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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

David F. Wells on Why Go to Seminary

Here is the link to David F. Wells' piece on why those interested in ministry should go to seminary. As a elder theologian statesman, he provides an excellent historical and theological argument for going to seminary.

I meet many students who are content with a BA in Biblical Studies and Theology or Religious Studies who are ready to start serving in a church, but Wells' thoughts may be worth considering, even if you do take a break from school for a year or two before going to seminary. Wells challenges us to reflect on what it means to pastor and be a pastor. It is deeper than we often think.

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology 2013-2014 Line Up

At the 2013 Spring Colloquium, Ephraim Radner announced the tentative line up for the 2013-14 Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Colloquia.

Friday, October 18, 2013: The New Perspective on Paul: An Assessment

Spring 2014 (Date TBD): Book of Ecclesiastes

The presenters for these colloquia are not yet set, but if the organizers are able get half of the people that they named as possible presenters, the sessions should be excellent.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology

The Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology spring colloquium was Friday on the topic of "Proverbs 8 and the Christian Theological Reading of the Scripture." Four papers were given by Michael Kolarcik of Regis College, Christopher Seitz of Wycliffe, Donald Collett of Trinity School for Ministry in Mass, and Ephraim Radner of Wycliffe.

Theological interpretation is the main focus of these colloquia and it is the sort of look at these texts (Prov 8 specifically) that make a historical-critical biblical studies person (like myself) slightly squeamish at moments. However, much of the time these discussions provide a challenge to think theologically about the text and a reminder to consider or an introduction to the history of interpretation about the text. In that vein, Kolarcik offered a more comfortable and persuasive (to me) contextual setting for understanding wisdom in Proverbs 8 within the larger context of Prov 1-9 (and more helpfully Wisdom of Solomon 6-10 and Sirach 24). He pointed out that within Proverbs 8 God is the one who creates, but wisdom is present during the creation. God is the subject of the verbs throughout 8:22-31.

Seitz noted the way in which the early church made extensive use of the OT for theological argumentation and that Proverbs 8 served as "the dead center of the playing field" of the Christological discussions that took place between the Arians and Athanasius. Was the Son begotten or made? Prov 8:22ff. offered arguments for both. As Kolarcik highlighted, Prov 8 has become in contemporary theology a entry into creation theology, but for the Church in the fourth century debates Prov 8 was key to Christology. It was mentioned more than once during the day that Athanasius has an almost 60 page discussion of Prov 8 in relation to this discussion.

Collett, using Tremper Longman's commentary on Proverbs as a dialogue partner, argued that the view that wisdom is a personified attribute of God does not completely do justice to the text of Proverbs 8. Collett does not find that saying Proverbs' genre is poetry and so therefore the language of Prov 8 is figurative is entirely convincing. Collett contends that wisdom in Proverbs 8 is a "theological ontology". For him, Proverbs 8 indicates that wisdom has some sort of being, which he indicated raises questions for monotheism.

Radner made an argument for a "juxtapositional reading" or "juxtapositional exegesis" of Scripture. He pointed out how Athanasius (in his 60 pages on Prov 8) stacked multiple texts without explaining why they were evidence for an eternal pre-existence of the Son. The line of Athanasius' argument is that only God creates. Thus, the creating wisdom in Proverbs 8 can only be the Son of God. Radner noted the tension in wisdom as God's essence or an attribute and as Creator or creature. This Radner into an interesting discussion of the antimony of Scripture, in which he highlighted the place Proverbs 8 has played in the lectionary (Trinity Sunday where it has obvious trinitarian implications for readers and hearers!). Radner's concluding point is that similar to Athanasius and lectionary readings Scripture needs to be read in this juxtapositional way.

Overall, it was a really interesting day. I would say that I realized all the more how much I approach biblical studies from a historical-critical perspective. I would say, especially with the evidence that Kolarcik provided, that Proverbs 8 has little or nothing to do with the second person of the Trinity. Radner indicated this as much by saying that from the authorial view of Scripture Prov 8 is not about the Son. As Collett pointed out, seeing wisdom as an attribute does not solve all the problems, but personification of an attribute in a poetic genre in an Ancient Near East setting may not need to meet all of our thoughts on how this should work.

So, if the author of Proverbs (Solomon or God? or ???) did not intend the Son with the term "wisdom" and yet many apostolic fathers from the third and fourth centuries saw the Son if Prov 8, what is or should be guiding our interpretation of Scripture? I find it extremely interesting that Prov 8 functioned so prominently in these Christological discussions, but if we want to argue about Jesus' role in creation would not Colossians 1 or John 1 provide better evidence? For the fathers, the language of "begotten" in Prov 8 is important, but John 1:18; 3:16? I remain unconvinced of the link between wisdom (sophia) and the word (logos) in John's Gospel (see my forthcoming dictionary article in DJG 2nd ed. "Logos"). I realize I am traveling against the stream here, but I don't see it.

