Friday, September 29, 2006

"Have you ever asked yourself what Jesus would charge?"

Holes in the symbolic universe

After my last post detailing the excuse given by a self-styled prophet for the absence of a predicted nuclear war, an interesting parallel springs to mind. It involves the obsessive-compulsive disorder of several second Temple Jews in relation to calendrical matters.

Some, like those producing part of 1 Enoch (‘The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries’) and the first few chapters of Jubilees, where sure God had told them that a year consisted of 364 days. However, a little observation tells us that a year is actually just over 365 days. More than a day longer than these fellows believed.

It appears that they were aware of the problems with their 364 day calendar, but instead of throwing their hands up and admitting:

‘Hey, Reuben, you remember that mother of an angel that turned up that time and told us a year is 364 days.’


‘Well, I mean, it just doesn’t fit reality. We were a day out!’

‘Oh bollocks, I suppose we’d better change our thinking then’

No no. Instead, something very Hawkinesque happened. They concluded that those who were smugly pointing out they had their calendar wrong were just plain, simple, straightforward ...


(Cf. 1 Enoch 82).

Not only that, and this was the real clever bit: their 364 day calendar wasn’t wrong. Nature was wrong, infected by sin.

(I seem to remember sometimes using similar reasoning when I was a Creationist; ‘the devil put the fossils there, guv’)

Apparently, this fascination with a 364 day year is a disorder still alive and well, not only in the foaming-mouthed quarters.

This author supplies a modern day justification:

‘It seems impossible that at one time that the Earth’s orbit around the Sun could have been a length of 364 Days, but when given some thought and when considering the marvellous peculiarity and wonderful uniqueness of the Earth, this impossible perception fades away’.

Fades away.


Besides, we are assured that ‘An Angel gave Enoch knowledge of the 364 Day Calendar Year in Ancient Times’, so that settles that.


For crying out loud

It was our Australian friend, Shane, who pointed me to the happy news. In Hawkins’ webcast we learn that the predicted nuclear war (that, if you remember, was meant to have started on the 12th September 2006) seems, in actual fact, to have actually started after all.

Fair enough. Things can take a while to get noticed in South Germany.

Actually, Hawkins didn’t use any of my suggested excuses, and ploughed ahead with a real original offering:

Happen Nuclear War did.

Because of the launch of an invisible missile.


Rubs chin in a thoughtful way.

Well, I’m convinced.

Admittedly, I may not have fully understood him. His explanation may have meant that the cheerful progress of Nuclear holocaust was inherent in Bush’s alleged intention to launch a missile? To be honest, given that the statement was about 70 minutes long, a tad incoherent, and, well, ... I can think of better things to do with my time than figure it all out.

Like beat myself round the face with a shovel, for example.

I must say, given their own statement on their webpage (-16 days remaining before the start of nuclear war), I wasn’t expecting the old ‘invisible-missile-actually-caught-in-the-middle-of-a-nuclear-holocaust-and-didn’t-know-it’ line.

Kudos for the creativity.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Crucified God

Starting next semester here at the University of Tübingen is a Moltmann lecture course on ‘Der gekreuzigte Gott’ (The Crucified God).

*Does a little dance of joy*

If you want to hear my little tap-dance, then feel free to Skype me (christilling) and I’ll be glad to smug in your general direction for a while.

Actually, this book has helped me enourmously in thinking through the existential angst the grew up around my move away from Fundamentalism. Perhaps I’ll do a short podcast on what I mean by that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Thank you for those who responded to the last post. I will chew over your helpful thoughts and try to interact with them soon. Unfortunately, I wasted far too much time today following the fourth game of the chess match between Kramnik and Topalov, and so I cannot really justify much blogging time tonight.

And after all that, sadly Topa only managed a draw with the white pieces. His usual aggression seemed to be drained out of him by the results of his attacks in the first two games, a conclusion implied by his failure to push the pawn to e4 at crucial moments in today’s middle-game.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 8

I’ve just been on the phone with the London based NT scholar, Steve Motyer, to confirm that I can upload his article (‘Israel in God’s Plan’, a paper originally written for the 2003 EA consultation) for your reading pleasure. In this article he develops, to my mind, a very important argument, and one that analyses the hermeneutical question clearer than any other I’ve read. Though some of his thoughts, especially in relation to Rom 9-11, are developed in more depth in Israel in the Plan of God (Leicester: IVP, 1989), this article will certainly give readers a fresh and informed perspective on the whole debate. Perhaps the precise exegesis of Acts 15:13-21 may need to reworking, but this is a small matter for his exegesis is consistently well informed yet not too wordy. Indeed, anyone can read and understand it.

Actually, his article will also serve to furnish the argument developed in this series with further ‘snapshots’ concerning the hermeneutical strategy of NT writers.

