paul’s theology. First, Wright examines the supposed dichotomy or polarization between Jesus’ message and Paul’s message. Wright argues that both Jesus and Paul saw the world through the same set of themes (as explored in chapters two through four), but their functions were different.  Paul was not attempting to modify or better Jesus’ theology, instead Paul saw his role as being the conductor who simply conducts the music written by the composer, that is, Jesus (p.155). But, if this is the case, Wright asks, what should be done about the apparent discrepancies between Jesus and Paul, in areas like teachings on the Kingdom of God, justification by faith, and Christian ethics? Wright, briefly explores each of the issues and concludes that the solution lies in understanding that Jesus and Paul had two different vocations that served the same over-arching vision (p.161).

While this book has a very conversational tone, and is aimed at more of a general rather than an academic audience, Wright would have been better to have offered more endnotes with references and clarifications to help the reader along. As well, the endnotes that merely reference Scripture should have been changed to parenthetical references to make it easier for the reader who has to continuously flip from the chapter to the endnotes at the back of the book. In terms of Wright’s overall presentation of his perspective on Paul, a reader who is familiar with Wright’s more academic works would understand the summaries and overviews that he gives, but for the reader who is unfamiliar with Wright, the summary nature of Wright’s arguments may actually be overwhelming and disorienting.  As someone who has read Wright, I found his chapter on messiahship to be a good review of his fuller discussions of messiahship as found in Jesus and the Victory of God. On the other hand, his chapter on Paul and Empire was actually confusing instead of clarifying, and as such readers would be better off reading his essay “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire.” That being said, this book serves as a way for evangelicals to re-read Paul with new insights, and to understand the narratives that Paul is using and retelling in his presentation of the Gospel.

Given the introductory nature of these “shafts of light,” and given that the book is written to a general, rather than academic audience, I would suggest that judgment and evaluation of Wright’s re-thinking of Paul be held in reserve until the more complete volume is released. The danger in critiquing Wright at this stage is that, because Wright does not set out to “prove” his re-thinking but rather to gather people together to begin to re-think with him, the reader is in danger of attributing issues or implications to Wright that may or not actually be indicative of Wright’s thought.

As a theologian, I find Wright’s suggested structure for exploring Paul’s theology to be both intriguing and useful, especially in a post-modern context that has moved, and is moving, away from the modernistic structures of systematic (particularly Reformed) theologies. I would suggest that Wright’s proposal could be the beginning of a bridge between biblical studies and theology, and specifically between the fields of biblical theology and systematic theology, especially if there was a way to subsume the systematic categories under the broader structure that Wright proposes.

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Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?

When I went to Bible College I was a brand-new baby Christian. I didn’t know hardly anything about Christianity, other than Jesus had rocked my world at the age of 16 and I was forever changed. But off I went to Bible College, excited and ready to learn. One of the first classes I had included a spirited discussion about the end of evangelicalism’s fascination with Paul. We had matured past Paul and it was time to ignore him and focus on the Gospels. (oh those poor catholic epistles and Revelation, will they ever be cool?) It was interesting to hear some of the hate towards Paul coming from the students. Jesus preached freedom for the captives, but Paul endorsed slavery. Jesus gathered women around him, but Paul said women can’t teach. I didn’t get the anti-Paul hate. In fact I really liked and continue to like Paul. Sure, I may struggle with Paul’s teaching on women, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or see him as being antithetical to Jesus’ proclamation of Good News.

Confession time: if given a choice between reading the Synoptics and reading the Pauline Epistles, I’ll chose the Paul (note: The Gospel of John is better than all of them combined. That is my Jesus Gospel).

Now, here I am, years later in seminary, and I was so excited when I heard that Dr. Kirk was writing a book on the tension and struggle that evangelicals have in reading and reconciling the words (and deeds) of Jesus and those of Paul. Not only that, but he was taking a narrative approach to the discussion and I love narrative!

But, I struggle with how to interact with this book. Should I do a straight review? I could. I think what is more helpful is to incorporate elements of this book in the narrative here at Cheese-Wearing Theology. So for example, I’ll have a post up this weekend interacting with Dr. Kirk’s strong emphasis on the resurrection, as I tell my favourite story about one church’s Easter Sunday service and how kids are smarter than adults.

