"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview with Simon Gathercole at Tyndale University College

Dr. Simon Gathercole was recently at Tyndale for two lectures (Nov 17). There was great turn out for both, and we were treated to two stimulating lectures on substitution and the Gnostics, respectively. Simon was interviewed while he was here, and the Communications department has just posted this video. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Pope on Jesus, a review in First Things

The October edition of First Things, which I have just had a chance to look through, has a review of Pope Benedict XVI's second volume of Jesus of Nazareth ("Reading the Gospels with Benedict XVI", pp. 35-40). The review by Bruce Marshall is a good read, especially given that I do want to read Ratzinger's work on Jesus. There are a number of things about the review that could be mentioned, but I do want to note a discussion that comes toward the end of the review about the relationship between Biblical Studies and Theology.

What sparks these comments by Marshall is the "frosty reception" that the he says the pope's book has been given by biblical scholars. He states that among other things: "...the book was dismissed as a misbegotten hybrid of critical scholarship and Catholic devotion..." (p. 39). And yes, that would cause some problems for the more historical-critically minded biblical scholar.

Marshall continues, "Undeterred by such criticism from the guild of professional exegetes, the pope clearly has no intention of reading, say, the Gospel of Matthew simply as an independent literary artifact but accepts it as one of the canonical gospels--very much including John and not limited to the synoptics." In relation to this, Marshall notes that the pope reads the Gospel texts with Romans 3:25 and Psalm 22, for example.

"Some in the biblical guild embrace this way of reading particular New Testament texts in light of the whole canon, while others resist it. Either way--and this is the point of which Benedict insists--the interpreter of the gospels makes a decision of which no amount of historical evidence can relieve him. Nothing affects our interpretation of a text more than our convictions about what is most relevant to reading the text rightly. The decision to read the gospels as Christian scripture--or not to read them in this way--is ineluctably infiltrated with the reader's convictions about God, about God, about what God may (or may not) be doing with these texts, about the nature of authority of the communities that have held these texts to be sacred Scripture, and much more. It is, in short, a religious decision, which historical considerations alone cannot compel the reader to make one way or the other" (p. 39).

"...But he insists that historical criticism, while a necessary component in an intellectually responsible interpretation of the Bible, must be taken up into a 'hermeneutics of faith' and not the other way around. He deliberately subordinates the methods and results of modern biblical scholarship (historical-critical or otherwise) to the complex ways of reading long practiced by the Church" (p. 40).

Given that these are Marshall's comments on the pope's book and I haven't read either volume of Jesus of Nazareth, I am not in a place to respond apart from some general comments on the topic. I find myself, even though open to a theological reading, leaning toward the textual side of biblical study. Theology needs to arise from the text, and theology informs our reading of Scripture. However, I don't think that theology should dominate the reading of Scripture. Maybe more on that another time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Faught and Gentles, Tyndale History Department Books

Yesterday we had a reception for two of my colleagues in the history department here at Tyndale. They both published books this year.

Ian Gentles is a Cromwell scholar and has published a biography of Cromwell this year entitled: Cromwell: God's Warrior and the English Revolution.

Brad Faught, who has published numerous works on the British Empire (and has another book coming out in the near future), has published The New A-Z of Empire: A Concise Handbook of British Imperial History.

If I only had more time to read books that I want to read!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Karl Barth for Armchair Theologians

During SBL this past weekend, I picked up a copy of Barth for Armchair Theologians by John R. Franke. I have always been intrigued by this armchair series published by Westminster John Knox, and knowing that I currently do not have time to begin reading Barth's actually writings, a nice, light introduction sounded like a good idea.

Franke makes a great comment in his discussion of Barth's developing theology, as Barth began to move away from liberal theology in the aftermath of World War I:

"...Barth increasingly believed that to speak of God was to speak of something different, strange, and startling. God does not come to us in ways that simply affirm what we already believe and practice as a matter of course, but God comes to us and speaks to us on God's own terms, invading and disrupting what we have known and take for granted by calling into being a new reality that we could not have foreseen or imagined" (p. 31).

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Calming of the Wind and the Waves

In preparation for a lecture on Jesus' mighty works, I ran across this powerful painting and an artist I was not previously aware of.

James Ensor, Le Christ apaisant la tempête, 1891. A link to the painting may be found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"How to Read the Bible" in Christianity Today

The cover story for this month's (October 2011) Christianity Today is an article by J. Todd Billings entitled "How to Read the Bible: New strategies for interpreting Scripture turn out to be not so new--and deepen our life in Christ". The article introduces some of the main themes and scholars in the field of theological interpretation of Scripture. Billings makes some excellent points and is challenging about the place of a theological hermeneutic in relation to historical-critical exegesis and also in relation to the Church's engagement of Scripture in the context of worship and devotion.