It will be no secret, given the nature of my argument, that I have learnt a lot from Steve on this issue, and I think he’s dead right, but I would love to hear your thoughts about the thesis of ‘Israel in God’s Plan’, especially if you disagree.

Here is the article.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Polgar on the WCCU match

Just a quickie

For those of you who play chess, quite a few of us received an e-mail from Susan Polgar* this morning:

Dear chess friends and colleagues,

As you probably know, the World Chess Championship Unification Match between Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) has begun. The match so far is filled with excitement and drama with Kramnik leading 2-0.

I am doing LIVE commentary and analysis on Full game analysis and commentary is available after the conclusion of each game. In addition, there are daily chess news updates, advice, puzzles and tournament announcements, etc. Please feel free to check it out.

My website has also been completely revamped with many new and cool features. Your comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

Best wishes,
Susan Polgar


Go check it out! And cheer for Topalov as he comes across as a smashing chap, and he’s sadly 0-2 down.

* Winner of 4 Women’s World Chess Championships, 10 Olympic Medals (5 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze) and Women's World Chess Cup. #1 female player in the US and #2 rated in the world blah blah etc.

The greatest week in history

“We’ve made this the greatest week in history”
- Europe Golf Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam (here)

Possibly a slight exaggeration, me thinks, but well done to the lads!

On a less cheerful note, at the World Chess Championship, the great unification battle, Topalov lost his second in a row to Kramnik today. Even though Topa should be winning at this stage (by 1 1/2 –1/2) after some wonderful fighting chess, it's 0–2 to Krammers now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 7

The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: Snapshots (b)

To continue my analysis of the early Churches uses the OT, let’s look a little closer at how the matter of the ‘Land’ and ‘Temple’ are treated in the two passages in the NT. Again, the focus is on the hermeneutical moment.

Land in Rom 4.

Paul can claim in Romans 4:13: ‘For the promise that he [Abraham] would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith’. Did you get that? The promise that he would inherit the world. What was the promise God made to Abram actually (cf. Gen. 12)? To give him the specific strip of land in Canaan, of course.

So what is going on? This incongruity apparently doesn’t appear to bother Paul because he reads the OT through the Christ-event. The promise has been fulfilled in Christ, promises that, in light of Christ, were meant to suggest a universal reading all along.

To summarise far too much too quickly: it mustn’t be forgotten that God chose Israel to be a light to the nations; the world was always his concern, not just this land and this nation as an absolute end in themselves (cf. e.g. Gen 12:1-3, Isa 42:6; 49:6 etc.). Yet Paul realizes that this nation’s mission has been fulfilled and thus set in motion in Christ (ergo, including those who are in Christ), and so now God’s purpose through Christ is as testimony to the whole creation (cf. the structure of thought in Col and Eph – I can expand on this if anyone wants). God’s light has indeed dawned through his chosen Messiah of Israel to all the nations. Understood as a narrative, Paul is suggesting that in Christ we see the climax of a story, the reached end of a plan set in motion long ago. From the specific one sees, through Christ, the universal intentions that God had all along (Wright expands on these points in his Romans commentary. And for an interesting parallel analysis – at least to my mind – cf. Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 1)

(Image from


The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 6

Time to get on with my series on the use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. For previous posts in this series, here are links to:

Part 1 – definitions
Part 2 – popular examples
Part 3 – an appeal for generous dialogue, and plan for following posts
Part 4 – The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: A few preliminary points
Part 5 – The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: Snapshots (a)

I need to point out again, this discussion concerns not first and foremost the political issues of Land and other interesting matters that have been discussed (and rightly so) in many of the comments to my posts above, but the specific issue: the use of Scripture in Christian Zionism. In other words, my focus concerns hermeneutics. This is why I’m pursuing the question as to how the early Church uses the OT, to shed light on their hermeneutical strategies, even if my presentation will naturally be selective given the amount of relevant material.

Given the reasonably busy response I have received both on the blog and via e-mails I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed, but this is how I suggest I go about things: I will simply present the case that I think makes most sense, then respond to the points that have been raised in later posts – especially as many of the issues raised in e-mails and in the comments would need a little more space to properly engage.


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Pauline Pneumatology reading list: a guest post by Volker Rabens

The most influential works in alphabetical order:

1) Dunn, James D.G., Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1975).

2) Fee, Gordon D., God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).
* The most comprehensive treatment on Pauline pneumatology available, and the first one to consult on exegetical questions.

3) Gunkel, Hermann, The Influence of the Holy Spirit: The Popular View of the Apostolic Age and the Teaching of the Apostle Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979); orig. publ.: Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes nach der populären Anschauung der apostolischen Zeit und der Lehre des Apostels Paulus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888, 1909[3]).

