Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is swearing a sin?

I can’t resist anymore, I’ve got to link to this rant. Being the ecumenist I am, I love reading a good livid seethe. And this time a colourfully languaged Alastair (of the superb adversaria – one of my favbourite blogs) was on top form giving a conservative Wright-is-an-evil-heretic-heading-for-Hades type critic a probably deserved bitch-slapping all the way back to planet ‘false accusation’. But be sure to read it and decide for yourselves if Alastair was fair.

I generally cannot take criticisms of Wright seriously if the given accuser doesn’t know his theological arse from his elbow, nor if the language gets too exaggerated (i.e. cf. here). I once heard a critique of Wright that prefixed the tirade with the claim that Rowan Williams is a druid, ergo Wright must be theologically unsound! Not only is such obvious fanfare bollocks irritating to read, it is singularly unhelpful.

But Alastair used a rude word! Namely, he employed the word ‘bullshit’. Of course, I was not expecting this language from such an angelic theologian. Alastair goes to the trouble of linking to another post involving the use of the word, and he discusses maters in more depth in the comments. But first a few profound thoughts about the word: it is like the already dubious ‘shit’, but the ‘bull’ prefix functions like ‘very shit’. ‘Bullshit’, ergo, would mean something like ‘very shit shit’. Shocking!

His language reminds me of the argument proposed by Brain Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat’s in the fascinating Colossians Remixed. Commenting on Col 3:8-9 (‘abusive language’). They argue that Paul was not calling believers to a modern ‘bourgeois passivity and middle-class politeness’ (cf. pp. 164-68). While the use of ‘fuck’ as a punctuation mark can also be understood as the sort of ‘abusive language’ Paul targets, the matter, they argue, is wider and not always relevant to the occasional use of an expletive.
‘If we want to find abusive language and identify the discourses of violence of our time, we are terribly short-sighted if we don’t look beyond the obscenities of the street or the schoolyard. It is in the double-speak of corporate executives, the spin of politicians, the come-on of the advertisers, the cultural lies of the pharmaceutical companies and the biotech firms, and the false humanistic optimism of the cybernetic revolution that we meet abusive language in this culture’ (p. 166).
They go further. Against such lies as named above, they argue that ‘sometimes we need to employ strong language [as they argue Paul does in the first chapters of Colossians] in the face of such lies’, citing with approval the poet Bud Osborn’s words:
‘say shout for life
shout with our last breath
shout fuck this north American culture of death’ (p. 167).
So, is swearing a sin? W and K would argue that it depends. Furthermore, they insist that the church tolerates offensive language far worse than a simple expletive.


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 16

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 7 (final post).

The characterization of Peter in Mark

Again building on Wiarda’s work, Bauckham develops his argument further in relation to the characterisation of Peter in Mark. While careful to admit the exaggerations of some of those involved and social-scientific study of the NT, particularly as it relates to the ancient Mediterranean ‘group-orientated’ personality, Bauckham can nevertheless affirm that this coheres with his own emphasis on the tension between Peter’s individuality and typicality in Mark. This means that an appreciation of the importance of Peter in the Gospel can only be undertaken when due consideration is given to the different (auto)biographical strategies of the ancient authors. When this is recognised it can be asserted, given that characterisation was achieved through the relaying of the words and actions of a person (not psychological introspection), that Peter is the mostly fully characterised character in Mark’s Gospel apart from Jesus.

However, the characterisation of Peter in Mark is not static, Peter changes as he experiences various crises and events. The argument that the polemic apparently against Peter in the Gospel should be taken as evidence Peter himself couldn’t have had a hand in the Gospel is arguably soundly refuted by Bauckham, and the reader or hearer is encouraged to ‘sympathize and identify’ with Peter, ‘further promoting that focalization or seeing from Peter’s perspective’.

Much of the data relevant to Bauckham’s arguments are collected in large tables at the end of chapters. The full weight of his arguments cannot be appreciated without consulting them. Nevertheless, clarity is not sacrificed in the process, and in this chapter Bauckham unravels important exegetical arguments in favour of an appreciation of Peter as the Markan Gospel’s main eyewitness such that while the Gospel of Mark is no ‘mere transcript of Peter’s teaching’, ‘Mark has deliberately designed the Gospel in such a way that it incorporates and conveys this Petrine perspective’.


This important chapter has built an impressive case in favour of Bauckham’s overall thesis., while at the same time making original and creative contributions to Markan scholarship.

So end the more extensive chapter summaries of Bauckham’s work. In the following I will attempt to keep it to one post per chapter.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back in Germany

I’ve arrived back in Germany after an absolutely delightful break in England. Not only did I have the pleasure of chatting with a few folk at my college, London School of Theology (LST), but we also found time to visit numerous friends. And we ate too much.

In the latter-but-one category was our time with my best mate, Simon, and his lovely family. Sadly, when the two of us get together the humour tends to become rather dubious (read: scrapes the very pits of utterly corrupt moral depravity), but it made for a laugh - and that’s the main thing.

LST, by the way, is such a great college. It manages to hold together the very best of evangelical scholarship with a lovely valuing of other traditions, a deep respect for the scriptures, and a mission focused active spirituality. They incarnate so much of what I strive for (minus the Simonicly corrupt humour); it is an honour for me to be associated with them all.

Because I’m back home, I’ll try to get round to responding to some of the e-mails that have been sent me in the last few days. However, I have about 500 to sift through so please be patient if you are waiting on me... (Some of it is junk mail, of course, but most of it comes from one of the hoards of admiring young women, members of the Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries fan club [CTRVHMFC], who are desperately telling me that they will kill themselves if I don’t send them a signed photo of myself in swimming trunks)

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 15

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 7 continued.

The role of Peter in Mark

Bauckham shows that Mark’s use of the device tends to cluster together with appearances of the mention of the name of Peter, at least at the beginning and at the end of the sequences of the device. However, only four pericopae ‘that are introduced by this narrative device are pericope in which Peter appears as a character’, leaving eight pericopae using the device that do not feature Peter. To answer the obvious question: ‘what of those pericopae that lack the narrative device but do feature Peter as a character?’, Bauckham turns to analyse the role and character of Peter in Mark.