That being said, there do need to be a few ‘review’ type comments made about this book.

1) Who would benefit from reading this book?

Pastors who are working on trying to find ways to preach the “grand story” of the Gospel.
Christians who grew up in rugged individualistic North American evangelical churches.
A bible study with a group of mature Christians. There can be a lot of good discussion and questions come out from each of the chapters. (An example of this discussion can be seen in the recent blog tour of the book, where different bloggers were asked to interact with a specific chapter of the book.)
This book might also be a good secondary source for a graduate-level intro to NT class.

2) You may want to read William Webb’s Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals prior to reading this book. The narrative approach that Dr. Kirk presents incorporates the redemptive (trajectory) hermeneutic of Dr. Webb.

3)You don’t have to agree with everything in this book to appreciate it. I’m probably more theologically conservative than Dr. Kirk but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate (while disagreeing with) his conclusions about hot-button issues.

4) A few minor nitpicks:
a)ENDNOTES. Publishers, please stop doing this. Especially in a book with only a handful of citations per chapter. Footnotes are better. I probably won’t ever win that fight with publishers, but I can dream.
b) While I appreciate the minimal number of citations in this book, there are a few places where the added citations would have been helpful. Example: pg. 42, Dr. Kirk writes, “In Romans 1:3-4 Paul says something so surprising that most of our Bible translations refuse to print it.” Refuse to print it? What does that mean? And have translation committees specifically said, “We won’t print this?” A citation to bring context to this comment would have been helpful.

5) You should absolutely check out Dr. Kirk’s blog.
There are some very good conversations going on over there, and most importantly, he writes about Barth on a weekly basis!

(I am grateful to the fine folks at Baker Academic for this review copy.)

The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark


Despite his sometimes far-reaching emphasis on exile, and despite his rather hyperbolic insistence that the end-times does not mean “the end of space-time continuum,”(pg. 321) N.T. Wright is entirely correct in arguing that Mark 13 should not be read as an apocalyptic message about the Second Coming of Christ. Keeping Mark 13 in its context of Mark 11-14, and understanding it as part of Jesus’ overall pronouncement on the temple, means that we should understand Mark 13 as referencing and finding fulfillment in the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Wright understands “Son of Man” to be a reference to Jesus being Israel’s representative, rather than as a title for Jesus’ humanity. As King David was a hologram of Israel, Jesus, as the Son of David, is a hologram of Israel. The “Son of Man” then, Wright argues, can be seen in Mark and in Daniel, as not necessarily a “super-hero” but as a representative of Israel. In Daniel, the prophetic visions of mighty animals warring against the Son of Man should be understood then as the epic battle of evil nation states against Yahweh’s people, Israel. The Son of Man ‘coming’ in Daniel 7:13 refers to an ascension to the Ancient of Days (Yahweh), and so it should be seen similarly in Mark 13:26. As Wright argues, ultimately Daniel 7 and Mark 13 are stories of vindication and exaltation, (pg. 361) not only of the Son of Man but ultimately of Israel.

Jesus’ prediction of the fall of the temple was a risk, but if it came to pass, it would be his vindication. As Wright argues, if the temple was not destroyed within the generation as Jesus predicted, then Jesus’ whole ministry and message would have been that of “a charlatan, a false prophet, maybe even a blasphemer.” (pg. 361) And while there is the possibility of prophetic telescoping happening in Mark 13, where the prophesy can have multiple fulfillments, it is important to understand it first and foremost in its historical fulfillment. As Wright says, “this is how the story must end. If Jesus is not the last prophet, he is a false prophet.” (pg. 362)

Through Jesus’ messianic mission, Israel was being redefined. Israel would no longer be a community defined by ethnicity. It would now be a community defined by repentance. If the people did not heed Jesus’ message, they would become Babylon, the arch-type of oppression and exile. The leaders and the people who rejected and railed against Jesus’ radical teaching would inevitably “discover themselves in the position that they had thought was reserved for the pagans,” namely, judgment. (pg. 329)

Jesus’ message, while radical, was not revolutionary. As Wright rightly points out, it was the Pharisees who were looking for revolution. Jesus’ message was consistent with a classic prophetic profile. Jesus, as prophet and Messiah, was standing in a long tradition of prophetic critiques from within Judaism. He was following in the way of the prophets. As such, his message was in no way anti-Jewish. It was a message for a specific people in a specific moment in history.