4) Horn, Friedrich Wilhelm, Das Angeld des Geistes: Studien zur paulinischen Pneumatologie (FRLANT 154; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992).
* In contrast to all of the foregone scholars, Horn denies the experimental dimension of the reception of the Spirit in early Christianity. He also proposes that Paul significantly developed his pneumatology over the years of his ministry.
* For a summary and critique (as well as some own ideas), see Rabens, Volker, ‘The Development of Pauline Pneumatology: A Response to F.W. Horn’, BZ 43 (1999), 161-79. [Download]

Further works of interest, this time not in alphabetical order but in order of importance (to my mind):

1) Turner, Max, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts – Then and Now (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1996, 1999[2]).
* A brilliant book not just on Paul’s pneumatology.

2) Christoph, Monika, Pneuma und das neue Sein der Glaubenden: Studien zur Semantik und Pragmatik der Rede von Pneuma in Röm 8 (EHB 813; Frankfurt: Lang, 2005).
* While Christoph focuses on Romans 8, she has lots of insights on the Spirit in Paul in general. The slight weakness of the book is that it does not have a strong original thesis and lacks indexes. For more details, see: Rabens, Volker, ‘Review of Monika Christoph, Pneuma und das neue Sein der Glaubenden’, RBL 08/07 (2007),

3) Fatehi, Mehrdad, The Spirit’s Relation to the Risen Lord in Paul: An Examination of Its Christological Implications (WUNT II/128; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000).
* Again a more specific monograph, but with strong originality.

4) Philip, Finny, The Origins of Pauline Pneumatology: The Eschatological Bestowal of the Spirit upon Gentiles in Judaism and in the Early Development of Paul’s Theology (WUNT II/194; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).
* Philip has a wide coverage of literature on the Spirit in Paul but somewhat lacks originality.

5) Vollenweider, Samuel, ‘Der Geist Gottes als Selbst der Glaubenden: Überlegungen zu einem ontologischen Problem in der paulinischen Anthropologie’, ZThK 93 (1996), 163-92.
* A philosophic approach to Pauline pneumatology that has been well received in Germany.

6) Bertone, John A., ‘The Law of the Spirit’: Experience of the Spirit and Displacement of the Law in Romans 8:1-16 (SBL 86; New York: Lang, 2005).
* See: Rabens, Volker, ‘Review of J.A. Bertone, ‘The Law of the Spirit’: Experience of the Spirit and Displacement of the Law in Romans 8:1-16’, RBL 07/07 (2007),

Pauline Pneumatology reading list

Sometime last week I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog asking me about recommended works concerning Pauline Pneumatology. I could have whipped up a decent list given that my Doktorvater is somewhat of a name in this field, and having ‘cut my teeth’ in charismatic circles it was always a subject that interested me. However, I thought it was a better idea to ask my good friend, Volker Rabens, to write a guest post on this subject as he is about to finish his doctoral work precisely on Pauline Pneumatology (I’m a Christology man, first and foremost).

In the following post Volker Rabens offers you a reading list for the most important works on Pauline pneumatology. He’s a clever cookie, and knows his stuff.

Finally, I want to put one link here. I’m guessing many know about it already but eScholarship Editions have a number of academic biblical and theological books online for free access. One worth noting in particular is Daniel Boyarin’s A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity, here for your reading pleasure.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Carson, justice and hell as eternal conscious torment

One particularly, at least in my judgment, offensive and arguably unscriptural response to the problem of justice and hell as eternal torment is supplied by Carson in The Gagging of God (I note that I actually respect Carson’s scholarship very often, though not at this point). As I mentioned, I’ve been very ill the last few days, so apologies if my temper gets the better of me in this post.

How to reconcile eternal conscious torment and finite sin? Carson wants to suggest that people carry on sinning in hell (furious at the torments?) and thus incur more punishment for their continued sin. A cycle of sin-punishment-sin-punishment is thus set up for all eternity. Thus he justifies eternal conscious torment with the problem of justice.

I’m sorry, but this is just incredible! What kind of understanding of God does such a comment insinuate? ‘I know’, God says one day, ‘I’ll create a world and then set it up so that I can punish sinners (probably the majority of my creation) for ever through a clever cycle of sin-punishment-sin-punishment. What a delightful way to be a God of love’. In this scenario God’s love and justice to all are, I think, separated, for how is God’s holiness also loving in this universe? Furthermore, it also means that God’s intentions to truly be all in all (1 Cor 15) would have failed as sin continues in this universe. Carson responds to this by suggesting that God’s ultimate victory is simply that he will justly punish all sin. However, Paul is very clear that the eschaton involves the subduing (not just punishment) of all of Christ’s enemies. This is clear in both 1 Cor 15 and Phil 2.

