Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 21

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 12. Anonymous Tradition or Eyewitness Testimony?

Throughout the book thus far Bauckham has sought to argue that Jesus traditions originated and were transmitted in connection with a body of official and named eyewitnesses who functioned as ‘active guarantors’ of these traditions. In those groups that didn’t enjoy the presence of such an eyewitness there would likely have been teachers who functioned as ‘authorized tradents’, having received their knowledge either directly from the original eyewitness(es) or through an authorised chain of intermediaries. In contrast to this, scholarship has tended to elevate the significance of the ‘shared memory’ of anonymous communities to the key role in the transmission of Jesus traditions, even those (like Dunn) who acknowledge the reality of individual eyewitnesses. However, and this is a point which Bauckham has spend a good deal of space justifying, the Gospels writers would hardly have been content to collect such communal and anonymous traditions. Rather, given memorisation, possibly the use of writing, and the presence of eyewitness testimony, the (isolated) traditions underwent a particular kind of formal control in their transmission. Furthermore, Papias is clear evidence that at the time of the production of the Gospels, there was little interest in anonymous community traditions. Indeed, the evidence strongly indicates that the notion of the transmission of traditions through a chain of authorised tradents was commonplace. To add to the already impressive argument, Bauckham indicates the significance of the Jerusalem church, a matter missed in the ‘informal controlled’ models (cf. 299, n. 22 for a fascinating take on 1 Cor 14:36 on this regard). As he maintains:

‘We should probably envisage a carefully compiled and formulated collection of Jesus traditions, incorporating other important eyewitness testimony as well as that of the Twelve themselves, but authorized by the Twelve as the official body of witnesses’ (299).
Bauckham then turns to address the claim that ‘Jesus traditions [were] circulated anonymously in the early church and that therefore the Gospels, in which they were gathered and recorded, were also originally anonymous’ (300). His argument, partly depending on arguments proposed by Hengel and partly on the evidence of chapters 3-8 and especially that the Gospels do indicate their eyewitness sources, claims that ‘as soon as the Gospels circulated around the churches they had author’s names attached to them, even though such names were not part of the text of the Gospels’ (304).

This leads to a discussion concerning the role of eyewitnesses and Gospels in the controlling of the transmission of Jesus traditions. He argues, noting especially the import of 1 Cor 15:3-8:

‘In the early Christian movement we may suppose that the authorized tradents of the tradition performed this role of controllers, but among them the eyewitnesses would surely have been the most important’ (306).
When these eyewitnesses started dying out ‘the Gospels will have stepped into the role of the eyewitnesses ... functioning as the guarantor of the traditions, as the eyewitnesses had in their lifetimes, and as controls on the tradition’ (309). It is not that the Gospels didn’t involve a measure of creative adaptation of the eyewitness testimony, but their preservation of these traditions would have been, in best ancient historiographical practice, faithful.

While many works have been influenced by Maurice Halbwachs’ concept of ‘collective memory’, which would justify key assumptions in form critical scholarship, Bauckham, drawing especially on Barbara Misztal, presses a set of important and original distinctions such that one need not ‘dissolve the distinctiveness of personal recollection’ into a social or collective memory which has little interest in the past (313). In other words, ‘social memory or oral tradition has to be constantly negotiating the relationship of the present to the past. In this negotiation the past has a voice that has to be heard. It cannot be freely invented’ (317).

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Jesus Family Tomb

Bauckham’s guest post has been postponed till tomorrow. Until then, I offer part 21 in my Jesus and the Eyewitnesses series, this time looking at chapter 12.

Some background for Bauckham’s guest post may be in order, however.

First, do have a look at James Tabor’s blog. He is one of the experts listed in relation to the movie and is of the following opinion: ‘[T]here can be little doubt that in March of 1980 a bulldozer accidentally uncovered the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth’.

Second, have a read of Ben Witherington’s blog and the recent relevant posts (especially this one). An earlier version of the material that shall appear here tomorrow is to be found in the most recent.

Also check out the posts on Tyler Williams’ blog here.

There is no doubt much more that I could link to, so if anyone has any special recommendations please do note them in the comments.

What do I think of all this? To keep it short and sweet: Tabor has ‘little doubt’. I have a good deal more. I think it historically unlikely that the tomb is that of the ‘Jesus family’. I would add, however, that the discussion being generated is a good thing.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 20

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 11. Transmitting the Jesus Traditions

It will be remembered that Bauckham reserved little criticism in the previous chapter for Gerhardsson’s model. The next two chapters analyses the nature of ‘the transmission process of the Jesus traditions as a formal controlled tradition in which the eyewitnesses played an important part’ (264). To do this, he first turns attention to the evidence in the Pauline literature (though he notes that the evidence is not particular to Paul). Paul used technical terminology for handing on a tradition which would have involved some sort of ‘teaching and learning so that what is communicated will be retained’ (265). Noticeably, when Paul speaks of traditions, ‘he makes clear that his authority for transmitting at least some of them to his churches was not his apostolic status as such, but the fact that he himself had received them from competent authorities (1 Cor 15:3)’ (265). This indicates that Paul understood ‘a chain of transmission that begins from Jesus himself and passes through intermediaries to Paul himself, who has already passed it on to the Corinthians when he first established their church’ (268).