One quick quote (for now), pp. 25-26: "Instead of providing a detailed blueprint, a theological reading [of Scripture] brings a map for a journey. Our map does not give all the answers about a particular text. Instead, our reading sends us on a journey in which God in Scripture encounters us again and again, both with comforting signs of his presence and surprises that confound us, yet may open new vistas. Reading Scripture is not about solving puzzles but discerning a mystery. Through Scripture, we encounter no less than the mysterious triune God himself."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Arts and Science: Colliding and Integrating

For Christian liberal arts education, the integration of the academic disciplines is central to understanding the Creator and humanity's work as subcreators within the world. Last week, while listening to the BBC World Service (Oct 9), I heard an interview with Ariane Koek, the director of the arts program at CERN. Although CERN is the joint particle physics laboratory in Europe, they have a arts program called Arts@CERN and have begun a new internship for artists called Collide@CERN (also here).

The Arts@CERN website states: "The Arts and Particle Physics are inextricably linked: both are ways of us exploring our existence - what it is to be human and our place in the universe."

Here is another statement by the program director,“The arts touch the parts that science alone cannot reach, and vice versa,” said Ariane Koek, CERN's cultural specialist.“Collide@CERN gives CERN, artists and scientists the opportunity to engage in creative collisions that can occur when these two areas of human creativity and ingenuity come together.”

Both statements are also great articulations of what the liberal arts are about more generally. Science and the arts often seem farther apart, but religious studies and business might be argued by some to be just as far apart. Integrating the disciplines makes us more aware of our humanity, our community together, and the unity and diversity of the world which God has created.

See also the article by Ariane Koek.

I wish I had access to "Notes From the Universe: Particle Sounds" by Brian Foster and Vesna Petrestin Robert.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Fall Meeting 2011

It is less than a month until the Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology fall meeting 2011. The program looks to be interesting and engaging. One of the presenters is Tyndale's own Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Dr. Stanley Walters (PhD, Yale). The meeting will take place at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto on Friday, October 21. The program is as follows:

Discussion will focus on Isaiah 9 in reception history, and on connections here with Legaspi's recent book, The Death of Scripture & the Rise of Biblical Studies (OUP, 2010).

Time Participants Friday, 21 October 2011
9:30 am Ephraim Radner Greeting & Introduction
10:00 am Gary Anderson Isaiah 9 with a focus TBD
11:00 am Michael Legaspi Isaiah 9 and the work of Robert Lowth
12:00 pm Stanley Walters Review of Legaspi’s The Death of Scripture…
1:00 pm everybody Lunch provided for attendees & presenters
2:00 pm Joseph Mangina Response to morning presentations
2:30 pm Christopher Seitz Summary and response to morning presentations
3:00 pm moderator Open discussion

Monday, September 19, 2011

Earning a UK PhD, the state of the UK PhD: comments by Larry Hurtado

Larry Hurtado has recently made some comments about the state of the British PhD on his blog (see links below). Apparently some NT PhD candidates in the UK are submitting PhD theses when they do not have a reading knowledge of Koine Greek, German, or French. Nor is it apparent that some students can understand and explain the textual variants of a passage from the Nestle-Aland apparatus. It is disappointing (although not entirely shocking) that some UK PhD candidates have come to this point. The blame can largely be placed on the universities (and I think the supervisors of these students should shoulder some of it, unless of course, the students have not heeded their supervisors warnings and advice. The latter does happen!). Hurtado explains in the third post listed below some of the pressures placed on UK universities by the government that have led to this. 

As the graduate of a British PhD programme, I understand how this can happen. The situation is unfortunate and only spells problems for the future of British NT studies if those working in NT studies do not learn the tools of the trade.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Simon Gathercole at Tyndale University College

Dr. Simon Gathercole will be giving two lectures at Tyndale University College on Thursday, November 17, 2011. The formal announcement has now been made.

The first lecture is entitled "In Defence of Substitution: The Atonement in Paul" and will be given over lunch (11:45-1:00) on the Tyndale Ballyconnor Campus.

The second lecture is open to the public and is entitled "Who were the Gnostics? Their Beliefs, Practices, and Gospels". This lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the auditorium (NB: not the chapel!) at the Tyndale Bayview Campus (Sisters of St. Joseph). If you would like further information on either lecture, please let me know and watch the Tyndale website for further information.

The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Language and Influences (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series)The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and LukeWhere Is Boasting?: Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1-5Dr. Simon Gathercole is Senior Lecturer in New Testament in the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. He is editor of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament and is well-known for his books Where is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1-5 and The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He has a monograph in the SNTS Monograph Series coming out in March 2012: The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Languages and Influences.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus Blog Tour

Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus, A: Reading the Gospels on the GroundDuring the week of Oct 3-7, 2011, a number of NT scholars, pastors, and students will be posting blog entries on Bruce Fisk's, A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus. This will be a great opportunity to find out other opinions about the book from a variety of perspectives. Here is the link: http://hitchhikersblogtour.wordpress.com/. Check out the list of bloggers and blog who will be reviewing. I am looking forward to reading what everyone has to say.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Religious Studies Student's Guide to Research and Writing

Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing was published in August 2011 and will prove to be an excellent resource for undergraduate students of Religious Studies. The majority of the information in the book will also be useful to non-Religious Studies students as the book also provides advice on the basics of university life and students' academic responsibilities.

Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student's Guide to Research and WritingThis Oxford University Press publication authored by Margot Northey, Bradford A. Anderson, and Joel N. Lohr introduces students to university and higher education in the first three chapters, including time management and writing. General information that will be useful to most university students includes chapters on writing essays, writing book reviews, studying for and taking tests, giving oral presentations, documenting sources, common grammatical errors, and more. The chapter on reading religious texts is clearly specific to Religious Studies, as are most of the examples in the book. There is plenty of useful and common-sense advice throughout the book that will serve first year Religious Studies students as well as students in the their final years of university.

Since the book contains information that professors expect from students, I would highly recommend students of Religious Studies to read this book even if it is not required.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oscar Cullmann on Early Christian Worship

An extended quote from Cullmann's, Early Christian Worship, 1953 (originally Urchristentum und Gottesdienst, 1950):

"Two main features of the purpose of all early Christian gatherings for worship must still be stressed. First, the Lord's Supper is the natural climax towards which the service thus understood moves and without which it is not thinkable, since here Christ unites himself with his community as crucified and risen and makes it in this way one with himself, actually builds it up as his body (1 Cor. 10.l7). Corresponding to this all the other parts of the service have the risen Lord of the Church as their object. For this reason the day of the Lord's resurrection is the Christian festive day...

"The second main Christian feature of the early service is shown to us in the fact that the risen and present Lord of the Church who stands in the centre of the Christian gathering, points at one and the same time backwards to the crucified and risen historical Jesus and forwards to the coming Christ: what makes the service a real act of worship is the Holy Spirit. That is the characteristic of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament view, that he determines the present in the time sequence of God's act of salvation, but in such a way that, on the basis of what has happened in Christ in the past, he anticipates already the future, the last things" (pp. 34-35, emphasis original).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The ESV Book of Common Prayer for Mobile

At the bottom of the blog, you will find a link to the Book of Common Prayer daily office lectionary from the ESV's website (multiple other reading plans are available). I often read the daily readings on my iPod touch since I can access it wherever there is wifi. The ESV also has made available an audio version of each reading. Today, when I logged in I noticed that they have changed the mobile format. One of the great changes that was made is the ability to listen to all of the readings one after the other. Previously, it was necessary to click each reading separately (1-3 Psalms, OT, NT, & Gospel) in order to listen to them. This morning I listened to all of the readings in 11+ minutes with only one click. Great addition. Thanks, ESV.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hermeneutical Role of Biblical Theology

Here are some comments by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation. The comments come from his chapter "The Gospel and the Theological Dimension (II): Biblical and Systematic Theology."

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation"The biblical theological dimension in hermeneutics is thus the major way of addressing the question of the gap between the text and the reader. It allows the reader to find where he or she actually fits into the totality of biblical revelation. If done with care, it will then provide the valid links between the meaning of a text in its own context and its application to the modern reader. The offending gap is the theological distance of texts from the modern reader. But, if the gap is uniformly closed by the reader to give an undifferentiated immediacy to all texts, the result is hermeneutical chaos. Some forms of pietism and 'Spirit-driven' subjective theology result in such an approach, which lacks any differentiation of texts. The kind of piety that primarily focuses on questions concerned with what the text says about us and our Christian living lacks Christological depth. This premature desire for immediate guidance ignores the relationship of the text to Christ. If there is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5), then to seek understanding of either God or man without recourse to the mediator is a procedure that is Christologically flawed. If we are truly to understand what a text says about ourselves, we must follow the biblical path that leads first to Christ, for he defines who and what we are in him" (p. 263).

When it comes to the relationship between biblical and systematic theology, Goldsworthy concludes that "doctrinal pre-understandings about the nature of the Bible" should be the starting point of biblical interpretation. Exegesis is guided by these understandings. Biblical theology seeks the unity of the exegesis of distinct biblical passages "by examining the development of ideas in the progressive revelation." The community of faith through historical theology influences each of these steps. Systematic theology then posits what is to be believed into doctrinal statements. Goldsworthy notes that doctrinal formulation may require a shift in the "doctrinal pre-understandings" with which the exegetical process started. Following Osborne, he sees a hermeneutical spiral rather than a linear progression and thus each step influences the next (see pp. 271-72).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quintilian and the Liberal Arts

Dorothy Sayers essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" (see the link under "Liberal Arts Resources" on the right), gives a thoughtful critique of the academic learning of her day. She echoes some thoughts found in Quintilian's preface to his Institutio Oratoria. In explaining why he is finally writing his view of oratory, Quintilian (b. c. 35 CE; d. before 100) says that he had declined his friends' requests to write because he "was well aware that some of the most distinguished Greek and Roman writers had bequeathed to posterity a number of works dealing with the subject" (1.1). However, Quintilian says that he came to the conclusion that these other authors expected their readers to know all other branches of learning before reading their work.