(1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ‘Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power [i.e. those opposed to God]. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death [Paul is clear about the association between sin and death. But if God is doesn’t get rid of sin, then death also remains victorious – unless we try to ignore a the association made in not a few passages: Rom. 5:12, 21; 6:10, 13, 16, 23; 7:13; 8:2; 1 Cor. 15:56]. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all’)

Is person A really subjected to God if that very way of existence that makes him an enemy of God continues? Furthermore, even if we don't translate the Greek as 'everything to everyone' which would surely rule out ongoing eternal sin, it should be understood as 'the unchallenged reign of God alone' (cf. Garland's new 1 Cor commentary and the references he cites, p. 714) - and thus rules out Carson's suggestion anyway. In Carson’s suggestion, sin continues in the universe, God never rids it. His ‘victory’ is redefined so as to include the continued cursing of God for all eternity! I suppose the tiny club that make it to heaven will be happy enough, but lets face it, the vast majority of all who have ever lived will be a-cursing and sinning on and on. Nice victory, huh?! More importantly, according to Carson it would follow that God is all in all precisely where and when there is sin. I suppose he who cannot look on sin can nevertheless find his eschatological fullness and glory in dwelling precisely within sin! ‘All in all’, and all. Add a nice dollop of eisegesis into the mix and I’m sure we can whip up a take on some of these verses such that Carson’s suggestions lives, and those who are desparate to believe what he says will no doubt try. But it wouldn’t be an exegesis that I could honestly look in the face.

Besides, one wonders why God suddenly, in Carson’s eternal scenario, isn’t the same as the one of whom Paul could say in light of the sending of Christ: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20).

I find it disturbing that a scholar of Carson’s ability can resort to such blinkered exegesis (especially of Revelation) and dubious theological reasoning in this section of The Gagging of God. The things some people suggest, when they should know better, to defend a traditional view of hell on philosophical grounds! The best you can do, if you want to hang on to ‘eternal conscious torment’, is to accept there is mystery in relation to the question of justice, and don’t pretend to be able to offer scriptural justification for it. We need to be all the more careful with this subject too, for pastoral reasons. Many of us have people we love who have since died and were not Christian, so we had better be sure that we offer good arguments at this sensitive point, rather than bludgeoning in with our theologically dogmatic size-twelves. The scriptures he cited were, I suspect, used in a ‘Christmas tree fashion’, i.e. to decorate a theologically pre-given without (his usual) serious contextual and exegetical thoroughness.

For those of you who love everything Carson pens, my apologies. I also think he is a terrific scholar, and one who is always worth reading. But much discernment needs to be exercised in reading his works as he tends to come across as very confident and ‘of course this is how it really is’ when the matter is actually far less black and white. For example, in relation to this very debate he introduces his argument concerning the ongoing nature sin in hell with the claim that ‘There is surely at least one passage that hints at this reality’ (533, italics mine). How about ‘that hints in this direction’, or ‘provides reason for this suggestion’?! Nevertheless, given his learning and cogency one should always consult his works, The Gagging of God included.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Alastair of Adversaria

Alastair of Adversaria tries his hand at podcasting and deals us a delightful, if perhaps slightly too long, first offering in which he speaks about Wright's understanding of Jesus. I hope this is the first of many Alastairesque podcasts.

Anselm, hell and retributive justice

I’ve been horribly ill recently, so bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of sounding cleverer than I actually am. Your prayers for a restoration of my health are most welcome, by the way. Incidentally, this is why my ‘series’ are on hold – until my health returns.

In my post on the death of my Uncle Noel, I took a shot those who scandalise Evangelical annihilationism, and suggested it was great that the likes of Wenham (and Stott etc.) have, as far as I see, won their case to have their views accepted as Evangelical. This judgment is affirmed in the recent Evangelical Alliance (ACUTE) report, the conclusions of which have been published here. Admittedly, when talking with David Hilborn (Head of Theology at the Evangelical Alliance UK) about this book I got the distinct impression that annihilationism was granted honorary Evangelical status only begrudgingly. Nevertheless, granted it was.

In the comments to that post, Anthony Martin stated the following:

To me, the notion of annihilationism just diminishes the sinfulness of sin”. His point is a good one.

This was then followed by a response from Q (our very own annihilationist), and another by Anthony. Here is how I would respond to Anthony’s comment, and I wanted to do so in a bit more length given that it is an important argument against annihilationism:

If one thinks of hell’s punishment as retributive, i.e. as punishment simply because the sinner deserves it, then the notion of an eternal conscious hell of torment runs against the problem of justice. How can finite sin be met with eternal conscious torment? How can that be just?

In response to this question, Anselm argued that the apparent problem could be resolved in the following way: God is infinite, and because any sin is sin against God (cf. Ps 51 ‘Against you, you alone have I sinned’), it follows that sin must incur infinite punishment.

However, there are problems with this reasoning (and here I refer to Gregory MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist for a more detailed discussion):

1) It is clear to anyone, as MacDonald writes: ‘the gravity of an offence is determined not merely by the status of the offended party but also by the nature of the offence’. Thus the punishment of hell must also take account of the nature of the sin, not just the ontological worth of the offended.

