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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Professor Maurice Casey, 1942-2014


I was sorry to hear this week that Professor Maurice Casey passed away on 10 May 2014. There have been numerous postings in honour of Professor Casey, from longer interactions with his scholarship by his former student James Crossley (parts one and two), Mark Goodacre, Larry Hurtado, and Dominic Mattos, to a number of announcements and annecdotes shared by Jim Davila, Jim West, Peter Head (in comment), and Chris Keith, as well as others I have not read.

I had the privilege of meeting Maurice on a few occasions while I was working on my doctoral thesis on the Son of Man in John. Like Peter Head, I met Maurice at the annual conference on the use of the OT in the NT held at St. Deneiol's library in Hawarden. My paper was scheduled for the last day of the conference, and on the preceding evening, Maurice told me that my paper on the Son of Man in Daniel 7 and John 5:27 was the paper he was most looking forward to hearing. For a doctoral student who knew he was going to be making some arguments that this well-known Son of Man scholar would disagree with, I quickly became more intimidated than I already was.

Once I finished my paper the next day and as he rose to ask me a question, I had a sinking feeling that he was about to ask the sort of question that would leave me without a thesis. He did ask an extremely relevant and pointed question; it was a question that continued to follow me every time I presented on my thesis topic. (The question surfaced during my viva.) Over lunch following the session, Maurice probed me further about why I was arguing what I was arguing. He did so in such a kind and cordial way. I have always been grateful for his questions, the way in which he asked them, and the interest he showed in the work of a doctoral student. His questions forced me to further my arguments and learn more about how scholarly debate and challenge can take place in a collegial manner.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Frederick Murphy, Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World: A Comprehensive Introduction

This past semester I taught a course on the New Testament and Jewish apocalypses. For the required texts, along with reading the Jewish apocalypses themselves, I required John Collins' The Apocalyptic Imagination and the recent award-winning and posthumously published Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World by Frederick Murphy. I have a book review of Murphy coming out in next Trinity Journal, but I wanted to make some comments here that I was not able to include in the more traditional book review.

My students found Murphy more readable and accessible than Collins. I suspect that this is because Murphy has written in a style that an undergraduate can more easily grasp, and I think the fact that Murphy summarizes more familiar (biblical) material than Collins (Jewish apocalypses) also made Murphy seem more friendly.

One challenge with using a book like Murphy is that it is a long textbook that summarizes a lot of primary material, while highlighting specific themes throughout. If you want to read (or you want your students to read) the primary material and have another book summarizing it along side your reading, Murphy is helpful with this. However, some may find this to be a lot of extra reading. However, some undergraduates need or prefer this sort of guidance through the primary material, particularly if the material is not familiar to them -- e.g., the murky world of Jewish apocalypses.

As you read Murphy, you should be aware that throughout the book, the word "apocalypticism" is essentially used synonymously with "eschatology." What Murphy is focusing on throughout the book are the roots of eschatology in Judaism, its growth in the Second Temple period, and the influence that eschatology has on early Christianity. There is almost no interest in apocalypticism as having to do with revelation or the revealing of heavenly things (cf. Christopher Rowland and Christopher Murray-Jones, The Mystery of God). The focus is quite significantly on the end-of-the-world and the events connects with it, such as judgment. However, it is striking that in pages 8-11, where Murphy lists the primary features of "apocalypticism," eschatology and judgment are not listed or at least not high up the list.

Throughout Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World, Murphy provides discussions of apocalypticism in the prophets and the NT books, but sometimes, as I have just hinted, these elements often have little connection to apocalyptic literature...apocalyptic eschatology, yes; apocalyptic literature (and angelic revelation of heavenly mysteries), no. For example, in his discussion of Romans, Murphy provides an extensive discussion of Paul's Adam Christology. I still have not figured out how Adam Christology is relevant to an apocalyptic worldview...unless we are talking about eschatology and some sort of two-age schema, on which the Jewish apocalypses do not have the corner market and which I personally do not consider "apocalyptic."

NT passages such as the angelic announcements to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, Paul's ascent into third heaven, the revelation of the Father by the Son in John's Gospel, the Watcher tradition in 2 Peter and Jude (not to mention the citation of 1 Enoch 1:9 in Jude), and the mystery of the gospel hidden for long ages but now revealed are obvious (at least to me) apocalyptic elements in the NT that largely go unmentioned or are given short shrift in Murphy's book. As long as the reader understands that apocalypticism is something broader and that Murphy is primarily using it to refer to apocalyptic eschatology, Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World can be a helpful introduction to the NT's connection to the OT and the thought world of the Second Temple.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Colloquium Spring 2014

The Spring 2014 Scripture and Theology Coloquium at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto will be held May 9, 9am to 4pm. Refreshments and lunch provided.

The topic of this colloquium is Ecclesiastes. There is a great line-up, including Tremper Longman (Westmont College), Daniel Treier (Wheaton), Daniel Driver (my OT colleage at Tyndale), Ray Van Leeuwen (Eastern), and Chris Seitz (Wycliffe).

The colloquia are always an excellent integration of biblical and systematic theology.