Quintilian disagrees with this approach and claims that the early stages of education, while not being as flashy, are invaluable. He states: 

"For almost all others who have written on the art of oratory have started with the assumption that their readers were perfect in all other branches of education and that their own task was merely to put the finishing touches to their rhetorical training; this is due to the fact that they either despised the preliminary stages of education or thought that they were not their concern, since the duties of the different branches of education are distinct from another, or else, and this is nearer the truth, because they had no hope of making a remunerative display of their talent in dealing with subjects, which, although necessary, are far from being showy: just as in architecture it is the superstructure and not the foundations which attracts the eye.  I on the other hand hold that the art of oratory includes all that is essential for the training of an orator, and that it is impossible to reach the summit in any subject unless we have first passed through all the elementary stages. I shall not therefore refuse to stoop to the consideration of those minor details, neglect of which may result in there being no opportunity for more important things, and propose to mould the studies of my orator from infancy, on the assumption that his whole education has been entrusted to my charge." (1.4-5)

"The elementary stages" of education must be passed through, and their importance for further learning cannot be underestimated. Unless one can read, write, think critically, debate, and argue, there is not much that can be done with other subjects. This view of Quintilian's is what the liberal arts is all about. A strong foundation in various disciplines, although often not exciting to learn or "attracting the eye", is necessary for solid future learning. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of ChristThe Imitation of Christ by Thomas 'a Kempis is a Christian classic. In the preface to "The Christian Classics" series published in 1940 (reprinted as the Preface of the 2005 Ignatius Press edition), R.A. Knox noted that few books in the history of the world are known by one name as is the Imitation. Knox also states: "The whole work was meant to be, surely, what it is--a sustained irritant which will preserve us, if it is read faithfully, from sinking back into relaxation: from self-conceit, self-pity, self-love."

I have begun rereading the Imitation in this beautiful edition, and I didn't get very far before I needed to pause.

Here is one brief quote of 'a Kempis from 1.1.5: "There is one proverb of which we cannot remind ourselves too often, Eye looks on unsatisfied; ear listens, ill content. Make up your mind to detach your thoughts from the love of things seen, and let them find their centre in things invisible."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Theology, University, Humanities

Theology, University, Humanities: Initium Sapientiae Timor DominiI recently saw this book listed in the Wipf & Stock new releases email. The book is a series of essays on the relationship of theology and the humanities in the university. The editors of the volume, Christopher Craig Brittain and Francesca Murphy both have ties to the University of Aberdeen. Brittain currently is a lecturer in theology there, while Murphy has only recently left her post as Reader in Theology at Aberdeen to take the post at Notre Dame. (The subtitle Initium Sapientiae Timor Domini 'Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom' is the moto of the University of Aberdeen). These essays with their Aberdeen connection and also the topic of the place of theology in the humanities and the university are of interest to me. I hope to soon read this volume.

The description of the the book is as follows:
"This book discusses the relationship between theology and the humanities and their shared significance within contemporary universities. Taking up this complex question, twelve scholarly authors analyze the connections between theology and philosophy, history, scholarly literature, sociology, and law. Cumulatively, these essays make a case for the importance of reflecting on what binds the humanities and theology together. By meditating on ultimate, theological questions, this book brings the issue of the meaning and purpose of university education into a new light, exploring its deep significance for academic pursuits today."

Christopher Craig Brittain is Lecturer in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of Adorno and Theology (2010) and is writing a book titled Religion at Ground Zero.

Francesca Aran Murphy is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Her books include God is Not a Story (2007) and a commentary on I Samuel (2010).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Changes, Additions and Updates

I have just made a few changes to the look of Divinity United. I'm not sure if they will stay, but it has been over a year now so a some tidying up was in order.

A few journals have been added to the journal list. All of them should have been there initially, but they are there now. The journals listed are those that I recommend students make use of for their research and writing for class papers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eugene Petersen, Eat this Book--gnawing on words

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual ReadingI have been making my way slowly through Eugene Peterson's, Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. I say slowly because I often find myself rereading sections and taking to heart his comments about the need to gnaw on words. Peterson is talking specifically about reading Scripture, but there is a depth to his writing and experience that requires his words to be read over. Here is a quote from the end of his first chapter entitled "The Forbidding Discipline of Spiritual Reading" (p. 11). 

"Reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul--eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight. Words of men and women long dead, or separated by miles and/or years, come off the page and enter our lives freshly and precisely, conveying truth and beauty and goodness, words that God's Spirit has used and uses to breathe life into our souls. Our access to reality deepens into past centuries, spreads across continents. But this reading also carries with it subtle dangers. Passionate words of men and women spoken in ecstasy can end up flattened on the page and dissected with an impersonal eye. Wild words wrung out of excruciating suffering can be skinned and stuffed, mounted and labeled as museum specimens. The danger in all reading is that words be twisted into propaganda or reduced to information, mere tools and data. We silence the living voice and reduce words to what we can use for convenience and profit."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bruce Chilton on the Eucharist in early Christianity

I have been reading through Bruce Chilton, A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles (Brill, 1994). The following citation is a significant methodological statement about what he thinks about the eucharistic texts in the New Testament.