If, following Wright, Mark 13 is understood not as part of the doctrine of the Second Coming, but as temple discourse, there is still the question as to whether or not the early church understood it as Wright presents it. Dale Allison suggests that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is Paul’s interpretation of Mark 13, or a tradition closely associated with it. (Allison, 135) While Wright’s interpretation works while looking at Mark 13, Paul’s adaptation, as well as Matthew’s in Matthew 24, seems to suggest that the early church understood it to be referencing Jesus’ Second Coming.

Wright does address the parallel passage in Matthew 24, and argues that the disciples’ question is “when will you be physically installed as king?” Jesus’ response (Matthew 24:4-51) is that he will be installed when the temple is destroyed. (pg. 342) Part of the problem, Wright argues, lies in the fact that the Church has not understood the fall of Jerusalem as theologically significant.

The question then is, how do academics and pastors communicate Wright’s presentation of Mark 13 to the church at large? How do we teach about the theological significance of the fall of Jerusalem? And how do we show the proper separation of Mark 13 from the overall doctrine of the Second Coming, given that the North American evangelical culture is held captive by Left Behind (and Zionist) eschatology?

Sunday Meditation

‘The resurrection life of Jesus means both that people will be raised like him in the future and that the future resurrection life intrudes on the present. In Romans 6 it is as though Paul is telling Christians to take hold of their future and bring it to bear on the present. Look at how the resurrection opens a possibility for new life and now: “Do not present your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as weapons of righteousness to God, for sin shall not be lord over you” (Romans 6:13-14). People who have been joined to Jesus through baptism have entered a new realm, the realm defined by the freedom, power, lordship, and resurrection life of Jesus. The kingdom of God has come near.’ J.R. Daniel Kirk, Jesus I Have Loved, But Paul?, pg. 43

Biblioblog Carnival February 2012

It’s a port of call, a home away from home, for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs and wanderers. A shining beacon on the internet, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last best hope for peace. The year is 2012. The name of the place is The Biblioblogging Carnival.

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Ranger One/Valen/Sinclair — Barth, Barth and More Barth
“There was a saying on Mimbar, anyone who wanted to get a straight answer out of Ranger One was to look at every reply in a mirror while hanging upside down from the ceiling.” “Did it work?” “Oddly enough, yes! Or after a while you passed out and had a vision. Either way the result was pretty much the same.”

Travis McMaken posts the abstract for his completed dissertation on Infant Baptism after Barth. Kait points us to Barth on the Freedom of Theology. She also looks at Barth and Oppression. What would Barth say about Tim Tebow? Andrew Browne reflects on how he fell in love with theology. Darren looks at Van Til’s critique of Barth. This was followed up by a post by David Congdon on Barth and actualistic ontology.
And, of course, we can’t forget Daniel Kirk’s weekly interactions with Barth: one, two, three and four.

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Theology:
Sheridan: (playing a game of chess with Theo) Concentrate all you want, there’s nowhere you can go.
Brother Theo: I’d expect a comment like that from someone with no clearly defined pattern of faith.
Sheridan: I believe in a little of everything. I’m an eclectic. Open minded.
Brother Theo: Rudderless, directionless, cast adrift without compass, on an ocean of ecclesiastical possibilities. Tossed by the winds this way, that way…
Sheridan: Oh, I’m hearing a lot of talk and you still haven’t made a move!
Brother Theo: Your Ambassador Delenn has a wonderful phrase: Faith manages. Check. And I do believe, mate.

Tripp and Bo introduce Process Theology to the readers of Rachel Held Evans blog. Julie Clawson asks her own questions about Process Theology.
Carson Clark asks the age-old question Was Calvin a Calvinist?
Brian Gronewoller looks at Polycarp and the idea that Christians shouldn’t explain Christianity.
Daniel McClellan contemplates conceptualizations of theological boundaries and the prototype theory.

A look at freewill and biology.