To address this issue, Bauckham builds on the work of Timothy Wiarda in casting doubt on an understanding of Peter in the Gospel of Mark as ‘representative’ of the disciples. Bauckham’s analysis of the material leads the following conclusion:
‘Peter, we could say, is always aligned with the other disciples, whether as typical or as giving a lead. Even before the story of the denials, Peter has much more individuality in this Gospel than any of the other disciples, but it is an individuality that always emerges within the context of the group’
What is the significance of this conclusion? Tying this to the result of the analysis of the plural-to-singular device - in which it was argued that it gives ‘the readers a perspective on events from within the circle of the disciples’ - it is possible to understand this individuality as indicative of Peter himself. Bauckham suggests that ‘we could call it Peter’s “we” perspective (distinguished from his “I” perspective)’.

What Bauckham’s study of the role of Peter has enabled is an appreciation of the tension between the portrayal of Peter as a typical disciple yet also with his own individuality. This coheres with the two main themes explored in Mark, that between understanding in contrast with non/misunderstanding, and loyalty in contrast with apostasy. The tension of Peter’s typifying yet also individual role in the Gospel coheres precisely with this double themed Markan concern, as 8:27-9:13 and 14:29-72 show. While this is highly suggestive, Bauckham is perhaps not entirely clear what it all has to do with the questions stated at the outset of this subsection. Yet the answer would appear to be that Peter need not be in all of the pericopae introduced by the singular-to-plural device because Mark is in complete control of his sources, using his main eyewitness for his own purposes.
As with the plural-to-singular narrative device, we must recognize that Peter’s role in the Gospel is not merely a reflection of the way Peter himself told the stories. It is too well integrated into the overall message of the Gospel and into the way in which Mark’s masterly composition of his narrative is controlled by his main concerns as an author. But this is no argument against the claim that Peter himself was Mark’s major eyewitness source, or that the prominence of Peter in the Gospel reflects this. It simply means that Mark is an author in full control of his sources
However, another objection to Bauckham’s thesis needs to be addressed: if Peter played such a significant role in the formation of this Gospel, why is his pre-eminent role in the early Christian community not underscored as it is in the other Gospels? Bauckham cleverly turns this potential objection on its head so that it actually supports his case. Not only must one recognise the limited focus of Mark’s Gospel (Peter’s concern would have surely been to relate Gospel information, not biographical details), but more importantly the question itself generates, in turn, another: How can one account for the prominence of Peter in this Gospel if it ‘is not connected with the role he would later play in the Christian community and its mission’? Bauckham writes:

We need to account for the large extent to which the point of view that the narrative gives its readers or hearers is either Peter’s “we” perspective (the plural-to-singular narrative device) or Peter’s “I” perspective (when Peter acts as an individual in the story). Taken together, these features make Mark a Gospel that presents, to a far larger degree than the others, a Petrine perspective on the story of Jesus. The explanation must have two aspects: relating to the source of Mark’s traditions and to the way in which Mark has shaped these traditions in the service of his main concerns in his overall composition of the Gospel.

(Artwork from

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Another review-in-progress of JATEW

I want to inform my readers that the self-described ‘rationalist’, Neil Godfrey, has started his own review/analysis of Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Do have a look at his unfolding series here, and his inaugural post, here. It is sure to be an interesting read.

Given that I’m on holiday in England I haven’t had much time for blogging recently, so I must admit that I haven’t started to read it myself yet, but I will do so when I return to Germany and will probably make a few comments then.

Oh, Blue Raja, I continue to deny everything.


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 14

I have decided to publish all of the notes I made on this chapter (it is one of the most fascinating and suggestive of all), and so it will again be a three-part summary. From chapter 8 onwards I shall attempt to keep it down to one post per chapter.

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 7. The Petrine Perspective in the Gospel of Mark

‘Mark’s Gospel not only, by its use of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony, claims Peter as its main eyewitness source; it also tells the story predominantly (though by no means exclusively) from Peter’s perspective’
In the previous chapter Bauckham maintained that the identified literary inclusio established Peter as the key eyewitness for the Markan Gospel. However, what further evidence would suggest that the Gospel of Mark involves a particularly Petrine perspective? While modern scholarship tends to reject the claim of Papias that the Markan Gospel was based on Peter’s sermons, or even that it displays Petrine influence, Bauckham, in this chapter, will argue that there is good internal evidence in the Gospel of Mark for just such a Petrine perspective (chapter 9 will look more closely at Papias’ claims regarding Mark’s Gospel).

The first step in his argument builds upon the neglected article by C Turner published in 1925. Turner argued that the Gospel tells the story from the perspective of one of the Twelve, and this must be Peter. In particular:

‘Turner drew attention to twenty-one passages in Mark, in which a plural verb (or more than one plural verb), without an explicit subject, is used to describe the movements of Jesus and his disciples, followed immediately by a singular verb or pronoun referring to Jesus alone’ [For example, ‘They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat’ (5:1-2)]
Bauckham calls this the plural-to-single narrative device. However, it is an unusual phenomenon for there is a distinction in the words not only between first- and third-person, but also between plural and singular. What is the significance of this? Citing Turner:

‘[T]he natural and obvious explanation is that we have before us the experience of a disciple and apostle who tells the story from the point of view of an eyewitness and companion, who puts himself in the same group as the Master.... Matthew and Luke are Christian historians who stand away from the events, and concentrate their narrative on the central figure’
Hence, this device shows us that Mark contains a literary feature that emphasises ‘the “point of view” of the group of disciples or of someone within the group’ [italics mine]. A comparison of the use of this phenomenon with parallels in Matthew and Luke, demonstrates the use of this device as ‘overwhelmingly Markan’. Furthermore, the textual critical questions surrounding the instances of Mark’s use of the device, while not reason to doubt the authenticity of the device, show that it was felt to be an unnatural literary occurrence. So why does it exist in Mark? On top of this, the Markan use of the plural-to-singular device appears to be deliberately associated with the Markan inclusio (as discussed in the previous chapter), and appears intentionally maintained in Mark through entire pericopae to emphasise a certain perspective. These observations have important consequences that shall be revisited, but before the significance of these observations can be appreciated, Bauckham covers a little more ground.

Those scholars engaged in narratological analysis of Mark’s Gospel, and the ‘point of view’ expressed, have long recognised the presence of what is called an ‘omniscient narrator’. However, not only have they failed notice the presence of the plural-to-singular device, the significance of the ‘internal vocalisation’ perspective which ‘enables readers to view the scene from the vantage point, spatial and (optionally) also psychological, of a character within the story’, has been neglected. The function of the device understood in light of narratological study is, as Bauckham shows, to get ‘readers into spatial position vis-à-vis the scene in which Jesus then acts’.