Chilton states (pp. 6-7):
A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus Through Johannine Circles (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, Vol 72)"Each of them [that is, the previous views on the eucharistic texts such as those held by Jeremias and others] presupposes that eucharistic texts are best understood as referring simply to the past: Jesus is held to have said and done such and so, and the only issue of importance is whether that is fact or artifice. Each alternative posits a single hero behind the texts, either a willing martyr or a literary genius, who forges meaning in an instant of creativity. The hero acts, and the texts lie inert. But along with their diversity, among the most striking features of the eucharistic texts--especially in the Synoptics, Paul, and the Didache--is their insistence that they relate things to be done, words to be said, and not merely events of the past. They are instruments of practice, not simply matters of record, and their practical dimension is a function of the varieties of practice they both reflect and would promote. Eucharist is a case in which the notion of the New Testament as inert matter (imprinted with something that once happened or was once imagined) is obviously misleading.

"In the case of the eucharist, the texts of the New Testament unmistakably relate practices at least as much as they refer to data.Of course, such may be the position in other instances, as well, but the present concern is not with the documents in general. Rather, critical readings must be guided by the quest to discern those practices within their originating communities which produced texts of eucharist in the New Testament."

Chilton continues on, but his position stated here becomes key for how he proceeds through his argument. As he states, he does not think that one figure, whether Jesus or one of the Gospel writers, was responsible for the eucharistic texts. As he says, it is practice(s) of the eucharist and controversy surrounding it(them) that drive(s) the development of the New Testament record of the eucharist.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Enoch Seminar 2011, Milan: 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra: Final Schedule

The finalized schedule for the Enoch Seminar in Milan has recently been posted. Links to most of the papers have been made available, although access is restricted to attendees. One of the Enoch Seminar traditions is that no papers are read at the conference. The attendees are to read all of the papers (yes, all of the papers) ahead of time. The sessions at the conference sessions are given to a brief summary of the papers and to significant discussion. Seems like a much more enjoyable and interesting way to run a conference, especially one located in Italy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus, Bruce Fisk

I have just finished Bruce Fisk's enjoyable and fun A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus: Reading the Gospels on the Ground (Baker Academic, 2011). I saw the book in a Baker Academic announcement a couple weeks ago, and since I am teaching a course on Jesus and the Synoptic Tradition this coming fall, I thought I should check it out (not to mention that Bruce Fisk teaches at my alma mater Westmont College). After reading the first chapter, I was hooked and knew that I would be placing the book on the required reading list for my course.

Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus, A: Reading the Gospels on the GroundWhen my copy first arrived, I read through the comments from an impressive list of academics and was a bit skeptical of what seemed like overly positive praise. Rereading those comments now, they are right on. For example, Gary Burge states: "Bruce Fisk has possibly written the most creative, fascinating, and informed book on the Gospels in a generation..." For me, what makes this book so appealing is the way in which Fisk weaves together many different genres of literature: academic introduction to Jesus and the Gospels, guide book to the land of Jesus, a forthright picture of daily Israel/Palestinian relations, and example of holding faith and learning in tension. And in the midst of this, Fisk makes continual references to primary sources, songs, poetry, film (especially Monty Python's "Life of Brian").

Norm Adams, a recent graduate of a religious studies program in the States, is on a journey to find the historical Jesus, and he guides the reader through his travels and studies. His journey is academic and spiritual, but it is also a literal journey through the land where Jesus lived. Like many students before him, Norm is trying to make sense of the disconnect between the Jesus he learned about in church and Sunday School and what he has learned in the university classroom. What about Jesus can be accepted at truth? Can the Gospels be trusted as history? What is ancient history in relation to modern history? What did Jesus do? What did he say? Why was he killed? Which sites in Israel, venerated or otherwise, are actually where the events of Jesus' life took place?

In the first chapter, the reader is introduced to Norm and to the questions that drive his journey. He begins his adventure in Israel by tracing the life of John the Baptist. This takes him across the Jordan to the possible site of Bethany beyond the Jordan and to Machaerus. Then he travels to Bethlehem and wrestles through Jesus' birth stories in Matthew and Luke. Chapter 4, the longest chapter, recounts Norm's hiking around Galilee as he asks questions about miracles and Jesus' ministry. Chapter 5 recounts Norm's ascent to Jerusalem and his working through the historicity and meaning of Jesus' statement about "this generation" not passing away until "all these things take place" (Matt 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). Chapters 6 and 7 concern Norm's sorting through the issues of Jesus' death and resurrection.