Rod talks about the theological and cultural significance of the mission of the Trinity. The trek through the top 10 theologians continued over at Parchment and Pen with #1 being Augustine.
Allan Bevere writes that our God is too small. Ken Schenck on why we need theology. C. Michael Patton looks at the doctrine of the Trinity. Brian LePort asks whether Oneness Pentecostalism is the same as Modalism.

Hermeneutics & Interpretation:
Leslie Keeney works toward a Christocentric hermeneutic. Andrew’s writes on the clarity or otherwise of Scripture.

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Church History:

Church historians are like Delenn, who can’t seem to explain anything without starting off with “A thousand years ago…”

Greg Boyd writes that the most tragic event in history was Constantine’s victory. Sheila McGinn reflects on God’s “tenting” and church schisms. James McGrath tackled the way mythicists misrepresent historians and also points us to an online bibliography of Syriac Christianity.

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The Book of G’Quan — Old Testament:

“Do not thump the book of G’Quan. It is disrespectful.”
Steven Leckvold compares how Augustine and Chrystosom read Genesis 1 & 2. David Miller talks about teaching his youngest Hebrew student. Jason asks where Cain’s wife came from. Jeremiah points to an early non-literal reading of Genesis 1. Bob MacDonald examines Jonah 1. Brian LePort points us to a Aramaic learning resource. RJS asked when was Genesis written and why. Theophrastus discusses how translators and publishers have treated Targum Onkelos versus Septuagint Pentateuch.

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The Book of G’Kar — New Testament:
“Well, if the book is holy and I am holy, then I must help you become closer to the thoughts of the universe. Put your face in the book.” [slam!]
Tim Henderson spends some time working through Michael Licona’s ‘The Resurrection of Jesus’: one, two, three, four, five. Nijay Gupta asks whether the world needs another commentary on Colossians?
Did you see the blog tour for Daniel Kirk’s “Jesus I have Loved, But Paul?” Collin Hansen interviews Peter O’Brien about the warning passages in Hebrews. Monica Coleman takes another look at Mary and Martha.

Michael Gorman posts a few paragraphs from his upcoming work on the Mission of God in the writings of Paul.
RJS starts the conversation about Peter Enns’ latest book, by looking at how Paul referred to Adam.

Kevin DeYoung looks at the 144,000 in Revelation. Matthew Montonini looks at Jesus’ emotion in Mark 3:5. Preston Sprinkle gives us a good introduction and overview of The New Perspective On Paul. James Crossley examines a fascinating interview between Craig Keener and Michael Liconaon in which they explore racism in New Testament studies. Suzanne McCarthy continues her examination of Junia with a look at the use of episemos in Psalms of Solomon.

Mike Bird looks at Galatians 1:4. Claude Mariottini offers an excerpt from his entry on ‘fear’ in the Holman Bible Dictionary. Brian LePort on proskuneo in Matthew. Jeremy Rios looks at Matthew 24. Bill Mounce on how a comma makes a world of difference. Rod looks at the similarities between Plutarch, the NT and the Church Fathers.

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Interplanetary Expeditions — Archaeology:

“Exploring the Past to create a better future”
Several posts about The Talpiot Tomb from around the blogosphere can be found here, here, here and here. A new fragment of the book of Romans has been found.

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Futuristic Monks — Book Reviews:
“Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one.”

Nijay Gupta writes about how much of the book to read before you write a review. Stephanie Lowery reviews ‘The Church and Development in Africa.’ James White critiques Roger Olson’s portrayal of Calvinism in his newest book, ‘Against Calvinism.‘ Brian LePort reviews ‘The Torah’. Nick Norelli reviews Craig Keener’s commentary on Romans.
James Pate works his way through Ben Witherington’s ‘Jesus the Sage’ one, two, three, four. Todd Miles reviews Keith Johnson’s Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assessment.
John the Lutheran interacts with Terry Eagleton’s new book on New Atheism.

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Academics — The Same in Any Era:


“You do not wish to know anything. You wish only to speak. That which you know, you ignore, because it is inconvenient. That which you do not know, you invent.”

The Best Footnote Ever.

Marc Cortez provides info on how bad the job market is for PhD-holders. E-books don’t save students much money. Bradley Wright explains why he would rather research than publish. How to survive a postgrad program. Brad writes about how to cultivate a Sabbath rest for those in academia (grad school). Jason Staples writes about how he has changed how his tests his NT students. Roland Boer has been providing a hilarious list and description of “Types of Scholars.”