Bauckham’s emphasis on the deliberate Markan use of the device, and its relation to the inclusio, raises an important question for which the previous observations are relevant. While Mark’s deliberate employment of the literary device speaks against Turner’s claim that the phenomenon is ‘a mere relic of the way Peter told his stories orally’, does this mean the device was only a literary device and not reflective of a genuine Petrine perspective? First the unnaturalness of the literary structure, as noted above, makes this unlikely. Furthermore, such a view doesn’t take into consideration the fact that Mark appears to use this device in association with the inclusio. Related as it is to the inclusio, Bauckham concludes:
‘While the Petrine inclusio is Mark’s literary means of indicating Peter as the main eyewitness source of the Gospel, the plural-to-singular narrative device appropriately makes the dominant perspective (internal focalization) within the Gospel's narrative the perspective of Peter and those closest to him’
Therefore, the device functions, in effect, as ‘Mark’s way of deliberately reproducing in his narrative the first-person perspective - the “we” perspective - from which Peter naturally told his stories’.

(Artwork from and

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 13

I realise that I’ve written far too much by way of review for this chapter already, but as I’ve mentioned, I found it utterly fascinating, hence I’ve taken the liberty of detailing Bauckham’s argument in more depth. I won’t, however, write this much for a chapter again.

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Did Mark invent this literary device? The evidence of Lucian and Porphyry

Obviously, the last two posts in this series suggest a radically different understanding of the relation between the Gospels and eyewitnesses:

‘We have seen that three of the four Gospels evidently work quite deliberately with the idea that a Gospel, since it tells the whole story of Jesus, must embody the testimony of witnesses who were participants in the story from beginning to end - from the time of John the Baptist’s ministry to the time of the resurrection appearances. These three Gospels all use the literary device of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to indicate the main eyewitness source of their story’.

But did Mark invent this literary device, or was it borrowed from ‘popular biographical works of the kind that the Gospels resemble in genre’? While there are only a few remaining of the sort (biographical works on significant religious figures), Bauckham examines two case studies that resemble the pattern observed in the Gospels (apart from Matthew).

First is Lucian’s work on Alexander. Lucian’s references to Rutilianus indicate he was the principle eyewitness of Alexander’s life. The evidence is highly suggestive: ‘Apart from Alexander himself, there are far more references to Rutilianus than to any other character. Just like the Petrine inclusio in the Gospel of Mark, Rutilianus is both the first character in the story, apart from Alexander, to be named and the last to be mentioned by name’. Furthermore, the first mention of Rutilianus appears to be contrived. Though ‘Rutilianus does not actually figure in the story until Alexander's fame reaches Rome (§30) halfway through the book’, ‘Lucian contrives to make him the first named character, other than Alexander, to be mentioned by citing a letter from Alexander to him before he has begun to tell the story’. Lucian also parodies this eyewitness in that he calls Rutilianus’ credibility into account while using him as an eyewitness source. Nevertheless, ‘the resemblance between the way that Rutilianus, Alexander's most eminent follower, appears in Lucian's narrative and the way that Peter, Jesus’ most prominent disciple, appears in the Gospel of Mark’ is noteworthy.

The second example is Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus. Porphyry uses the eyewitness Amelius as his source, though he only refers to him as his source once, at the very beginning. He did not need to mention his name again, as ‘After this first reference the matter should be evident’. Once again, ‘apart from Plotinus and Porphyry, he [Amelius] is the person named first and last in the work’. Additionally, ‘Amelius’s name occurs thirty-eight times, more often than that of anyone else except Plotinus, exceeding even the occurrences of Porphyry's name (twenty-five times)’. Amelius was indeed an ideal eyewitness in that he encompassed the story of Plotinus. Nevertheless, in a way reminiscent of the friendly competition between John and Peter in the Johannine Gospel, ‘Porphyry plays up his own importance as disciple of Plotinus and contrives also to denigrate Amelius’. Furthermore, Amelius, Porphyry wants to communicate, ‘did not truly understand his master, while Porphyry, who even had the experience of union with the One in common with his Plotinus, was the true continuator of Plotinus’s philosophy’. Again, this is ‘rather reminiscent of the roles of Peter and the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John’. The striking similarities between the Gospels and Porphyry Life of Plotinus (what Mark Edwards has suggested ‘was intended as a pagan gospel’) - especially given Porphyry’s knowledge of the Gospels - leads to the question: ‘Was his use of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony also modelled on the Gospels?’ Bauckham answers: ‘It is impossible to be sure, but, if it was, it is significant for our argument that Porphyry recognized this feature of the Gospels’.

Bauckham argues:

‘[H]owever much weight should be given to these parallels outside the Gospels, the data within the Gospels is itself adequate to attest the convention as one that the Gospel writers deliberately deployed. Especially important in establishing the inclusio of eyewitness testimony is the way in which Luke and John seem clearly to have recognized Mark’s use of the device and to have adapted it to their own narratives and purposes’

Hence, the Gospels do indicate their own eyewitness sources, an argument all the more credible when one considers ‘most ancient readers or hearers of these works ... would have expected them to have eyewitness sources’ (italics mine) and so would have been alert to any indications of eyewitness identification.

This is a very clever line of reasoning demonstrating an enviable grasp of various primary texts, weaving as it does between exegesis of specific Gospel parallels and other biographical works on significant religious figures. Bauckham is breaking fresh ground with these arguments, and so provokes a number of questions:

  1. It would appear that Markan priority is of considerable importance for Bauckham’s thesis concerning the reception and development of the Markan literary device. Could this eventually prove to be a potential weakness? The importance of Markan priority is perhaphs more significant for the general thesis of this work than Bauckham admits.
  2. Again, what does all of this mean for Matthew’s Gospel? A little later it will be necessary to probe the significance of Bauckham’s reasoning for the historicity of the Birth Narratives.
  3. The fact that Bauckham argues that Luke can take Mark’s Gospel ‘to be substantially Peter’s testimony’ is a matter that will be, to put my Nostradamus hat on for a moment, necessary to cite and cite again to correct inevitable misunderstandings regarding Bauckham’s general argument in this work. But one wonders how sound historiographical practice, as described in relation to Papias, is preserved in light of this tradition sharing.