All the challenges of historical Jesus study and the major scholars are found in the book, but the book's style as a hitchhiker's guide is really about "reading the Gospels on the ground." Norm emails questions to one of his professors back in the States; his professor is always the skeptic. Norm has a dream in which he converses with J.P. Meier, Dominic Crossan, Scot McKnight, and James Dunn. In Israel, Norm dialogues with a British atheist, a couple of doomsday "prophets", a PhD student, is guided around the temple mount by a Jewish rabbi, smokes a water pipe on the roof of a Palestinian guesthouse outside Bethlehem with a couple seminary profs and students, and he even attends a Palestinian wedding in the West Bank.  These conversations and experiences help Norm to see Jesus and his message through the world and culture of the Middle East. One striking such experience is a bus "tour" he takes to Hebron where he begins to see why Pilate might have crucified an innocent man. On this excursion, Israeli soldiers are caught between the religious zealotry of some settlers and the law. As can be seen from this last example, Norm is always being confronted by the present political realities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the midst of his academic and spiritual journey.

As Norm's journey progresses, he stops looking for specific answers and is more willing to let certain questions remain. On the second to last page, Fisk writes in Norm's words: "This, I'd come to realize, is how it must be. The Man who traversed the land and the One who strides the Gospels has many faces. He is preacher and prophet, poet and peasant, seer and sage. He lurks at society's margins and lingers in its marketplaces. His was a suspicious birth, an obscure childhood, and an unlikely public launch in the shadow of a desert holy man. His tales of the kingdom, spun from the common fibers of the underclass, clarified but also mystified. His miracles impressed some and offended others. And his sense of mission drove him to confront not only the minions of hell but also the gatekeepers of the temple. Very little about Jesus was straightforward and self-interpreting. Almost no story pointed in only one direction. If Jesus was often difficult to track, he was always impossible to tame."

Fisk's book is an engaging way to introduce students and others to the issues of historical Jesus studies. Norm will serve as a helpful guide through the literature, the land, and the learning.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tyndale Announces Successful Capital Campaign

Brief press release:

Tyndale University College & Seminary has raised $52 million to date towards the purchase of its new Bayview Campus and new programs. The Uncommon Ground capital campaign, launched in 2007, has raised over $44 million or 76% of its $58 million goal in just 4 years, as well as an additional $8 million for endowed chairs and facilities upgrades...
The full press release can be found on www.tyndale.ca
Maclean's has already reported on the campaign: "Christian University Raises Loads of Cash"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Albert Einstein on Jesus

The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide (Essential Guide (Abingdon Press))I ran across this interesting quote of a quote of a quote in James H. Charlesworth's, The Historical Jesus An Essential Guide (Abingdon, 2008), p. 8.

Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology"Einstein is often not mentioned in the list of Jews who admired the historical Jesus. In Einstein and Religion, Max Jammer quotes an interview with Einstein in 1929; here are Einstein's words: 'I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life' (p. 2)."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oxford Bibliographies Online: An Excellent Tool

My colleague Daniel Driver directed my attention to Oxford Bibliographies Online (Biblical Studies). I have been looking around on the site and have only become more and more impressed. There are a signficant number of bibliographies and each one has been put together by top notch scholars in the various fields. You can search or browse alphabetically. The bibliographies name the author and the date the bibliography was posted. Each bibliography includes introductory information about the topic as well as introductory surveys, general overviews, and themes and topics related to the title topics. The specificity of these latter bibliographies continues to surprise me. All of the sources listed have a brief annotation as well as a links to World Cat and often to Google Preview. (I should mention that Oxford Bibliographies is only available through subscription which my university library has.)

The editor-in-chief of Oxford Bibliographies Online is Christopher R. Matthews who is also Editor of New Testament Abstracts and Associate Research Professor at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. The editorial board includes a "Standing Board" of John S. Kloppenborg, Carol Newsom, and Marvin Sweeney, and a much larger "Founding Editorial Board".

Here are a few NT highlights: James K. Elliot on New Testament Textual CriticismDaniel J. Harrington on Matthew; John S. Kloppenborg on the Synoptic Problem and Q; Peter Davids on the Catholic Epistles. David A. deSilva has put together the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha bibliography. deSilva's bibliography lists sources for a significant number of specific apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works (e.g., 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch). The breadth of the topics covered can be seen in the following titles: Galilee, Passion Narratives, Apocryphal Gospels, Afterlife and Immortality, Jesus of Nazareth, Slavery, Interpretation and Hermeneutics, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the New Testament and Early Christianity.

A full list of articles and contributors can be found here. It includes articles that are forthcoming in spring 2011, fall 2011, and spring 2012. I am looking forward to the articles on the 'Gospel of John' by Gilbert Van Belle, 'Second Temple Judaism' and 'Pseudepigraphy' by Annette Yoshiko Reed, and 'Apocalyptic Literature' by Greg Carey. Others forthcoming articles include 'Septuagint' by Leonard Greenspoon, 'Sermon on the Mount' by Jonathan Pennington, 'Parables' by Kloppenborg, 'Christology' by David Capes, 'Early Christian Art' by Gerhard van den Heever, and the list goes on.

Oxford Bibliographies Online is and wil be an excellent tool for Biblical Studies.