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Interstellar Network News — Politics and Culture:

“A no-holds-barred look at the events of today that will shape the world of tomorrow.”

TC Moore writes about the seduction of politics. Not being a fan of football, I largely ignored the 316 hoopla about Tim Tebow. Here is one post about Tebowing.

A youtube video made the rounds about being cool with Jesus but not with religion. Several people have chimed in. Of note, check out Dane Ortlund’s reflection, where he asks if these analyses and critiques of the video are nitpicking. The Jesus and Religion video guy responds to Kevin DeYoung.

Travis McMacken and David Congdon write an open letter to the editors of Christianity Today regarding an article in the latest issue on Christians and politics. Roger Olson suggests it is time to throw out the ‘Right-Middle-Left’ Spectrum. Allan Bevere chimes in and says that Olson’s suggestion applies not just to evangelicalism, but also to politics in general.

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Shadows vs. Vorlon — Complementarianism/Egalitarianism:

They’ve fought so long that they’ve stopped respecting each other’s viewpoints and so entrenched in their own rightness that they’re willing to destroy entire planets to prove that they’re right.

Roger Olson offers a critique of extreme complementarianism. Later Olson argues that complementarianism “is an open door to abuse and idolatry.” Rod offers some thoughts in light of Roger Olson’s post on Gender and Feminism.

Kait Dugan looks at the Trinity and Gender Inclusive Language. Brian LePort considers the image of woman in Genesis 1 &2. Leslie Keeney has a word for women who feel called to Christian academia.

Jon Coutts asks who are the daughters of Zelophehad today? He also suggests that the labels ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’ hinder the ongoing conversation. Josh writes about Strategic Advice for Egalitarians. Derek Ouellette is going to continue to wrestle through the egalitarian/comp debate, trying to take into account his post conservative sensibilities.

Scot Mcknight points us to an article by Nijay Gupta on the role of Deborah in contemporary discussions of women in ministry. Tim Challies reflects on Mutual Submission. Matthew Tan looks at First-Wave, Second-Wave and Standpoint feminism. Preston Yancey writes about his journey through the comp/egal debate. Frank Viola writes about God’s view of women.

You know what, on second thought, maybe the comp/egal debate is not so much Vorlons vs. Shadows as it is Drazi vs. Drazi: Green must fight purple. Purple must fight green.

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We Have ‘Six’ — Mark Driscoll’s ‘Real Marriage’:

“You see, we have six, ah… we have six, you see, and each one is a different level of intimacy and pleasure. So, you know, first you have one, and that’s naa-naa. Then there’s two… and by the time you get to five it’s a heehaa-heehaa.”

Rachel Held Evans. The Friendly Atheist. Denny Burk. David Moore. Internet Monk.
Books and Culture. Doug Wilson. Matthew Lee Anderson’s two part review: here and here. The best review of the book has to be Eugene Cho’s.

And then the brouhaha continued after Driscoll gave an interview on a British radio station.

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The League of Non-Aligned Worlds — Conference Announcements and Calls for Papers:

Jim Linville announces the Research in Religious Studies conference at the University of Lethbridge. Paul in Conversation. Jesus Conference announcement. Frank Emanuel announces the call for papers for the next meeting of the Canadian Theological Society. Pastorum Live conference in June.

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Zocalo — Miscellaneous:
“Zocalo is a human word. It’s from one of their southern continents. I think it means great marketplace.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Ben Witherington whose daughter passed away on January 11th at the age of 32.

Kevin ponders the difference between urban and rural religious landscapes. Adam McLane talks about how youth ministry is flatlining. Gavin Ortlund offers some thoughts on ‘Mere Christianity.’ Frank Viola looks at the four streams within evangelicalism. Richard Flory looks at research about how going to church influences our lives. Joel interviews Allan Bevere. Thabiti looks at blackness and whiteness.

Leslie suggests that our definition of a successful ministry is problematic. The crew over at Black, White and Grey point us to their top 11 religion research stories. They also look at the question of how many Americans are Atheist. J.K. Gayle provides an analysis of how Martin Luther King used Bible in his civil rights speeches.