Paul, Bauckham argues, received (by a formal process of learning) the traditions from the Twelve. This claim naturally involves an explanation as to why Gal 1:11-12 and 1 Cor 11:23 (‘from the Lord’) are not inconsistent with this proposal. In passing traditions on to the churches (presumably also by a formal process of learning), while there is no mention of the transmission of tradition to specific individuals (cf. 1 Cor 11:2; 15:2 etc.), it is clear that certain persons were designated as teachers (e.g. Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28-29). This picture is then substantiated with reference to evidence in Josephus concerning the Pharisaic transmission of tradition both to people generally and to specific teachers.
‘Thus, even within the Pauline communities, we should reckon with the role of specially authorized guarantors of the traditions, and thus a more formal process of preservation and transmission of the traditions than Bailey’s model envisages’ (270)
Drawing on the work of Jan Vansina, Bauckham notes that oral societies treat fictional historical tales and historical accounts differently such that the latter is preserved more faithfully. This leads, again building on Vansina’s work, to a powerful critique of the form critical claim that the early Christians didn’t distinguish between past and present. These Christian certainly did make such a distinction as is clear in i) the varied usage of the ‘son of man’ title in both the Jesus traditions on the one hand, and the early church on the other, ii) the expectations associated with of the genre of ‘biography’ with which the Gospels are to be associated, and iii) the obvious religious significance of the past: ‘The present in which they lived in relationship with the risen and exalted Christ was the effect of this past history, presupposing its pastness and not at all dissolving it’ (277-78).

Bauckham then maintains, again with a sympathetic ear to Gerhardsson, that Jesus tradition, in contrast with the form-critical picture, was transmitted ‘independently of its use’ (278), the Sitz im Leben of a tradition being the transmission processes itself. This is supported by the evidence analysed in Paul above, but also in the clear distinction Paul made between the sayings of Jesus and his own teaching concerning divorce in 1 Cor 7. Naturally Bauckham is not asserting that ‘the Jesus traditions as we know them from the Gospels in no way reflect the context of the early Christian movement’. But later changes were moderate. Indeed, ‘[t]he Gospels themselves would be hard to explain unless the oral Jesus traditions before them were transmitted for their own sake ... The disciples do not supplement Jesus’ teaching with contributions - adding or interpreting - in their own name’ (279).

Bauckham ends the chapter with a discussion of two types of controls that could have played a part in the transmission of traditions, namely memorisation and writing. Not only was memorisation ‘universal in education in the ancient world’ (280), but (here citing my neighbour Rainer Riesner) ‘the form of the sayings of Jesus included in itself an imperative to remember them’ (282). In critical dialogue with Werner Kelber, Bauckham maintains that different types of material were remembered in different ways, and the only way to know how Jesus traditions were treated is to analyse the Gospel evidence itself. This leads to the conclusion that ‘Jesus must have expected his sayings to be deliberately learned’ (284). Furthermore, again relying to an extent on Riesner, ‘the strong tradition within the Gospels that Jesus sent out his disciples to spread his own message during his ministry’ is evidence that ‘Jesus expected his disciples to transmit his teaching to others’ (284).

The main critique of Gerhardsson’s position has been that it doesn’t account for variations in the Jesus tradition, as some claim Bailey’s model does. However, variations in the tradition can be explained on other grounds (Bauckham provides five potential reasons, though doesn’t attempt to justify them in any detail – i.e. there is a doctorate waiting to be written here!).

Finally, Bauckham asks if writing was a way used to control the transmission of tradition. In relation to this, he asserts:

‘The first Christians ... included people who studied the Scriptures with current exegetical skills and could write works with the literary quality of the letter of James’ (289).
Hence, ‘it does seem unlikely that no one would have even noted down Jesus traditions in notebooks’ (289), but this wouldn’t have replaced but rather complimented orality and memorisation.

I personally found this chapter profoundly convincing.

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Bauckham guest post tomorrow

I recently returned to my 2 Cor 5:21 paper (‘On Becoming the Wrighteousness of God’) to prepare it for a NT conference in March, in light of helpful feedback from certain Chrisendom readers.

However, to my horror I read certain parts today in total disgust. Bits of it don’t need a mere makeover. More like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.


Still, better I see that now I suppose.

Anyway, I’m glad to announce that tomorrow I will publish a guest post by Richard Bauckham on the much-discussed ‘Jesus Family Tomb’. Be sure to give it a read.