Some example of the detail put into the categorization of the bibliographies can be seen in the table of contents for the Matthew and Synoptic Problem bibliographies below:

Gospel of Matthew, Daniel Harrington
Synoptic Problem, John Kloppenborg

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comments by Ulrich Luz on Reception History

Studies in MatthewIn his book Studies on Matthew, Ulrich Luz has five essays at the end of the book that address questions of interpretation, and the primary interest with most of these is Reception History or how has the Bible been understood throughout the centuries. The following is a longer quote that I found thought-provoking from his essay entitled "The Significance of the Church Fathers for Biblical Interpretation in Western Protestant Perspective". The essay was originally published as "Die Bedeutung der Kirchenväter für die Auslegung der Biblel. Eine westlich protestantische Sicht", in : James D.G.d Dunn, Hans Klein, Ulrich Luz, and Vasile Mihoc (eds.), Auslegung der Bibel in orthodoxer und westlicher Perspektive, WUNT I/130 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), pp. 29-52.

"...we are reminded by the patristic interpretations that behind the plurality of voices in the Bible itself and behind all the interpretations there is an interpretative community of which we ourselves are part, that is: the Church. For me the importance attached by the Eastern churches to patristic interpretation is a significant hermeneutic indicator of how fundamental the Church as interpretative community is for the reading of the Bible. I emphasize this as a Protestant, well aware that the Church as interpretative community carries little weight with us. Many of our clergy tend to preach their own Word of God; many of our theologians would like to see their own theology as gospel. Many of our exegetes, glad not to have an ecclesial magisterium set over them, are content with their own authority. I insist however that interpreting and understanding the Bible is a community process, and that in the end the Church and not the individual is the interpreting subject. This does not mean I am seeking to restrict or standardize interpretation. As a Protestant, regarded by most Christian churches as being outside the 'true' church right up to the twentieth century, it is not for me to say where the limits of what God will recognize as 'church' are. I am also aware how important it is that many people read the Bible and regard it as their heritage without having any desire to belong to a church. For me any theological 'canon within the canon' which narrows down and standardizes, no longer allowing itself to be questioned by the wealth of the Bible, and a magisterium which decrees what correct interpretation of the Bible is, without allowing itself to be qualified and corrected by the Bible, are not true to the gospel. As a Protestant exegete I want to give the biblical texts the opportunity to say all that they have to say, even if it goes against us and our churches." (pp. 305-306)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goodacre on the Son of Man

Mark Goodacre posted a podcast entitled "Who is this 'Son of Man'?" over at NT Pod in early April. I have finally had time to listen to it, and as usual, he has done an excellent job introducing a NT topic (which is why I continue to make use of his podcasts in class). Goodacre points out that "the Son of Man" (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) was only spoken by Jesus and it is almost non-existent outside of the Gospels. So what did the phrase mean to Jesus? what did it mean to his followers? and why did early Christians essentially not use it? Such questions are why there is no end to scholarly discussion on the topic.

Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of ParablesI recognize that Goodacre is only giving an 11 minute introduction to a complex topic, but I did want to clarify a couple points. The Jewish Second Temple text the Similitudes of Enoch does make reference to a son of man figure and there are clear indications that Daniel 7 has influenced this text (chs. 46-48). Although Goodacre states that Similitudes is possibly later first century and after the time of Jesus, recent Second Temple scholarship has reached a consensus that the text is late first century BCE or early first century CE. Thus, it is plausibly prior to (or contemporary with) Jesus and therefore plausibly evidence of Jewish messianic understandings of the Danielic "one like a son of man" during Jesus' lifetime (see Boccaccini, ed., Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man).

Goodacre also mentioned that 4 Ezra speaks of "the son of man". This late first century text does reinterpret the Danielic son of man figure (see chs. 11 and 12), but 4 Ezra does not refer to "the son of man" or even "one like a son of man". The term used is a "something like the figure of a man" (13:3; Metzger's translation in OTP). I realize this is splitting hairs for some, but some scholars do make this a significant point. However, 4 Ezra does highlight the way in which it is the human-likeness of the visionary figure that Daniel draws attention to.

Again, I recommend listening to the podcast for a great introduction to this perennial NT topic.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The new Tyndale Magazine

Tyndale University College and Seminary have just relaunched the institution's magazine. It was formally titled "Connection", but has now been given the title "Tyndale: The Magazine". The new version is completely available online, but print copies will also still be published.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who is this Son of Man? Hurtado and Owen (eds.)

Who is this son of man?': The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (Library Of New Testament Studies)My copy of 'Who Is This Son of Man?' The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (LNTS 390) edited by Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen just arrived the other day. I am looking forward to making my way through the essays. Hopefully, I will have time to add some comments on them from time to time. Larry Hurtado's summary essay is of most interest to me, especially since a number of the essays come from different perspectives on the Son of Man debate and do not represent a consensus as much as the varying positions on the questions surrounding ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in the Gospels.