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The Biblioblog Carnival changed the future and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don’t, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope, that there can always be new beginnings. Even for people like us.

Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr

Dr. Susan Wendel has had her dissertation published. Check it out:

Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr

From the publisher:
Scholars of Christian origins often regard Luke-Acts and the writings of Justin Martyr as similar accounts of the replacement of Israel by the non-Jewish church. According to this view, both authors commandeer the Jewish scriptures as the sole possession of non-Jewish Christ-believers, rather than of Jews. Offering a fresh analysis of the exegesis of Luke and Justin, this book uncovers significant differences between their respective depictions of the privileged status that Christ-believers hold in relation to the Jewish scriptures. Although both authors argue that Christ-believers alone possess an inspired capacity to interpret the Jewish scriptures, unlike Justin, Luke envisages an ongoing role for the Jewish people as recipients of the promises that God pledged to Israel.

Barth on the Church and the World

In the section of IV.3.2 that we are in for the Barth Reading Group, Barth is talking about the relationship between the world and the Church, and argues that the Church is in service to the world. The Church is not the Church if it exists only for its own sake and ignores the world. If it does this then, the church conforms to the world, thinking that it can be comfortable taking care of its own needs. In the midst of his argument, Barth turns to the parable of the Good Samaritan, and says this:

To be sure, it [the Church] is not itself the Good Samaritan who has come into the world as the Saviour, active not for Himself but only for it in the manner and the power of God. And it [the Church] is well advised not to try to play this role. But it is gathered and upbuilt by this Good Samaritan for active service on His behalf, and it is actually sent out into the world in this service. If it cannot do what He does, and it should not pretend it can, it may and should follow Him in what He does. It may and should be obedient to His command. CD IV.3.2. pg 779

Origen on Birthdays

I’m reading sections of Origen’s Homilies on Leviticus for a paper that should be finished tomorrow. In Homily 8, Origen makes an interesting argument that doesn’t fit with my paper, but I keep coming back to it in my reading.
Origen explains why the saints don’t celebrate birthdays, and his argument is that only “sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday.”

He points to two examples of bad birthday celebrations: Pharaoh in Genesis 40, and Herod in Mark 6. In both cases these rulers celebrated their birthday by having someone killed. Pharaoh had the chief baker hanged, and Herod had John the Baptist beheaded.

On the other hand, Origen argues, the righteous in the Bible curse the day they were born. He quotes Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”(Jeremiah 20:14–18);
Job: “After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’”(Job 3:1–3);
and David: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”(Psalms 51:5)

Origen says that these men uttered these thing “by the divine and prophetic Spirit,” (pg. 157) and then argues that at its core, baptism (of infants) is obviously necessary to wash away the stain and sin of birth for otherwise baptism is meaningless (pg. 158).

It got me thinking, are there examples of rejoicing about birthdays? Hannah who was barren and cried out to the Lord, rejoiced in God’s provision after the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and each year celebrated his birthday by making him a robe (v. 19). Sarah laughed (granted in disbelief) at the birth of Isaac, and on the day that Isaac was weaned Abraham threw a huge party (Genesis 21:6-8). The angel tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth will rejoice over the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:14), and when he was born all Elizabeth’s relatives “shared her joy” (Luke 1:58).

So my question is this, if Job and Jeremiah are lamenting their births, does this mean that every birthday, every year is bad, or could it mean that they are simply saying that their life sucks? Is their pity party, woe-is-me, I-wish-I-were-dead attitude a reflection of their everyday thinking or a temporary EMO moment?

Books I’m Most Proud to Have on My Shelf

Yesterday, I posted the most embarrassing books on my bookshelf. Today, here is a few of the books that I am most proud:


Someone very special got me the entire Church Dogmatics for Christmas. They take up an entire shelf all on their own. They will come in very handy when I take “Theology of Barth” this January.


I managed to pick up the TDNT really cheap off of Christianbook.com a couple of years ago. They fill one whole shelf by themselves.


This book best displays my warped sense of humour. My favourite scene is when Marvin manages to disable the enemy fleet, by making them so depressed that they commit suicide. No matter how many times I read it, that scene always make me laugh out loud.


And of course, no bookshelf should be without this awesome, awesome, awesome book. Of course, I could be biased, but that doesn’t matter, I’m still right.