Later tonight I’ll post part 20 in my Jesus and the Eyewitnesses series.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Deserving of an Oscar

A few days ago I uploaded to youtube our silly 2006 Christmas video, starring me, wifey and the Christmas tree. The quality of the picture, it being shot with my extremely cheap webcam, is somewhat challenged (read ‘crap’)

Or click

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 19

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 10. Models of Oral Tradition
‘The main purpose of this chapter and the next is to consider the implications of putting the eyewitnesses back into the picture [of theories concerning oral tradition], not merely as the original sources of Gospel traditions, but as people who remained accessible sources and authoritative guarantors of their own testimony throughout the period between Jesus and the writing of the Gospels’.
This project involves setting the role of eyewitnesses in the broader context of the nature of the transmission of Jesus traditions in the early church, and focuses, for now, on the Synoptics ‘since it is generally agreed that the Gospel of John is a special case’ (for which see chapter 14-16). To do this, Bauckham analyses the three main models of oral tradition, namely those associated with Rudolf Bultmann, Birger Gerhardsson and Kenneth Bailey. After summarising the history of ‘form critical’ scholarship, its significant insights, its theories concerning the original ‘form’ of an oral tradition, its stress on Sitz im Leben, anonymous transmission and the emphasis given to the supposed analogy of Jesus tradition with folk literature, Bauckham launches a devastating attack on ‘Form Criticism’. He concludes: ‘There is no reason to believe that the oral transmission of Jesus traditions in the early church was at all as Bultmann envisaged it’. However, it is not merely Bultmann that concerns Bauckham, but the shadow of form criticism which still darkens much NT scholarship, namely ‘the largely unexamined impression that many scholars - and probably even more students - still entertain: the impression of a long period of creative development of the traditions before they attained written form in the Gospels’ (249).

The ‘Scandinavian alternative’ of Bauckham’s subtitle refers to Gerhardsson’s contribution in his book Memory and Manuscript (1961). This model, based on a study of oral transmission in rabbinic Judaism, placed more emphasis upon memorisation and mnemonic techniques and thus posited more control in the transmission of tradition. Noting more negative scholarly evaluations of this work, Bauckham is quick to point out how unfair some criticism has been. Nevertheless, he turns quickly to assess the contribution of Bailey, a potential middle way between Bultmann and Gerhardsson, and discusses his threefold typology (informal uncontrolled - informal controlled - formal controlled). To the possible surprise of some, Bauckham has a fair amount to say in critique of the Bailey typology, and Dunn’s adoption of the ‘informal controlled’ model. Bauckham distinguishes two questions that Dunn muddles together, namely ‘who does the controlling, the community or specified individuals?’ and ‘how is this control exercised?’. This leads to the observation that the matter of stability and flexibility is really a third factor besides controlled or uncontrolled, formal or informal. Hence Bauckham can argue that ‘the threefold typology has probably had a somewhat misleading effect on scholars who favour Bailey’s informal controlled tradition as the best analogy for the Gospel tradition’ (258). Indeed, despite the merits of Bailey’s model, it leaves important questions unanswered, especially as it relates to the role of eyewitnesses in the earliest Christian communities – questions provoked all the more urgently by Dunn’s treatment of oral tradition.

Bauckham sets out the questions that need attention in the following way:

‘(1) Was the tradition controlled in any way? (1a) For what reasons would control over the tradition have been thought necessary?
(2) If the tradition was controlled, what were the mechanisms of control?
(3) Were different kinds or aspects of traditions treated differently with regard to the degree of flexibility permitted? (3a) What was the relative balance of stability and flexibility in the treatment of these different kinds or aspects of traditions?
(4) How are the Gospels related to the oral tradition?’ (258).
Questions 1, 1a and 2 will be addressed in the following chapter, while question 4 involves direct interaction with the contention of Bauckham’s book.

However, before finishing this chapter, Bauckham presses the point that neither Bailey nor Dunn have explored the matter of eyewitnesses in sufficient depth. They confuse matters and ignore important distinctions (such a between minor eyewitnesses and those who were ‘from the beginning’). To an extent they even continue to propagate the form critical picture of an oral tradition for which eyewitnesses were only a starting point. While Dunn in particular has made some progress in terms of the questions Bauckham draws attention to, in the next two chapters Bauckham will develop appropriate solutions in far more detail, and seek to understand how eyewitnesses play a part in the picture.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 18

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 9. Papias on Mark and Matthew

While many scholars, though not all (e.g. Hengel, Byrskog etc.), have doubted the usefulness of the evidence from Papias concerning the origin of the Gospel of Mark, Bauckham provides in this chapter good reason to reject what he calls such ‘gratuitous scepticism’. He considers the most important argument in his favour the manner in which the Gospel of Mark itself indicates Peter as the principal eyewitness source, especially as it appears that Luke and John ‘both understood Mark to be making this claim’ (cf. chapters 6 and 7). Indeed, one of the major contributions of this whole book is that Papias’ statements have been thrust back on stage as credible evidence.

What does it mean, however, when Papias claims Mark was Peter’s ‘interpreter’ (this being the most likely translation of the Greek)? A ‘translator’ in those days could interpret very flexibly. For example, Josephus, Bauckham notes, claimed that his Antiquities (cf. Ant. 1.5, 17; 4.196) was simply a translation of the Hebrew scriptures! However, Bauckham argues that Papias, unlike Josephus, appeared to understand translation in a stricter sense and was ‘scrupulously accurate in reproducing Peter’s oral testimony’. Bauckham further argues that Papias was called Peter’s interpreter ‘not in the sense that he acted as such when Peter was teaching orally, but in the sense that he translated Peter’s words when he and Peter engaged in a process of setting them down in writing’.