(Artwork from

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Looting London School of Theology bookshop

My special thanks to Phil Groom, the London School of Theology bookshop manager, for some seriously generous special deals! I filled my bags with numerous terrific volumes, and in the process cleaned out all of the money I had received for Christmas from relatives. In other words, Santa delivered (albeit a tad late):

1) Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World (with contributions from John Hick, Pinnock and McGrath). I love the format of this series.
2) Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, by E. R. Richards. This attractive volume will not only serve many a pleasurable hour of study, but will fill a gaping hole in my own knowledge.
3) Beyond NT Theology, by Heikki Räisänen. Oh yes, oh yes! I’m rather excited about devouring this one.
4) Paul. A Jew on the Margins, by Calvin Roetzel. Just £5! If it weren’t for the stubble, Phil, I would kiss your rosy cheeks …
5) Narrative Dynamics in Paul, ed. Bruce Longenecker. This is a superb collection of essays by world renowned scholars.
6) Paul, by C.K. Barrett. I had to finally buy this little gem.

Most of these were half-price!

Finally, thank you to those of you who have e-mailed me in the past few days. Unfortunately, my parents are only equipped with one of these demonic ‘dial-up’ modems from hell, and this has made accessing my 1und1 account rather testing. I’ll be sure to reply as soon as possible, and certainly when I return from holiday.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 12

This is a truly fascinating section in Bauckham’s argument. Enjoy the read!

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.


The inclusio of eyewitness testimony

Do the other Gospels evidence anything comparable to Luke’s prologue? Building on the key observation made explicit in Luke’s prologue - that principal eyewitnesses were those who had been present ‘from the beginning’ - Bauckham argues that the Gospels evidence a ‘literary device’ used to mark the principal eyewitnesses. This is a bold move, and one can arguably appreciate this suggestion only in the light of his case concerning the importance of principal eyewitnesses in ancient historiographical practice.

This ‘device’ found first in Mark’s Gospel, and observed in the mention of Peter’s name at both the beginning and end of the story, emphases that this eyewitness was present from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry. The first reference (1:16) involve as an awkward double mention of Simon’s name, while the final reference in 16:7 forms ‘an inclusio around the whole story’. What evidence is there to support this claim?

First, Papias’s witness always suggested Peter’s hand in the Markan Gospel. [Bauckham’s whole argument will thus fly in the face of Joel Marcus’ claim that ‘were it not for Papias, one would never suspect that the Second Gospel were particularly Petrine.’ J. Marcus, Mark 1-8 (AB27; New York: Doubleday, 1999) 24.]. Second, the frequency of Peter’s name in Mark’s Gospel is indicative of the important part Peter played in this narrative. Third, Peter ‘is actually present through a large proportion of the narrative from 1:16 to 14:72’. However, also important is the evidence that comes to light when this inclusio device in Mark is compared with its reception and change in the Gospels of John and Luke.

Both John and Luke preserve the Markan ‘Petrine inclusio’, thus indicating their indebtedness to the Petrine testimony within Mark which they use for their own Gospels. However, the inclusio is altered by both J and L in such a way that indicates its presence was recognised by both John and Luke, and was exploited to make a different claim. Bauckham’s analysis of the material in the fourth Gospel leads to the conclusion that John:

‘uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to privilege the witness of the Beloved Disciple, which this Gospel embodies. It does so, however, not simply by ignoring the Petrine inclusio of Mark’s Gospel, but by enclosing a Petrine inclusio within its inclusio of the Beloved Disciple’ (129).
The beloved disciple is introduced at the beginning of the narrative unobtrusively ‘but rather immodestly in that he displaces Peter from the position of absolute priority’. Put directly: ‘John’s Gospel thus uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to privilege the witness of the Beloved Disciple’. Indeed, John’s Gospel seems to imply a friendly competition between Peter and the Beloved disciple such that the importance of the Petrine testimony (via Mark – Bauckham considers it most plausible that John expected his readers knew of Mark [R. Bauckham, ‘John for Readers of Mark,’ in R. Bauckham ed., The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997) 147-171.]) is played off against that of John. Bauckham sums up:

‘So three of the four Gospels evidently work quite deliberately with the idea that a Gospel, since it tells the whole story of Jesus, must embody the testimony of witnesses who were participants in the story from beginning to end - from the time of John the Baptist’s ministry to the time of the resurrection appearances. These three Gospels all use the literary device of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony in order to indicate the main eyewitness source of their story. This does not, of course, exclude the appropriation also of material from other eyewitnesses, and we shall see that these Gospels also do that’ (131)
Matthew’s Gospel seems uninterested in alluding to the principle of eyewitness testimony, a point coherent with the uniquely Matthian feature that he adds no names ‘to those occurring already in Mark, while actually dropping several of the names in Mark’ (132). However, Luke’s Gospel, like John’s, shows a striking re-appropriation of Mark’s inclusio, and includes another of his own indicating the presence of the female eyewitness sources. While Luke is, like John, dependant on the Petrine tradition through Mark, and indicates this in the broadest inclusio, the mention of the names of the women in Luke at both 8:2-3 and 24:5-7 form another inclusio, ‘bracketing all but the earliest part of Jesus’ ministry’, indicating Luke’s reliance on their testimony. Striking is that Luke doesn’t refer to the women by name, as does Matthew, Mark and John, when they are present at the cross. ‘Instead, he reserves that information until the end of his story of the women’s visit to the empty tomb: ‘Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles (24:10).’ This implies that Luke was careful to only name the women to indicate the end of the inclusio of their eyewitness.

Naturally, a question that would be interesting to pursue involves the nature and significance of Matthew’s Gospel, especially if it seems not to allude to eyewitness testimony.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Räisänen & Chips

It’s good to be back in England, especially because we managed to take off and land in near hurricane storms! I just enjoyed a bowl of English ‘Ready Brek’ and after we’ve had a stroll through some local second hand bookshops in Banstead, we will enjoy a plate of good ol’ English chips - the only sort worth eating, i.e big fat lumps of potato glued together in a greasy mass of goo.

Given the delays because of the storms, I had a chance to get a nice amount of reading done. And I’ve got to say, during the process I’ve changed my mind on Heikki Räisänen’s Paul and the Law. There is much that speaks for his argument, and despite the occasional dubious reasoning (i.e the sort that claims that the plausibility of his argument does not depend on a credible reconstruction of the origin of these Pauline “contradictions”’’), there is plenty in Heikki Räisänen’s thesis that now makes a bundle load of sense to me. Many of his arguments and challenges still need to be grappled with, and not dismissed with the wave of an ‘of course Paul was not so inconsistent’ wand. I suspect that the matters Räisänen raises could/should busy another generation of Pauline scholars.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


For the next week and a half (until the end of the month) I shall be on holiday, visiting family and friends in England. This is also going to be a lovely chance to dip into a few of London’s best theological bookshops. YeeHaaa!