The description on the back reads:
'This volume is the first ever collection of scholarly essays in English devoted specifically to the theme of the expression "son of man". It describes the major competing theories which have addressed, among others, the following questions. What is the original Aramaic expression that lies behind the Greek phrase, and what was its original connotation? How do the gospel writers use the expression "son of man"? Is it a Christological title, pregnant with meaning, much like the titles "son of God", "Christ/Messiah", and "son of David"? Is it used as a way of designating Jesus as a human being of unique redemptive significance? Or does it rather originate in a nuanced use of an Aramaic expression used in place of the first person pronoun, as an indefinite pronoun, or for generic statements about human beings?'

Paul Owen closes his the introduction with these comments: 'The "son of man" debate serves as a conduit for discussions about method in Aramaic studies, the process whereby the oral teaching of Jesus took written form in the Greek gospels, the development of messianic hope(s) in the Second Temple period, the influence of Daniel 7 in Jewish apocalyptic texts, the self-understanding of the historical Jesus, and the relationship of Jesus' modes of speech to the content of early Christian faith and devotion. It is our hope as editors that this collaboration will make a fresh and fruitful contribution to the ongoing discussion of these matters in New Testament scholarship.'

The table of contents are as follows:
*The Son of Man Debate: What's the Problem?, Paul Owen
*Issues Concerning the Aramaic Behind ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου: A Critical Review of Scholarship, Albert L. Lukaszewski 
*Problems with Casey's 'Solution' , Paul L. Owen
*Re-solving the Son of Man 'Problem' in Aramaic, David Shepherd
*Expressing Definiteness in Aramaic: A Response to Casey's Theory concerning the Son of Man Sayings, P. J. Williams
*The Use of Daniel 7 in Jesus' Trial, with Implications for His Self-Understanding, Darrell L. Bock
*The Use of the Son of Man Idiom in the Gospel of John, Benjamin E. Reynolds
*The Elect son of man of the Parables of Enoch, Darrell D. Hannah
*Summing Up and Concluding Observations, Larry W. Hurtado

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning

A week ago today we had our graduation chapel, and the processional hymn was "Praise the Source of Faith and Learning" -- words by Thomas H. Troeger, music by Richard H. Pritchard. The words and music can be found here. According to the Harvard University Hymn Book (p. 494), the hymn was commissioned by Duke University and "reflects the school's motto, 'Faith and Learning.'"

For some reason, we did not sing the fourth and final verse, which brings it all to conclusion. We ended with the third verse which has the intriguing lines about "our learning" curbing "the error which unthinking faith can breed, lest we justify some terror with an antiquated creed."

The hymn is an excellent hymn for academic settings, especially for those institutions that attempt to bring together faith and learning. The hymn is a reminder that human knowledge can "only partial truth impart", and it is a prayer:

Blend, O God, our faith and learning
‘Til they carve a single course
While they join as one returning
Praise and thanks to you their source.

Friday, April 8, 2011

David Eastman, Paul the Martyr

My friend David Eastman has just had his thesis published with SBL/Brill. It is entitled Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle Paul in the Latin West. Hopefully, I can get a hold of a copy soon. Knowing David, it will be good and thorough. His book highlights the growing interest (or renewed interest) in early Christianity, namely what Christians were up to and believed in the first few centuries.
Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West
Here is the blurb from the back of the book, including the recommendations from Adela Yarbro Collins and Lawrence Welborn:

Ancient iconography of Paul is dominated by one image: Paul as martyr. Whether he is carrying a sword--the traditional instrument of his execution--or receiving a martyr's crown from Christ, the apostle was remembered and honored for his faithfulness to the point of death. As a result, Christians created a cult of Paul, centered on particular holy sites and characterized by practices such as the telling of stories, pilgrimage, and the veneration of relics. This study integrates literary, archaeological, artistic, and liturgical evidence to describe the development of the Pauline cult within the cultural context of the late antique West.

 “This fascinating book is an excellent introduction to the cults of the saints and martyrs as well as a valuable study of the cult of the apostle Paul in the Latin West of the Roman empire. It is both accessible to advanced undergraduates and to masters-level students and important reading for doctoral students and scholars. The drawings and photographs assist the reader in visualizing the material remains discussed.”
--Adela Yarbro Collins, Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School

 “David Eastman's Paul the Martyr represents nothing less than the first coherent narrative of the cult of the apostle Paul in the Latin West. Drawing upon archaeological, literary and liturgical materials, Eastman traces the history of Pauline veneration from the Ostian Road in Rome to Gaul, Spain, and North Africa. Eastman skillfully integrates a vast array of evidence derived from critical analysis of places, stories, objects, and rituals. Eastman's study is so masterful in its grasp of complex data, so judicious in its methodology, and so lucid in its presentation that it is bound to serve as a model for future work on the cult of the saints.”
--Laurence L. Welborn, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Fordham University

 David L. Eastman is Lecturer in New Testament Greek and Christian History at Yale Divinity School. He is a contributing author to Cities of Paul: Images and Interpretations from the Harvard New Testament and Archaeology Project (Fortress) and has worked with the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia, Greece.