However, this involves an understanding of the key words for recalling and relating from memory in Papias that many reject. These scholars will argue that the one doing the recalling is Mark, not Peter. However, while this is grammatically possible, Bauckham argues that Papias’ line of reasoning requires that Peter be the subject of the relevant verbs. Indeed, read in this way it is further evidence that Papias used ‘technical or semi-technical terms from literary and rhetorical discussion’.

Another couple of points of translation are then made in relation to the words chreiai, suntaxin and logia. The first surprise involves Bauckham’s discussion of the latter, which concludes with the claim that it refers not to ‘“sayings of the Lord” or “prophetic oracles of the Lord” or “prophetic oracles about the Lord,” but something like “short reports of what the Lord said and did”’. He then proceeds to argue that chreiai be best understood – so long as it is understood flexibly –, in light of Theon’s examples, as ‘brief narratives containing only actions, as brief narratives containing only sayings, and mixed types containing both actions and sayings’, for which the English term ‘anecdote’ would be the best translation. This discussion of chreiai leads to the conclusion that ‘There is no reason why the basic form of many of the chreiai in Mark should not have been given them by Peter in his oral rehearsing of the words and deeds of Jesus’.

Papias opines Mark’s lack of order. While Mark, for Papias, did very well according to good historiographical practice of faithfully recording his eyewitness source (Peter), it stopped short of being a true work of history given that it attempted no aesthetic arrangement or continuous narrative (suntaxis) of the chreiai.

And what does Papias say of Matthew and John? His descriptions always involve comment on two stages: the activity of an eyewitness (i.e. the question origin) and that of non-eyewitnesses (involving the question of the ‘order’ of the traditions). In doing this Papias wants to maintain that both Mark and Matthew lack proper order, which implies that Papias is making a comparison with another Gospel that differs in terms of chronology significantly from either Matthew or Mark. Bauckham suggests that it is likely that Papias’ measuring rod was John’s Gospel (especially plausible if, as Bauckham has argued earlier, Papias knew John’s Gospel). In summary, Bauckham proposes that:

‘[W]e find that Papias was contrasting the lack of order in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew with the order to be found in the Gospel of John. He took for granted that all three Gospels originated from eyewitness testimony, but, whereas the Gospel of John was actually written by an eyewitness, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (in the form available to Papias) were at one stage of transmission removed from the direct report of the eyewitness in question himself’.
Perhaps, Bauckham speculates, ‘it would have been the initial “publication” of the Gospel of John that required some such comment on the most obvious difference between this Gospel and those of Mark and Matthew’. In chapter 15 Bauckham will return to the evidence in John’s Gospel itself that seeks to establish ‘its author’s claim to offer eyewitness testimony additional and in some respects superior to that of the much better known eyewitness Peter, embodied in Mark’s Gospel’.

However, isn’t Papias simply wrong about what he says about Mark’s Gospel as evidencing no ‘order’? And doesn’t this throw a spanner in the works if much of the previous argumentation is based upon a fresh appreciation of Papias’ historical usefulness? Bauckham is forthright: ‘Papias’s contention that Mark did no more than record, with scrupulous accuracy, the chreiai as Peter related them, is mistaken’. However, and building on the work of Joanna Dewey, Bauckham argues that Papias is rejecting a certain type of ‘order’ in Mark’s Gospel. While Mark does structure his narrative in ways ‘characteristic of oral composition’ and appears to be based on an ‘already existing oral narrative’ (even if it be refined in writing), in light of such ‘ordering’ it is easier to understand ‘how easy it was for Papias to exaggerate Mark’s lack of order’. It would appear that this is not an order that Papias wanted to recognise. Furthermore, his ‘exaggeration also served his purpose well. Papias was engaged in explaining the differences between John’s Gospel and Mark’s in a way that favoured John’s “order” without denigrating Mark’s Gospel’.

Bauckham ends the chapter by noting a couple of independent sources that may, without any degree of certainty, provide further support that Mark was understood as Peter’s Gospel (he mentions Dial. 106.3 and Justin Martyr’s description of this Gospel as ‘the memoirs’ of Peter earlier). First, he notes Saying 13 of the Gospel of Thomas arguing that if ‘Matthew in this passage represents Matthew’s Gospel, then it becomes highly likely that Peter represents Mark’s Gospel’. Second he mentions the slightly ambiguous evidence found in the words of Clement of Alexandria (Str. 7.106.4). While these do not make the argument clear-cut, ‘evidence for the association of Peter with Mark’s Gospel independent of Papias ... are quite strong’.

(Picture of the Hengels and Richard Bauckham from

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500th post

This is my 500th post on Chrisendom! 500 posts of undeniable brilliance and deeply inspiring modesty.