I can hear my wife fervently praying right now: ‘Lord, please stop my husband from going mad and buying too much with money we just don’t have’.

Naturally, I was prepared for such praying as this, so I prayed in faith yesterday that God would do the opposite of whatever my wife would pray today, so I’m safe enough.

Naturally, this means that my blogging will slow down, but it will by no means stop. In fact, I plan, among other things, to whip through more of the Bauckham series.

I shall still be accessing my e-mail, so if you get no reply from me then it is probably best to take it personally.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 11

The next two chapters I will overview in a little more depth for no other reason than simply that I found them fascinating! The chapters following will mostly be summarised in only one post.

Click here for the series outline.

Chapter 6. Eyewitnesses “from the Beginning”

The following chapter is a creative and learned discussion addressing the issue that scholars ‘have often supposed that the Gospel writers cannot have attached much importance to eyewitness testimony since they do not indicate named eyewitness sources of the traditions they use’. While in previous chapters Bauckham has suggested that specific named individuals in the Gospels can be accounted for in that they were eyewitnesses, and that the lists of the Twelve serve to name an official body of eyewitnesses, in this chapter he attempts, in a two-stage argument, to maintain the Gospel writers did indeed have their own way of indicating eyewitness sources.

“From the beginning”

The first part of the argument maintains that ‘in the early Christian movement a special importance [was] attached to the testimony of disciples who had been eyewitnesses of the whole ministry of Jesus, from its beginning at the time when John was baptizing, and whose witness extended to the resurrection appearances’. The whole ministry of Jesus, at least in light of Acts 1:21-22; 10:36-42; John 15:26-27, was seen to encompass the events including and sandwiched between Jesus’ baptism and his resurrection. Naturally, the Twelve would have been specially qualified and ‘authoritative’ witnesses of this Christ-story understood in its broadest sense, even if they were not alone. But do the Gospels evidence such an understanding of eyewitnesses?

The preface to Luke's Gospel

Important evidence is found in Luke’s prologue. First, the mention of auvto,ptai in Luke 1:2 is discussed. While Bauckham (here following Loveday Alexander’s extensive study) is clear that this word should not be understood forensically but rather as referring to ‘firsthand observers’, the main point involves noting the historiographical associations in the wider context. This leads to the proposition that the phrase ‘from the beginning’ (avpV avrch/j) should be seen not as ‘an evocation of the authority of antiquity in hellenistic culture or a reference to the authoritative ancient sources of an oral tradition’, but rather ‘a claim that the eyewitnesses had been present throughout the events from the appropriate commencement of the author's history onwards’. Furthermore, the evidence in the prologue coheres well with the historiographical principle of choosing the appropriate starting-point for a history (cf. the reference to Plutarch and Josephus, C. Ap. 1:47). Thus, the preface to Luke’s Gospel evidences an understanding of the principal eyewitness – as those who had been present ‘from the beginning’ in such a way that, while perhaps just common sense on Luke’s part, reflects historiographical principles.

The main thrust of Bauckham’s argument is to affirm the importance of eyewitnesses ‘from the beginning’ in early Christianity. These eyewitnesses were also, Bauckham argues, the u`phre,tai geno,menoi tou/ lo,gou,. Indeed, the identification of the eyewitnesses with these servants of the word is best seen as a grammatical necessity such that those who were eyewitnesses of the whole of Jesus’ ministry thereby later qualified to be servants of the word. Of course, while these servants may not be reduced to Twelve, it would certainly have included them.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Biblical Canon

When I read an Amazon review about a theologically/biblically related book such as the following:
‘Keep in mind that while the author claims to be a Christian, he is not a Christian who believes the bible. He does not for example believe that 2 Peter is written by Peter, nor that the pastoral epistles are written by Paul. This is the kind of unbelief that undergirds all the arguments set forth. And make no mistake, the whole book is an argument in favour of the author’s theory [editors note: funny that!!!]. His theory is not so much that there is an open canon, but rather there isn’t really a canon at all, books can go in and out of the “canon” as per the community’s practices. It’s all very wishy-washy thinking’
... my first reaction is to want to buy it, and give it to all of my friends as quickly as possible.

Those kind words were written by a reader of Lee Martin McDonald’s The Formation of Christian Biblical Canon, here.

You will be hearing more about Lee McDonald’s new work, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority, on this blog in due course. Until then, have a read of this interview between Danny Zacharias and McDonald about the book.

Danny’s last question: What are you hoping your latest publication, and all of your work on the canon, will bring to the church?

McDonald answers: Honesty and humility when we stand before the Scriptures with an inquiring mind and with obedience to the call of God rather than with deception and arrogance about the traditions and Bible we profess to love. The church is better served with honesty and integrity than with arrogant attitudes about a complex subject that does not fully discuss or appreciate the complexity of the issues at hand.

Monday, January 15, 2007

E-mailing me

UPDATE 4 (10:45pm, 16.01.2007): Despite the last update, the official position is that I still deny everything.

UPDATE 3 (10:45pm, 16.01.2007): Not that I'm admiting that I created the dancing-fairy Wright or anything, but this is all happening as judgment, isn't it? - don't touch the Lord's anointed, etc.

UPDATE 2 (10:45pm, 16.01.2007): Though I am receiving e-mail's a day late, I'm glad to say that have informed me that none will be lost, so I will receive you e-mails at somestage. In other words, no need to resend!

UPDATE (12:30am, 16.01.2007): My server is still not frigging sending me mail. If you needed to resend, it is probably best that you wait till tomorrow.

If anyone reading this sent me an e-mail in the last two days, please could you resend as my server was kind enough to inexplicably delete all of my recent incoming mail - so I don't even know who wrote me.

Naturally, I'm none too pleased with ... *grumpily mutters something mean about 'German efficiency'*

West on Fitzmyer's forthcoming

I totally forgot to mention this last week, but our friend Jim West finished his superb series on Joseph Fitzmyer’s forthcoming book, The One Who Is To Come.

Here is the final post which collects together all of his posts.

One wonders if Fitzmyer is being fair in the scope of what he considers ‘messianic’, and the names J.C. O’Neill and W. Horbury spring to mind. I’m also curious to read more of the chapter ‘The Septuagint’s Interpretation of Some Old Testament Passages’ given certain methodological issues such as the problems of knowing the original Hebrew, and the simple stating of the ‘LXX’ (I say this as my attention has recently been drawn to the work of M. Peters of Duke University – thanks David!). But further judgment shall have to await the publication of the work.