2) As Thomas Talbott argues, if every sin is infinitely serious then the idea that we can grade offences collapses. If it is responded that perhaps people experience different levels of punishment in hell, albeit eternally, this still isn’t compatible with the logic based on God’s infinity = infinite punishment, as then the punishment is not based solely on God’s ontological worth but on the specific nature of the sin. This would then mean that the justice problem (apparently solved by recourse to God’s infinite worth) rears its head again, as things aren’t totally dependent on this infinite ontological worth, but also the specific nature of the sins.

3) Besides, is divine punishment in scripture ever simply retributive? God is holy love. I.e. God’s love is expressed as much in hell as is his holiness, otherwise we have to compartmentalise God’s nature, and ignore important passages of Scripture on the way (e.g. 1 John ‘God is love/light’).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Radio programme links and Todd Vick

My friend Simon recently e-mailed me this link to a great list of BBC Radio programmes on a variety of religious and ethical themes. Some interesting stuff there.

And another of my friends, Jim West, drew my attention to an NPR radio programme on Christian Zionism. Click here for more info, and if it is any good then let me know, as I haven’t had time to listen to it yet.

Lastly, our old friend Todd Vick has started blogging again. While he was active before, his Shadows of Divine Things blog was one of my favourites, so I look forward to more from him in the following weeks.


Very recently I received the sad news that my dear Uncle Noel passed away. He died this weekend at a ripe old age - almost 100. He was not a Christian, but his warmth and friendliness is always something I’ll remember. For many of us, the debate surrounding Universalism and such like are deeply involved in the hopes and pains of life. It’s not just theory. However, though I’d so like to conclude that ‘God saves all’, I’m just not sure that it can be sustained exegetically. And for me, that matters. One thing I suspect: most of those who dismiss Universalism without question – as I used to – don’t know what is involved, exegetically nor theologically. A few years ago certain scholars (e.g. Wenham) challenged the bastions of traditional Evangelicalism with the doctrine of annihilationism. While some (e.g. Carson in The Gagging of God) were to simply put it down to pluralism, I suspect that those who subscribe to annihilationism heave won the battle to have their belief acknowledged as Evangelical. And quite right so!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pentecostal discussions about Poverty

Shane Clifton over at Pentecostal Discussions has been writing a series on poverty and the church: After detailing issues on Global Poverty and Extreme Poverty he raises the important question: Why has the church ignored the poor?

‘Perhaps the main reason’, he sums up, is that ‘we have misread the message of the gospel of Jesus, and failed to follow His model and pursue His mission’. He will later look at the most important question of all: ‘how can we help the poor?’.

Speaking as one who has spent most of his Christian life within the evangelical wings of the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds, it is all the more refreshing to know of those within this proud tradition who are wrestling with the same questions that get me animated - and concerned.

Update: I have just read this quote, and I felt it appropriate to bung here.
‘Christian talk of God or human life may never by-pass suffering since to do so is to by-pass the crucified God’ (Richard Bauckham, in his preface to the 2001 SCM edition of Moltmann’s The Crucified God)

Friday, September 15, 2006

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 5

(Please be patient with my unfolding argument in the following posts. The line of reasoning is a little layered so it will take a few posts before I can really get to the meaty points of dispute)

I wanted to mention, by the way: With the previous post in mind, one may set the hermeneutical strategy of the New Testament writers in broader terms. It appears that some wanted to overstressed continuity between the Old Testament and the New in such a way that was unfaithful to the authors of the NT. The Ebionites can be seen as an example of this - as could the Judaisers, depending on how one approaches the complex issues involved in their identification. On the other hand, a damaging understanding of total discontinuity between the testaments can be seen in Marcion, for example. But the NT consistently avoids both of these extremes, and it is the process of understanding exactly how they do this that raises the question of hermeneutics, and consequently part of my problem with CZ. Right, hopefully that frames the problematic helpfully enough. On to the NT material.

I’m a Paul man, so apologies that my examples tend to be rather one-dimensional. I refer to Steve Motyer’s article for a fuller appreciation of the wider NT hermeneutical issues at hand. I shall upload it in the next few days as Steve has kindly given me permission to make it available here. So to Paul. In Gal 3:16 Paul controversially claims:

‘Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ’.

This is the NRSV translation which renders spe,rma as offspring. Perhaps better is simply ‘seed’. Motyer writes of this verse: ‘He asks, ‘who is the “seed” of Abraham to whom the promises are given?’—and instead of replying ‘Israel, of course, Abraham’s descendants,’ his answer is ‘Christ’ (3:16).’ (7).

So why can Paul so confidently use promises that explicitly relate to the Land, and use them in this way (Cf. Dunn, Galatians, on the ‘land’ issue here)? Motyer continues:

‘Paul does not feel that he is denying the ‘meaning’ of the texts he quotes. He thinks that the real heart and core of the promises to Abraham was the one in Genesis 12:3, which he quotes in Galatians 3:8, ‘All the Gentiles will be blessed in you.’ He thinks that this is the underlying purpose behind the whole election of Israel—the ‘blessing’ of the rest of the world. And that never happened in the Old Testament: it is only happening now, through his own ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessing is not coming to the Gentiles through Israel, but through Jesus—therefore Jesus must be the ‘seed’ to whom the promise is addressed, ‘in you all the nations will be blessed.’’ (8, italics his).