On the scholarly-o-meter, I suspect my greatest contribution may well be this.

I’d be interested to know what you think my best post on Chrisendom has been.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our 4th Anniversary

Four years ago on this day I married my precious, beautiful wife, Anja.

Thank you, God!

I still have no idea how I managed to end up with such a looker. 'Divine favour', say my friends, lots of divine favour (Prov 18:22).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Interviews and a change of plan

I have decided to postpone the Christian Zionism podcast a little further, and will instead attempt to finish my series on Richard Bauckham’s book in the next couple of weeks.

Apart from that, for an enjoyable, humorous and thought-provoking series of interviews with some fellow Christian bloggers, do give these exchanges with our friend, the Exiled Preacher, a read.

My readers will perhaps remember the Exiled Preacher – he’s the one who keeps losing lots of arguments against me (he is Welsh, after all). Some of his frustration about this undeniable fact comes across in his last interview with Byron Smith, which was particularly fun to read (especially as Byron had some nice things to say about Chrisendom!)

Apart from some really profound words from Byron, I really loved this bit:

GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?
BS: The delightful people I’ve met.
GD: Kind of you to say so. What would you say are some of the dangers of blogging?
BS: The terrible people I’ve met.
GD: Oh.

Bauckham responds IV

Richard Bauckham has written to me concerning the debate generated in this post (part 17 of my series on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) to clarify his position with regard to identifying the naked youth with Lazarus.

‘“Unfortunately, in the nature of the case, no degree of certainty is possible” [citing his words in J&TE, p. 200]. It’s just an unverifiable suggestion, and meant as such. Not everything I suggest in the book is supposed to have the same degree of probability. I see no harm in throwing out some mere possibilities provided one makes it clear that they are. Someone else might always be able to do something more convincing with them. The trouble with much NT scholarship is that people put their conjectures on the same level with pretty much certain fact. I’m well aware that some arguments in the book are stronger than others - though there is also a good deal of subjectivity in people’s assessment, such that I’m sure there are arguments I think are among the strongest that others think weak, and perhaps vice versa. I think the novelty of many of the arguments means there needs to be a good deal of discussion before it becomes clear which prove the most widely convincing’.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And the winner is ...

Even after much deliberation it was difficult to decide on a winner to receive a copy of Chris VanLandingham’s Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul.

Nevertheless, in a close run decision with three almost level, we are pleased to announce that Dan Oudshoorn will be receiving, courtesy of the generous folk at Hendrickson Publishers, a brand new copy of VanLandingham’s book in the post. I hope that you enjoy this thought-provoking book as much as I do. There is much in this that ought to prompt debate and fresh thinking, even if, I suspect, the general argument may need significant adjustment and even rebuttal.

While Dan’s contribution was, we thought, easily the best in terms of the most realistic prediction for future developments in NT scholarship, JB Hood’s soothsaying, while not strictly concerned with ‘scholarship’, had the wring of serious truth about it! And Alastair’s was utterly hilarious. This was a tough choice!

Thank you all for the brilliant comments!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Review of Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel

The following will appear, with editorial changes, in the European Journal of Theology.

Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel
The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3
Paternoster Biblical Monographs
Scott J. Hafemann
Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005, xii + 497 pp., £29.99, pb, ISBN 1-84227-317-5

How should one understand the letter/Spirit contrast in 2 Cor 3:6? Most scholarship has understood a law/Gospel separation implicit in this verse, and others the key to Paul’s scriptural hermeneutic. Hafemann, in light of ‘the current paradigm shift in Pauline studies’ (16) argues in this reissued monograph (originally published in 1995 by Mohr Siebeck) that time is ripe for a reconsideration of this pivotal passage and its context.

Hafemann proceeds to develop an argument concerning the theological and hermeneutical significance of 2 Cor 3:6 that takes seriously the context, especially that of Paul’s own use of OT Scripture in 3:7-19. Paul’s apostolic defence, Hafemann has argued in detail elsewhere, involves a portrayal of Paul himself as ‘the eschatological counterpart to the role of Moses as the mediator par excellence between YHWH and his people’ (33-34). The substantiation of this hypothesis in relation to 2 Cor 3:4-6a is the concern of the first two chapters.

Hafemann argues that Paul uses the allusions and parallels to Moses’ call in 2:16b and 3:4-6a to defend the legitimacy of his own ministry. A thorough analysis of the ‘sufficiency’ and ‘call’ of Moses in second Temple literature is undertaken with the purpose of understanding how Exodus 3-4 could be, and indeed was, understood in Paul’s milieu (chapter one). He then turns to address the ‘sufficiency’ and ‘call’ of Paul in 2 Cor 3:4-6 (chapter two). ‘Paul’, Hafemann writes, ‘asserts his sufficiency in spite of the suffering which seems to call his legitimacy into question ... And in each case Paul’s affirmation of his sufficiency is based upon the call of God in his life’ (100). However, while Paul asserts the similarity between his call and the call to Moses in 2:16b and 3:4f, in the letter/Spirit division he explains something of the essential difference between his ministry and that of Moses. ‘But having done so’, Hafemann asserts, ‘Paul must now substantiate and clarify the letter/Spirit contrast itself in order to keep it from being either rejected out of hand or misunderstood’ (185).