The history of interpretation is important and helps to place us in our own contexts and alerts us and challenges us with views that we would not otherwise noticed. Nicene orthodoxy on the second person of the Trinity represents Scripture well. I am just not convinced that Prov 8 is about Christology or that it should be used in theological discussions of the Trinity.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pre-SBL Conference on Brown, Dodd, and the Gospel of John

An excellent Pre-SBL conference is being jointly hosted by St. Mary's Seminary and University and the John, Jesus, and History Group. The headline speakers will be James Dunn and Alan Culpepper who have been outstanding contributors to Johannine scholarship. Other noteworthies include John Ashton, Jan van der Watt, Craig Koester, and Catrin Williams. The conference is subtitled "Engaging the Legacies of C.H. Dodd and R.E. Brown." Looks to be a highlight of SBL even before SBL begins.

Details below:

John, Jesus, and History
Engaging the Legacies of C.H. Dodd and Raymond E. Brown

A Pre-SBL Conference at Saint Mary’s Seminary & University, Baltimore
November 20-22, 2013
Program as of May 1, 2013

Sponsored by the John, Jesus, and History section of SBL and
St. Mary’s Seminary & University

Conference fee: $150 (June 1 to October 15; $170 thereafter)
(includes program, lunch and dinner Thursday, coffee breaks, reception)

Late Afternoon/Evening
4:00-7:30         Check-in/Registration (dinner on your own)
6:45/7:00         Shuttles from Radisson Cross Keys hotel to SMSU
7:00                 Book signing with James Dunn and other presenters
7:30                 Keynote Address/Public Lecture—James Dunn
9:00                 Book signing
9:30                 Shuttles to Radisson Cross Keys hotel

8:00                 Shuttles from Radisson Cross Keys hotel to SMSU
8:00                 Late check-in/registration
8:30                 Welcome and introduction to the conference
8:45                 Tom Thatcher: The Semiotics of History: C. H. Dodd and Raymond Brown
on the Character of the Johannine Tradition
9:45                 Coffee Break
10:00               Craig Koester: Progress and Paradox: C. H. Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann on
the Gospel of John
11:15               John Ashton:  C. H. Dodd and His Near-Contemporaries
12:15               Lunch break—dining room (lunch provided)
1:30                 Catrin Williams: John and the Rabbis: Assessing the Contributions of
C.H. Dodd and R.E. Brown
2:45                 Jonathan Draper: John’s Gospel and the Question of Orality
3:45                 Coffee break
4:15                 Wendy E. S. North: John and the Synoptics: A Test Case and its Implications
(John 12:1-8)
5:15                 General discussion/announcements, etc.
5:30                 Dinner break—dining room (dinner provided)
7:30                 Introduction to Raymond Brown’s legacy and Saint Mary’s Seminary—
Fr. Thomas Hurst, President Rector and student of Ray Brown
7:45                 Panel on Raymond Brown in relation to Dodd and questions of
historical tradition: Paul Anderson (Presiding), Jaime Clark-Soles,
John Donahue, Michael Gorman, Craig Koester;
8:45                 Reception
9:30                 Shuttles to Radisson Cross Keys hotel

8:00                 Shuttles from Radisson Cross Keys hotel to SMSU
8:30                 Announcements, etc.
8:45                 Jan van der Watt: Dodd and Johannine Symbolism
10:00-11:00     Alan Culpepper: Dodd as Narrative Critic
11:00               General discussion
11:30               Final remarks from organizers/SMSU
11:45               Depart for Radisson Cross Keys and/or the SBL hotels by shuttles and/or cabs

Conference registration
Registration for the conference itself will be done electronically beginning June 1. A conference registration link will be located on St. Mary’s web site at the home page of its Ecumenical Institute of Theology, which is sponsoring the James Dunn lecture. Go to www.stmarys.edu/ei.

Accommodation options
1.      Limited availability (15): hotel-type rooms on campus in the Center for Continuing Formation—$100/night single, includes breakfast; first come, first served. Call Gloria Jones at 410-864-4102.
2.      Radisson Cross Keys Hotel (5 minutes from campus; transportation provided to and from conference)—$129/night plus 15.5% tax; availability at this price may be limited. Ask for the “St. Mary’s Seminary Conference” block rate. Call 800-333-3333 or visit
Use the password (PAC code) SBLMAR to get the block rate.
3.      SBL hotels (downtown/inner harbor; 15-20 minutes from campus; transportation not provided)—costs vary.

Contacts for further information
Craig Koester: ckoester@luthersem.edu (program)
Michael Gorman: mgorman@stmarys.edu (accommodations, etc.)