I deny everything

Wright is back in the news, this time here. Note Mike Bird's informative response in the comments. Speaking of the good Bishop, if anyone, in light of my earlier post, found this wee animation to be bordering blasphemous:

... then whatever you do, please don’t click here.

I shake my judgmental head solemnly. The things people waste their time on ...

And don’t look at me like that!

*Innocent face*

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 10

OK, I think I’ll speed up this series and attempt to finish it sooner rather than later.

Click here for the series outline.

Differences between the lists of the Twelve

However, to maintain this argument (cf. the previous post here), Bauckham must deal with the obvious objection that the differences in the lists suggest that the members of the Twelve were no longer accurately remembered.

Bauckham first stresses that the differences between the lists are not great. They exhibit the same basic structure of three groups of four, with the same person mentioned first always, and Judas likewise always last (I would add that such accuracy and variation in remembering a list like this is typical of the findings in memory studies – I can’t remember if Bauckham touches on this point later in chapter 13 and ‘Eyewitness Memory’) Bauckham, however, goes on to suggests conceivable redactional reasons as to why Mark, Matthew and Acts changed the order of some of the names.

However, the Mark/Matt Thaddaeus becomes the Judas of James in Luke/Acts, so there appears to be at least one instance of real discrepancy between the lists. This has led to some bloated claims concerning the inaccuracy of the lists entirely [Bauckham notes Fitzmyer (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX (AB 28; New York: Doubleday, 1981) 620)]. His solution to this apparent problem, building on his argument in the previous chapter (that ‘Palestinian Jews sometimes - perhaps often - bore both a Semitic and a Greek name’), is elegant. In a nutshell, ‘To distinguish him [Judas of James in Luke/Acts] from Judas Iscariot, this Judas could have been called by his patronymic, Judas son of James (Yehudah bar Ya‘aqov), or, alternatively, he could have been known by his Greek name, Thaddaeus (Taddai)’.

Thus, a strong argument has been mounted such that the lists of the Twelve can be recognised as carefully preserved. And given many of the names of the Twelve are amongst the most common Jewish names from this period, it is no surprise that the many strategies that were used to distinguish, say, one Simon from another, are also preserved in the lists to distinguish one member from another. Indeed, within the lists of the Twelve, Bauckham observes the use of many of these strategies. This last fact leads to the astonishing conclusion that the lists ‘must have originated within the circle of the Twelve themselves’ as such epithets were naturally used to ‘distinguish members of the Twelve among themselves’. Why, then, were the Twelve remembered not only with great care but also ‘to preserve precisely the way they were known in their own milieu during the ministry of Jesus and in the early Jerusalem church’? For Bauckham, the answer is straightforward:
It is difficult to account for this phenomenon except by the hypothesis that the Twelve were the official eyewitnesses and guarantors of the core of the Gospel traditions.
A Note on Matthew and Levi

In the last section of this chapter Bauckham shows that is no mere apologist and that he uses his own criteria even-handedly. Using the onomastic studies of the previous chapter Bauckham argues that the Thaddaeus of Mark and Matt is the same person as the ‘Judas of James’ in Luke and Acts. However, in light of the same arguments the identification of the Matthew of Matt 9:9 with the Levi son of Alphaeus of Mark 2:14 must be judged as implausible, as one would then ‘be confronted with the virtually unparalleled phenomenon of a Palestinian Jew bearing two common Semitic personal names’. Of course, Bauckham’s argument in this section does more than show that he is no apologist as he also offers an explanation as to why Matt 9:9 changes the name, namely because the Gospel author ‘has appropriated Mark’s story of the call of Levi, making it a story of Matthew’s call instead’. This implies that the author ‘intended to associate the Gospel with the apostle Matthew, but he was not himself the apostle Matthew’.

(Bauckham does not develop this last point which is rather typical of the whole study in terms of Matthew’s Gospel: The implications of Bauckham’s thesis for Matthew’s Gospel, and vice versa, is an area waiting to be developed)

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Two new books

I received a couple of books in the post today, the sort that I haven’t read for quite a while, so I’m looking forward to reading them.

The first is Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God (Paraclete Press, London: 2006), and the second Karen Sloan’s Flirting with Monasticism (IVP, IL: 2006). While I haven’t started the latter, I dived into the first this evening.

Thus far, How (Not) is a very enjoyable and thought provoking read - even if, to be fussy for a moment, a few statements are not altogether true. For example, his use of 2 Cor 5:7 on page 16 is dubious. He ironically ‘modernistically’ understands the text so as to pretty much read it as a universal principle concerning ‘human abstractions’, and is based upon, in my opinion, a mistranslation of ouv dia. ei;douj (ou dia eidous). ‘Sight’ is not a good translation, despite most English bibles! I believe the best is ‘not by appearance’ – i.e. the appearance of the apostolic ministry in its weakness and suffering. But I’m really just being fussy as this is turning out to be another gem from the heart of the ‘emerging conversation’. I leave you with a coupe of quotes, the last of which won’t let go of my thoughts.

‘Western theology has all too often reduced the beautifully varied and complex descriptions of God found in the Bible to a singular reading that does violence to its vibrant nature. The Bible itself is a dynamic text full of poetry, prose, history, law and myth all clashing together in a cacophony of voices ... [involving] inconsistencies that make any systematic attempt to master the text both violent and irredeemably impossible’ (pp. 12-13).
OK, I cut quite a bit out of that one; I lost motivation about half way through! But it was listening to Walter Brueggemann make this very point all those months ago that helped open me up theologically, and gave me the necessary sweet kick up the for-all-intents-and-purposes-Fundamentalist backside. The argument left me shakened but changed. The second:
‘[R]eligious truth is ... that which transforms reality rather than that which describes it’ (p. 23)
A false either/or? Either way, this thought will go with me to bed!

A final thought. I wonder if this book, if it touches on this issue, will attempt to respect the tried and tested epistemological value of scientific research, rather than lumping all means of knowledge together in a postmodern one size fits all? I hope so, as the more I discuss these matters with friends, the less confident I am that we should speak of postmodernism at all (at least in terms of epistemology), and think of it more as a blip on the screen of late-modernism that has helped to add an important ‘critical’ before our realism. Though I have preferred two ‘criticals’ in the past (see my biblioblogs interview here), in retrospect I think that was just being pedantic! In other words, I’m uncomfortable with saying ‘Postmodernism, therefore ...’. But whether Rollins touches on this matter or not, I'm eager to read on, so I'll say 'goodnight'.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Best Contemporary Theology Meme

I’ve been tagged by Patrik Hagman to ‘name three (or more) theological works from the last 25 years (1981-2006) that you consider important and worthy to be included on a list of the most important works of theology of that last 25 years (in no particular order)’.