This leads to part two in which Hafemann addresses the apparent contradictory Pauline view of Moses’ ministry in 2 Cor 3. This is done by investigating Paul’s understanding of Moses’ role in the ‘second giving of the law’ as found in Exodus 32-34. Chapters three to five analyse Paul’s interpretation of this OT source with the aim of showing that Paul derived his argument concerning the nature and legitimacy of his own ministry from the Scriptures. Hafemann’s argument, then, is to determine the nature of the letter/Spirit contrast in light of Paul’s self-understanding of his apostolic ministry in contrast with the ministry of Moses.

It is to Hafemann’s credit that he seeks to understand the ministry of Moses in its wider canonical context, a strategy less widely accepted when the monograph was published in 1995. This leads him to conclude that the veil on Moses’ face was actually provided in order to stop the Israelites looking in to the glory of God and suffering death because of their hard-heartedness (chapter three). In chapter four, and his study of 2 Cor. 3:7-11, he analyses the significance of the ‘veil’ in Paul’s argument. While others have taken this as evidence that Paul radically reinterprets the original intent of Exod 34, Hafemann proposes that Paul was being true to the meaning of his OT source. This also means that ‘[i]t is Moses’ ministry which can appropriately be associated with “death”, not the law per se’ (285). In response to the question as to whether Paul was changing the OT text by speaking of the fading glory on Moses face, Hafemann argues that the Greek should be understood to read ‘because of the glory of his face, which was being rendered inoperative’ (310). Thus, ‘Paul is already referring to the fact that the veil of Moses brought the glory of God to an end in terms of that which it would accomplish if not veiled, i.e. the judgment and destruction of Israel’ (311). This use of Exodus is thus not midrash or pesher. Paul has presented an interpretation of the Scriptures which is based on their ‘original intention’ (458). These observations are tied smoothly to his structural analysis.

Chapter five develops the argument in relation to 2 Cor 3:12-18. In these verses, Paul argues that his ministry mediates the Spirit and glory of God in such a way that brings life and not, as with Moses, the destruction that would have been wrought had he not worn the veil. For this interpretation, Hafemann offers a plausible way of reading the telos in 3:13. Given Paul’s faithfulness to the Exodus narrative, Hafemann argues that the ‘Lord’ mentioned in vv. 16-18 is not christological, but rather indicates YHWH. Further, by turning to the Lord the believer, in fulfilment of Jer 31:31ff and Ezek 36:26ff, has his hard heart removed so that he may now behold the glory of the Lord. This also means that the freedom of 3:17 is not freedom from the law, but rather freedom for the law. 2 Cor 3 thus doesn’t contain negative and positive mentions of the law. Rather, the difference between the two ministries of Paul and Moses are to be based upon a ‘salvation-history’ contrast. This allows Hafemann to assert that Paul has a thoroughly positive view of the law both within the old and new covenants. While the whole monograph has been a detailed focus on just one chapter in Paul, he argues that 2 Cor 3 can be treated as paradigmatic for Paul’s theology generally.

Not all critical responses to Hafemann’s arguments have been fair. C. Marvin Pate (in The Reverse of the Curse, [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000]), for example, has arguably not entirely understood Hafemann’s thesis. However, though Hafemann’s contribution is detailed, creative and even at times brilliant, there remains the need for judicious reflection. First, as Pate has pointed out, ‘letter’ is perhaps better understood as indicative of the law itself. In this regard, Hafemann’s questionable appeal to Rom 2:27-29 and 7:6 in support of his thesis needs to be challenged. His argument also raises more serious and broader questions: if the law is operative for the Christian then why does Paul teach that Christians are dead to the law in Romans 7:1-6? And if only part of the law remains binding on Christians, then what of Galatians 5:3 in which the law appears to be portrayed as an indivisible unity (cf. Pate)? Second, not all will be persuaded by Hafemann’s interpretation of the Greek words katargew and telos even if the latter remains plausible to this author. As Pate writes: ‘Hafemann’s interpretation seems to be born out of a desire to extricate Paul from altering Exodus 34:29-35 ... [But if] Paul can recast Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 26:25f. by eliminating the presence of the law in the new covenant in Christ ..., then so can he revise Exodus 34:29-35’ (426). Third, Hafemann argues that the ‘value of the LXX is seen most clearly ... in comparison to the Hebrew tradition as its Vorlage’ (191, 243-48). This is then often reduced to comparison of the LXX with the MT, which informs his arguments at various points. However, ‘[W]hile it is convenient to use BHS or BHK as a starting point for understanding what undergirded the LXX translations, it is dangerous, dishonest and wrong to assume that Leningradensis B 19A (MT) lay before the pre-Christian translators’ (Cf. Melvin K. H. Peters, “Septuagint,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol 5. [London: Doubleday, 1992], 1100). Further, there exist particularly noteworthy anomalies between the LXX and the MT precisely at key verses in Hafemann’s argument. For example, the existing Greek versions of Jeremiah and Ezekiel 36:23-38 were probably based upon different Hebrew texts than represented by the MT. Fourth, one wonders why Hafemann has not engaged with the Psalmic tradition which describes those who have sought to behold the glory of God without any fear of death, but rather with expectation of delight (cf. Ps 42; 63). Finally, it is difficult to be as confident as Hafemann is in terms of the specific referent of the title kurios in 3:16-18; the matter is more complicated than he seems to appreciate.