To be continued ...


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Uncovering a German exegetical tradition

I’ve discovered still another German scholar who prefers the genitivus qualitatis of ‘evpistolh. Cristou/’ in 2 Cor 3:3. We have truly stumbled upon a German exegetical tradition here. This time I refer to Gruber, M. Margareta, Herrlichkeit in Schwachheit: Eine Auslegung der Apologie des Zweiten Korintherbriefs 2 Kor 2,14-6,13 (FzB 89; Würzburg: Echter, 1998). I found the reference in Klaus Scholtissek’s detailed article, ‘Ihr seid ein Brief Christi’ (2 Kor 3,3). Zur einer ekklesiologischen Metapher bei Paulus (BZ 44, 2000). He, like another of his compatriots, namely Eve-Marie Becker in Schreiben und Verstehen, 2002, prefers to understand the genitive in both an objective and subjective sense (though Becker uses different terminology). I’ve mentioned before, I’m not sure we should speak of this genitive in terms of objective or subjective at all.

Let’s face it, there is no blog in the whole world to compare with mine when it comes to the genitive evpistolh. Cristou/ in 2 Cor 3:3!

Image from

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 4

The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: A few preliminary points

This post is still written for the purpose of setting the frame for my main arguments later, so please bear with me!

Those new to the ‘hermeneutical spiral’ of New Testament studies may be at a loss as to how to understand how the New Testament authors used the Old Testament scriptures. I remember, very early in my Christian life, reading in the works of some Christian apologists various ‘proofs’ for the truth of the Bible based on the fact that it contained hundreds of ‘fulfilled prophecies’ such that anyone who would care to read and check them out would be convinced of the truth of Christianity. I seem to remember looking some of them up and feeling anything but convinced! How on earth, for example, does Hosea 11:1 function as a predictive prophecy of the words in Matthew 2?

Matthew 2:14-15 ‘Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”’.

At this stage I had not been a Christian for long and so I decided to put my bible down and trust that clever people had worked this sort of thing out! However, those who may be a little more attentive to detail will notice that the ‘this was to fulfil’ pattern is repeated in Matthew, is actually a pattern. Were these early Christians merely being manipulative in their use of Scripture? If we judge anachronistically, we may have to conclude in the affirmative. What is going on?

However, this is a pattern that we find not only in Matthew’s Gospel but also throughout the New Testament. The early church exercised a peculiar hermeneutic when reading the Old Testament texts. To isolate the precise nature of this hermeneutics is not simple, and there is a good deal of debate in scholarship at the moment as to how to define it. For example, Richard Hays has argued, in his important work Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, that Paul exercises an ecclesiocentric hermeneutic. Francis Watson, in his recent and also important Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, has – rightly to my mind – challenged this claim and suggested that Paul’s hermeneutical is best understood as soteriological. However, I suggest that the way in which Watson defines this term is too broad to be of much help. Many others (Fee, Eckstein, Motyer etc.) argue that the hermeneutic we see at least evidenced in the apostle Paul is best understood as christocentric. However, if by Christology one understands that which relates to the person of Christ, and this as something to be distinguished from soteriology, the saving work of Christ, then I think we have a problem. I have suggested in my own exegesis of 1 Cor that Paul evidences an approach that reads Old Testament Scripture in light of the relation between risen Lord and believers. In other words, it is indeed christocentric if by that we do not neglect to appreciate the concrete expression of this hermeneutical moment in light of the life and passion of the early church believers themselves.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 3

My series on the use of scripture in Christian Zionism will now continue. The first two posts can be read here and here. There is some lively discussion in the comments of both as well, which is always enjoyable.

I want to make very clear at the start of the following: I’m very open to change on my opinion in relation to these matters, if good reason is supplied. Where I come, and came, across as very confident, do not let that be interpreted as a closed mind. I say this as I realise what a sensitive issue Christian Zionism can be, and I want to tread reasonably carefully. Though I won’t prat around. I also want to make a suggestion: where CZ is so important for those unaffected by the direct political situation in Israel and surroundings, I would suggest that you have things out of perspective. CZ isn’t as serious a matter as our Christology or understanding of the Scripture, so lets keep the discussion friendly. Anyway, I’m waffling now. On to the matter.

The following discussion will be (at least provisionally) divided into three sections. The first shall detail how the early church used Old Testament Scripture. This is a massive topic so my presentation will naturally be selective. The purpose of this section is to gather information before, in the second part, I suggest concrete reasons why, in the light of this evidence, the CZ hermeneutic needs to be challenged. The third section will critically respond to some of the arguments employed by CZs against the line of reasoning I suggest. I hope you find the following enjoyable.