Instead of looking over my bookshelf and getting myself frustrated at the sheer choice, I thought I’d quickly jot down three books that I consider to be of major importance with a special emphasis on my own field, the New Testament.

  1. Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: devotion to Jesus in earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). This is a massively important work in regard to the development of early Christology, a topic which is in my books, the king of all subjects.

  2. Anthony Thiselton’s The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). This commentary has raised the bar. It is a unique and brilliant blend of deep exegetical insight and theological and historical awareness.

  3. Yep, you’ve guessed it: Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the eyewitnesses: the Gospels as eyewitness testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006). This one involves an incredible breadth of learning, and profound theological relevance. It may well be the biggest bomb to be dropped on the playground of historical Jesus research in the last 50 years.

I could name at least another fifteen that could be on this list if I were to sit down and think about it, but it’s getting late so I’ll leave it at just three.


It is well known that Bishop Wright maintains that the ‘righteousness of God’ in Paul should be understood as ‘God’s covenant-faithfulness’.

The counter argument proposed by Stephen Westerholm points out that ‘when Paul speaks of God’s promise he never speaks of God’s righteousness, and when he speaks of God’s righteousness he never speaks of God’s promises’ (Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004], p. 292)

I personally wonder if this Westerholmian argument is not an exaggeration, and whether it really takes account of thematic resonations within larger lines of Pauline argumentation.

Wright himself, though not naming names, responds as follows:
‘Exegesis needs the concordance, but it cannot be ruled by it. It is no argument against calling Paul a covenantal theologian to point out the scarcity of diathēkē in his writings. We have to learn to recognise still more important things, such as implicit narratives and allusions to large biblical themes. Just because we cannot so easily look them up in a reference book that does not make them irrelevant’ (Paul: Fresh Perspectives [London: SPCK, 2005], 26)
But who is right?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On Becoming the Wrighteousness of God

I presented another paper at the English-German New Testament Colloquium last night in which I developed some of my thoughts posted here, here and here on 2 Cor 5:21.

I titled the paper: ‘On Becoming the Wrighteousness of God’!

It is not part of my doctoral work* and was actually birthed in preparation for a sermon, but at some stage I want to publish my musings, even if parts of it still need a bit of attention – I dashed the whole thing out in only a week.

I’ll briefly summarise the basic flow of the paper, which Prof. Lichtenberger, in response last night, called Hegelian – in that I work with an antithesis, a thesis and finally propose a synthesis! You’ll see what he means:

In section 1 I briefly overview the history of interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21, and suggest a common denominator that ties the traditional interpretations of 2 Cor 5:21 together - especially 21b and the ‘righteousness of God’. In section 2 I detail Wright’s original thesis concerning 5:21, and how it sits in tension with the common denominator proposed in section 1, while in section 3 I summarise the critique with which Wright’s argument has been rather summarily dismissed in modern scholarship. Section 4 turns the guns on these critiques suggesting that they are all problematic, so in section 5 I offer my own critique of the weaknesses of Wright’s argument that deal with matters of real substance. However, in part 6 I suggest that Wright’s basic argument needs sympathetic treatment, and propose a number of arguments, based on i) the immediate context of v. 21, namely 5:15-6:2, and ii) a number of counter arguments to the supposed allusion to the fourth Servant Song of Isaiah in v. 21, that thoroughly affirm the basic direction of Wright’s thesis. Section 7 then turns to address how the arguments thus far illuminates our understanding of ‘the righteousness of God’ in 21b, and does so in tandem with an analysis of the ‘new creation’ motif of 5:17. This leads me to propose that the traditional understanding of 5:21 (and ‘the righteousness of God’) is not wrong in what it affirms (at least in light of the common denominator I suggest), but is part, and only part, of a bigger picture, one which also holds on to Wright’s insights. In other words, I argue that the traditional model for understanding 5:21 can, despite recent scholarly insight, nevertheless be affirmed, not as an alternative to the proposals represented by Wright, but rather precisely within this new paradigm. Part 8 is a short afterthought which I quote in full below:

“When the traditional understanding of 2 Cor 5:21 is situated in the larger paradigm of God’s world-directed saving righteousness, as maintained here, this will bear the immediate fruit of guarding against the gnostic and individualistic tendency of some modern forms of Christianity to elevate the solitary importance of the soul. As Moltmann wrote: ‘In this gnostic form the Christian hope no longer gazes forward to a future when everything will be created anew. It looks upwards, to the soul’s escape from the body and from the earth, into the heaven of blessed spirits’. This lamentable reduction of the Christian gospel not only bears little resemblance with the burdens of the Apostle Paul, but in a world of global empire, the rape of the environment, the growing poverty crisis, the oppression of various people groups and sexual and racial discrimination, what the world needs is a church that is not only concerned with producing more converts who know they have a secure private relationship with God, despite their personal sin, but people, reconciled with God, who also know why they are living in the world: to become the righteousness of God”.
*As this is not my doctoral work, if anybody wants to have read of my paper and perhaps even give me some feedback on how it may be improved, then send me an e-mail (see my profile), or leave a comment and I’ll post it to you. I would just ask that copyright be respected. Copywright, I mean.

What will Wright make of my paper? Well, apart from section 5:

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jüngel sermon

We went to the Tübingen Stiftskirche this morning to hear Eberhard Jüngel preach. His sermon was based on the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke, and involved an honest treatment of the differences in the texts, plenty of personal, social and political application (with a strong sideswipe at Bush’s foreign policy – though no one was named) and theology in the best Lutheran tradition. A vintage a Jüngel sermon; lively to the end!

There was also a beautiful rendition of Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium, and I for one experienced a lovely sense of God’s presence.

But the combination of Jüngel plus Weihnachtsoratorium meant that the church was packed, even though the building is a seriously big one. It looked almost like a revival (apart from the wailing, beating of breasts, tears of repentence etc)!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 9

Click here for the series outline.