These points aside, this is a work of massive learning and piecing intellect that will repay anyone who takes the necessary time to work though his careful and detailed research.

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Forthcoming posts

Later today (or tomorrow morning) I shall announce the winner of the Chris VanLandingham (Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul) competition. Tomorrow I shall post another ‘Bauckham responds’ – he e-mailed me today to clarify his thoughts in relation to the generated discussion on my last post in the Jesus and the Eyewitnesses series. Oh yes, and I will get round to doing that Christian Zionism podcast soon, honest!

In the next post, I will publish my review of Scott J. Hafemann’s work, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3 (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005) which shall later (bar editorial changes) appear in the European Journal of Theology. Those involved in the debates surrounding Paul’s view of the law, justification, the ‘New Perspective’, and his scriptural hermeneutic will find this book to be of interest.

My summary of the review for the journal runs as follows:
In this reissued 1995 monograph, Hafemann, with extensive knowledge of the secondary literature and detailed attention to the primary texts, argues that the letter/Spirit contrast in 2 Cor 3:6 should not be confused with a law/Gospel contrast. The Apostle does not seek to criticise the Law at all and the contrast is best understood in ‘salvation-history’ terms. Further, while many suggest 2 Cor 3 is evidence of Paul’s christological hermeneutic, Hafemann maintains that Paul’s argument proceeds in dependence on Exod 32-34 without altering the original intention of the Pentateuchal text. These arguments necessitate a noteworthy reinterpretation of the meaning of Moses’ veil, and the Greek words katargew and telos. The review ends with a few critical reflections on this learned work.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 17

OK, the Zionism podcast will have to wait till probably tomorrow. Back to Bauckham. Click here for the (continually updated) series outline.

Chapter 8. Anonymous Persons in Mark's Passion Narrative

Gerd Theissen (cf. the picture) has argued that ‘various features of Mark’s passion narrative reflect the situation of the Jerusalem church in or around the decade 40-50 C.E’. He does this by suggesting an answer to the strange anonymity of two unnamed persons in Gethsemane, namely that ‘[t]heir anonymity is for their protection’. The pre-Markan source thus deliberately omits the names of certain characters in order to keep them safe from trouble were the texts to fall in to the wrong hands. This helps Theissen date the source as ‘[o]nly in Jerusalem was there reason to draw a cloak of anonymity over followers of Jesus who had endangered themselves by their actions’. This protective anonymity is also reflected in Mark’s naming of Pilate, but not of the high priest Caiaphas:

‘The power of the house of Annas and their hostility to Christians would have made it diplomatic for Christian traditions formed in Jerusalem in that period not to refer explicitly to the name of Caiaphas in an account of the death of Jesus. Pilate, on the other hand, was a quite different case’.
In this chapter, Bauckham takes Theissen’s arguments further. First, he analyses the narrative in Mark 11:1-7 and argues that the owner of the colt was kept anonymous as he could be understood to be a ‘complicit in a politically subversive act’. A similar analysis proceeds in relation to Mark 14:12-16 and the Passover meal such that Bauckham can claim that these ‘two stories do give us a sense of the danger, not only to Jesus but to those close to him, during his last days in Jerusalem and the secrecy and subterfuge this required’.

Bauckham then extends this line of reasoning to Mark 14:3-9 and the case of the woman who anointed Jesus. Even though Jesus says that ‘what she has done will be told in remembrance of her’, her name is nevertheless omitted! What can account for this oddity? Bauckham suggests:
‘At the time when this tradition took shape in this form in the early Jerusalem church, this woman would be in danger were she identified as having been complicit in Jesus’ politically subversive claim to messianic kingship. Her danger was perhaps even greater than that of the man who attacked the servant of the high priest, for it was she who had anointed Jesus as Messiah’.
Furthermore, Bauckham also points out the potential significance of Mark’s placing this story between the plot to kill Jesus (14:1-2) and his account of Judas’ visit to the chief priests (14:10-11), arguing that ‘[w]e should surely understand that Judas reports the incident of the anointing to the chief priests’. What is more, the Markan downplaying of the Messianic significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his temple ‘cleansing’ and the anointing can also be explained as a protective mechanism for the early Jerusalem Christian community.

The significance of this is highlighted when it is noticed that the anonymous persons in Mark are named in John (cf. John 12:3; 18:10). Bauckham has already argued that the addition of names to a tradition was rare before the fourth century, so it appears likely that John could add these, among other reasons, because the time of immediate danger had passed for the early Christian community in terms of the matters related to in these Markan narratives.