Biblioblogging at its best

I know it’s about time I get back to posting some serious biblical and theological musings, but I couldn’t pass this one up:

An amusing BBC news flash: A Sudan man is forced to ‘marry’ a goat!

My apologies for the lack of academic sophistication in my last few posts. Honest guv.

Another Pannenberg snippet

‘The eschatological salvation at which Christian hope is directed fulfills the deepest longing of humans and all creation even if there is not always a full awareness of the object of this longing. Yet like the reality of God himself it transcends all our concepts. This is because it means participation in the eternal life of God’

(Pannenberg, W, Systematic theology. Vol. 3, 527.)

An open letter

I wanted to write something sensible at some stage about Christian Zionism, but, well, I’m just too tired tonight. So I thought I’d draft something that requires a little less energy.

An open letter to Mr Yisrayl Hawkins (the chap who mislead an entire church into believing [and into preparing for] – because ‘the bible says it’ – that a nuclear holocaust would happen on 12.09.2006):
Dear Mr Hawkins,

Crikey, eh? Bodged that prophecy thing up good and proper, huh? I suppose everyone the world over who heard your testicularvomitations is going to be taking the piss out of you tonight, and so instead I thought I would, well, ... OK, I’ll take the piss too.

No, that would be mean. Instead I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for things to put on your webpage tomorrow. That’s if you’re not still in your nuclear bomb bunkers convinced the holocaust is happening above your heads. But if you do happen to have an internet connection down there, then I would advise you to keep the bunker locked as probably half of your nation is gathered above, as you read this, urinating on it. They would be sort of putting their ‘piss taking’ into a kind of positive expression of ‘piss giving’ I suppose.

I guess it all depends on when one understands ‘the day’ to finish, whether it is middle-east time, or American, or even if one takes the day to begin in the evening as many in the ancient near East did. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt on that one and assume the chaos begins a bit later, but if, heaven forbid, it doesn’t ...

Well, picture it. People are logging on tomorrow onto your webpage in search of reason as to why such an exegete as yourself perhaps understood things slightly, err, imperfectly. I suggest you try one of the following headings for tomorrow:

Personally I recommend you go for the most well-worn of all:

‘With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise’ (2 Peter 3:8-9) – and be sure to add the ‘2 Pet’ bit as that will surely convince some.

Or you could try this one, even though I think it comes across as perhaps slightly begging the question. Nay, it comes across as desperate. Still, some people it seems believed you before, so I’m sure some will buy this:

All your clocks everywhere are wrong. It’s still September the 12th, 2006

If we assume honesty is not the best choice (i.e. ‘I got it wrong, please forgive me for messing with the lives of perhaps hundreds of people in ways that I may not be able to mend, and for dragging the name of God into something bloody silly’), then you could always change tack entirely:

I can’t believe you all fell for that!

Admittedly this last option won’t make you any friends, and you could be doing with them for a while.

Finally, perhaps you could try pulling a theological rabbit out of your sleeves. Best option, I would think, is to quickly and enthusiastically embrace what some call ‘open theology’:

Open Theism is proven. Pinnock is not a pillock. God just happened to change his mind, folks.

If all this was a deliberate scam to get hits on your webpage, then respect for the creativity. In the more likely case that you’re just plain and simple bonkers, then get yourself along to a local minister and get confessing. God loves us sinners, so you will be in good company and will end up with a bright hope.

All the very best,


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nuclear War

1 day to go!

So claims a certain 'bible prophecy expert' by the name of Yisrayl Hawkins.

I'd love to lock this one in a room with Jim West for a day, start a discussion on eschatology and dilettantes, lock the doors and then watch the fun unfold via a hidden camera.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Don't mess with this guy

Thanks to my friend Simon for the link to this video. Enjoy!

He has said some silly (and offensive) things, done even more bizarre things, but right at the start of my Christian pilgrimage a couple of his books encouraged me to cultivate a sensitivity to and enjoyment of God’s presence. For this I am grateful. Yes, I was naive and mislead at points, but his Fundie critics tend to wind me up more than he does.

Back in Germany

The previous post is more important than this, so perhaps read that one if you are in a rush. I just wanted to say that I’ve returned to Germany now and so my series on Christian Zionism shall proceed as before - and I’m hoping it will generate more light than heat. OK, a bit of heat is sometimes worth a laugh ...

And then I think I'll turn attention to Bauckham's forthcoming volume and Gregory MacDonald's thought-provoking case for an Evangelical Universalism. Actually, I'm really looking forward to writing the posts for this month!

I’ll soon write a short report on the NT conference I attended, as well.

In short: I was awesome

*grins stupidly at his own joke*

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What shall we ask Hans Küng?