Chapter 5. The Twelve

Bauckham’s central contention in the historical argument of book is that Gospel traditions were associated with named eyewitnesses of the teaching, life death and resurrection of Jesus, and that these traditions remained, in transmission, closely associated with these specific eyewitnesses. Gospel traditions should not, then, be understood as the product of tradition circulated in anonymous church communities. The Twelve, while not alone (Bauckham contends that Gerhardsson’s stress on the authoritative status of the Twelve is exaggerated) should nevertheless be seen as central in the transmission process.

But, and to be blunt, is the appointing of twelve disciples by Jesus historical? Along with the ‘majority of recent scholars’ Bauckham, accepting the judgements of John Meier [J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 3 (New York: Doubleday, 2001) 128-147:], S. M. Bryan [S. M. Bryan, Jesus and Israel's Traditions of Judgement and Restoration (SNTSMS 117; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 123-124.], M. Hengel [Hengel, The Charismatic Leader] and others, confidently affirms the historical veracity of the Twelve. And these disciples were, importantly, appointed first and foremost to be Jesus’ companions. [Though they were not the only ones as, e.g. ‘there were also the women (Luke 8:1-3)’]. Bauckham’s key claim is that the disciples remained the authoritative transmitters of the Jesus tradition in the earliest Christian communities. Not only is this a most natural assumption given that the Twelve would be the most obvious group to formulate and organise a body of Jesus traditions, Bauckham will develop an original case for his theory through an analysis of the Synoptic lists of the Twelve.

The lists of the Twelve

Bauckham claims that the lists of the Twelve that are found in all the synoptic Gospels (he will examine the significance of the fact John doesn’t have one later) are confirmation ‘that the Twelve constituted an official body of eyewitnesses’. Given the presence of Judas in all the lists, and his being allocated the final position, Bauckham fairly reasons the lists, while detailing the pre-Easter situation, are written from the perspectives of the early Church, and are thus ‘fashioned precisely to display the continuity of this group during and after Jesus' ministry, i.e. with Jesus and in the early Christian community’. This is so not least because the lists were clearly not added to the Gospels merely to introduce the characters as ‘no less than seven of these persons are never elsewhere mentioned again or appear as individuals in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, while the same is true of six of them in Matthew’.

So why are the names of the disciples listed in the Gospels?
‘They are named, not as the authorities for this or that specific tradition, but as responsible for the overall shape of the story of Jesus and much of its content’.
This is a suggestion made most explicit in Luke 1:2, but is, Bauckham urges, ‘surely implicit in Matthew and Mark’.

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Biblical Studies Carnival XIII

Tyler Williams has done a great job.

You’ll see my name mentioned next to a blog called ‘Christendom’! Given my papal stature these days, some may think it a quite appropriate typo ...

I’ll be starting the Bauckham series again tomorrow, turning attention to chapter 5 and ‘The Twelve’ – a matter that was already the subject of debate in the comments earlier in the series.

Quiz question

Of which bible passage did Beasley-Murray write: It is ‘one of the most important expositions of the meaning of Christianity in the Bible’?

A clue, Philip E. Hughes wrote of the final verse of the passage, that ‘There is no sentence more profound in the whole of Scripture’!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Popular American Echatology

My good friend, Volker, just sent me this news in the post:

USA: One person in four expects in 2007 the return of Christ

W a s h i n g t o n (idea) – Jeder vierte US-Amerikaner erwartet für das Jahr 2007 die Wiederkunft Christi. Das hat eine repräsentative Umfrage des internationalen Markt- und Meinungsforschungsinstitutes Ipsos unter 1.000 Bürgern ergeben. Demnach halten es elf Prozent für „sehr wahrscheinlich“, dass Jesus in diesem Jahr wiederkommt; 14 Prozent nannten dies „recht wahrscheinlich“. Unter evangelikalen Christen ist fast die Hälfte der Ansicht (46 Prozent), dass die Wiederkunft Jesu 2007 „recht wahrscheinlich“ sei. (Von: Evangelische Nachrichtenagentur idea)
Crikey. Rapture underpants on standby, then (I don’t like heights) – or asbestos underpants if you are on the wrong side (left behind).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


This week I’ll start sensible posting again, and continue my Jesus and the Eyewitnesses series. I just couldn’t be bothered tonight as I’ve been busy panickingly writing a paper for a lecture I’m giving this coming Monday at an NT colloquium in Tübingen. I’m developing my thoughts on 2 Cor 5:21 – tremendously interesting stuff, actually, just lots to do.

Anyway, have you made any New Year resolutions?

I have.

  1. Get through a good chunk of Barth’s Church Dogmatics.
  2. Smoke more (with a little bit of discipline this shouldn’t be too hard)
  3. Perform a ‘prophetic dance’ at a Charismatic meeting. In a leotard.
  4. Convince a German-language-only relative that the King James 1611 is the only inspired Bible.
  5. Cultivate my left foot’s bacterial condition, especially the impressive colony under my toenails.
  6. Finish most of my doctoral work, all of the Pauline exegesis, the analysis of Philo and the Similitudes of Enoch, and write a few articles to publish.
  7. Make a squirrel soufflé at least once a month (it’s the hunt that makes picking out all the little bones worth it)
  8. Write a number of book reviews for Chrisendom and thereby generate enthusiasm for theological study.
  9. Read more of the classics of Pauline scholarship.
  10. Loose about three chins, and discover my long hidden bone structure again.
What would your top ten be?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Crossley is biblioblogger of the month

The witty James Crossley is (biblio)Blogger of the Month for January 2007. The interview is great fun to read, one of the questions being: 'Would you agree with the sentiment cheekily expressed which suggests that "Evangelicals are Fundamentalists with a PhD"?'!

Part of his answer to this question was:

Relating this to your question (sort of), there is something problematic going on when certain scholars can talk of doing good history, accuse opponents of doing bad history, and then tell us that someone’s mother was a virgin, people really did bodily rise from the dead, and that God’s hand is working in history. If you believe those latter points and want to argue for them, fine. But it isn’t what historians would call good history so perhaps it is time, at the very least, to acknowledge that the rhetoric is inconsistent. I can’t imagine too many professionals working in history departments coming up with arguments in favour of the miraculous or the divine hand in history
Thought provoking, as was much else in his answers. It's actually kinda inspired me to read his Why Christianity Happened.

James mentions his respect for Maurice Casey, with whom I interact with in some detail in my thesis. My argument, however, develops in a very different direction, refuting, I think convincingly, Casey's take on Pauline Christology. But then I would say that, I suppose.

I'm particulalry looking forward to the Bird-Crossley debate.