It is with great delight that I can inform my readers that a translation of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge is underway, and, Küng informs me, it shall be published via Eerdmans in Grand Rapids. Until then, I have written a review-article for English-language readers that shall hopefully be published at some stage. Thankfully, Ben Myers helped me enormously with a sharp proofreading making it a much better piece.

Also, I’m glad to say that Küng is ready to kindly answer a few questions to publish on Chrisendom! Given that he is a busy man he won’t be getting tangled up in any generated discussion, but I’m sure all will agree, it will be a pleasure to read what he has to say.

Hence my previous post. Ben Myers suggested the first of these questions, and I thought up the last three quickly - but they need some editing. Before I do, has anyone else any other suggestions or ideas, or perhaps changes to my own?

1) What were there specific situations or friendships that first prompted your interest in scientific dialogue?
2) To whom do you hope Der Anfang aller Dinge will appeal?
3) You make mention in Der Anfang (p. 111) of the Gallup Poll statistic that reveals 45% of adult Americans agree to the statement: ‘God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so’. In light of this, how do you think pastors and theologians can best respond to the widespread suspicion (and sometimes demonisation) of the scientific community and its research?
4) In section B you argue that a physical law cannot imply the existence of a factually Eternal (p. 87). I understand this as a decisive argument against Intelligent Design theories. But how would you respond to the arguments of William A. Dembski who wants to maintain ID does not ‘argue for the existence of a designer’, but rather ‘asks how positing an intelligent cause to explain such objects offers fresh scientific insights’? E.g.:

It’s at this point that intelligent design could be co-opted into doing natural theology, proclaiming that natural objects exhibiting such features establish the existence of a designer. But intelligent design resists that temptation. Instead of arguing for the existence of a designer (and thus formulating a revamped design argument), intelligent design asks how positing an intelligent cause to explain such objects offers fresh scientific insights. The designer of intelligent design is not the God of any particular religious faith and not the God of any particular philosophical reflection but merely a generic intelligent cause capable of originating certain features of the natural world. Positing such a designer to account for certain types of biological complexity is like positing quarks to account for certain properties of subatomic particles. The point is to see what a designer helps explain; the point is not to establish the existence of the designer.

(from Is Intelligent Design a Form of Natural Theology? By William A. Dembski – which can be read online here)

Friday, September 08, 2006


If you had the chance to ask Hans Küng about 4 or 5 questions concerning his book, Der Anfang aller Dinge, what would you ask?

I have a few ideas which I shall spell out when I return to Germany but until then I would be fascinated to hear your own suggestions.

Why am I asking? All will be explained in a few days.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wipf, a mystery interview and a conference

What with this English dial-up modem and all, I’ve been online less than I planed. Nevertheless, two pieces of lovely news to disseminate.

First, my thanks to Wipf and Stock for having generously sent me a copy of Gregory MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist. It happily arrived just before I left for England, and it is proving to be a gripping read. Utterly riveting, actually. When I’m done with the book in a few days (I have an NT conference in between) I shall at some point continue my posts on universalism, hopefully in dialogue with Gregory himself. Christian Zionism comes first on the to-discuss list.

Second, I’m very excited to say that a rather well known theologian - and author of a book I recently reviewed on my blog - informs me that he would like to kindly answer a few questions about his work for Chrisendom readers.

Can you guess the theologian and the book? I won’t say right now because I’m childish, but boy am I excited!

Tomorrow the NT conference starts, so perhaps you would like to pray the following prayer for my presentations (tomorrow evening, and Thursday morning):

‘Lord, smite the enemies of Chris’ arguments with runny noses,
and grant this most anointed servant of Thy truth
the ability to make his accusers look utterly and irreparably stupid.
Please rustle up all kinds of nasty insects and ants to eat the lunch of his critics,
and give those who agree with his papers copious amounts of cash
to buy all sorts of goodies for their bookshelves.

... or something else in your own words.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Off to England

I'm writing these words from England (near Sutton, London) as I'm here to attend the London School of Theology NT conference (I must admit, I stupidly forgot all about the BNTC and its too late now) at which I shall be presenting two papers, one on the evening of the 6th and the other of the morning of the 7th. This means that I was up at 4 O’frigging clock this morning *aaaaarrrghhhh*, and that I'm also sleepily getting myself into a muddle with this English keyboard layout as I type.

I do miss Ol‘ Blighty. We are off tonight to buy copious amounts of Fish & Chips - you know, the sort of chips that are wedged together in a greasy mass of pulp, covered in salt and vinegar. Utter mouth-watering gloriosity! In truth, thin flimsy 'fries' are like cat-wee next to English-chip wine.

*looks guiltily at size of tummy*

*remembers ‘what the hell’ mantra. Grabs the car key’s*

This means that my blogging will probably slow down a little for the next week but I will be online posting every now and then and certainly keeping up to date with those on my blogroll.

Oh, and if anyone is in the area for the conference, do drop by!