This reasoning can also explain the absence of the Lazarus account in all traditions bar John. ‘For Lazarus’, Bauckham argues, ‘“protective anonymity” had to take the form of his total absence from the story as it was publicly told’. Bauckham speculates further. It seems likely that the ‘naked youth’ in Mark 14:51-52 was not only a Christian, but also was the eyewitness to this tradition. The question arises as to why he was left unnamed, as part of Bauckham’s whole argument is that eyewitnesses were named in the Gospel traditions. In this case, and overriding the convention of naming eyewitnesses, the young man needed to remain under ‘protective anonymity’. Putting the pieces together, one can speculate that Lazarus was the ‘young man’ as the premise that he was a wanted man ‘would explain both the fact that there was an attempt to arrest the young man and that he is anonymous in Mark’s story’. This is indeed detective work of the highest quality!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Reviews of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

Michael Pahl offers his thoughts on Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, here. Do give the whole thing a read. It seems, among other things, that the inclusio argument is failing to convince a few folk (see also here and here)


My 'Christian Zionism' series

If you want to enter the competition for the free copy of Chris VanLandingham’s Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul, then please submitt your efforts asap.

Tomorrow I’m thinking of finishing off the series I started on Christian Zionism a while back with a podcast. To refresh the memory, click here for the first 9 parts of this series.

Part 1 – Definitions
Part 2 – Popular examples
Part 3 – An appeal for dialogue, and the 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)
Part 6 – Clarification and Summary
Part 7 – The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: Snapshots (b)
Part 8 – Steve Motyer’s article, ‘Israel in God’s Plan’
Part 9 – The NT hermeneutical appropriation of the OT: Snapshots (c)

And then I’ll finish off the Bauckham series!


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Baby out with the bathwater?

The ‘Exiled Preacher’ presents his view regarding the matter of Christians and bad language, as I recently discussed here, and Alastair here and here.

EP writes:

“You may also find [bad language] on the lips of Christians and read it in their blogs. It seems to me (I say this to their shame) that some “liberated” ex-fundie believers [don’t look at me like that!] glory in using swear words. However, the Bible seems to forbid the use of such language. I know that I will have damaged my cyber cred by quoting Scripture, but I just can’t help myself,

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:4)

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth (Colossians 3:8)

Call me a proof-texter, I don’t care”
It needs to be remembered, of course, that this proof-texter has something of a history of loosing arguments with me (cf. the inerrancy series), so keep that in mind...

However, among those of us who have consciously moved away from conservative Evangelicalism there is the constant danger of throwing the ‘baby out with the bathwater’. For example, I have noticed that not just a few from within the ‘emerging conversation’ are prone, once they rediscover the cosmic in the NT and learn that the individual’s relationship with Jesus is not the ‘be all and end all of everything’, to stop entirely speaking of and delighting in God with personal and relational language - as if it were unscriptural. But this is an overreaction. Personal language certainly exists, for example, in the Pauline letters in terms of the believer’s relation to the risen Lord – I’ve spent some exegetical space in my doctoral work showing just this.

And the same could be said in relation to inerrancy. Once it is accepted that, at the very least, a strong definition of inerrancy should be dropped, some loose practical respect for the scriptures and a sense of expectation when they read it.

Or mission is rediscovered such that it becomes less concerned with the mere propagation of a propositional message, and all of a sudden, personal evangelism is forgotten etc. etc.

So the question needs to be asked: Is the cuss-frenzy just another overreaction to an overly introspective and painfully individualised piety within conservative Evangelicalism, which in many cases (though not all) couldn’t see beyond its nose when it came to morality?

How do you respond to EP’s argument, and especially his proof-texts?
As it is getting late, I will keep my musings to a sentence and leave the rest for the comments: I think the word ‘context’ is extremely important to remember.


First, something to make you laugh: Kate Winslet and David Bowie on Ricky Gervais’ extras. Absolute classics (though not for the easily offended).

Second, I found on today that the new journal, Outreach and Education in Evolution, has been produced to arm educators for the debate with creationism. Read more about this story here (and here if you can read German).

Lastly, something sad. I have just learnt of the passing of the great Bruce Metzger. I recently received a Metzger book from a publisher for review on this blog, which I will post about in due time, and I was thinking only this morning about trying to contact him with a few questions (I knew nothing of his health situation). How sad. May his memory be for a blessing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I’m not feeling very theologically sensitive tonight; I’m too distressed by a recent meeting claiming to be teaching the bible. If I tried talking theology I’d only end up being a cynical git. So, instead I will present some of my favourites from the world of youtube:

Here is a video of a lecture by atheist Sam Harris, speaking at a conference in 2005. Far more engaging than Dawkins.

But I believe that he’s still wrong.

There is some interesting debate on youtube about atheism and I’ve been tempted for a while to take a stab at a series explaining why I’m a Christian – but I’ll stop this theologically related stream of thinking right now.

The beautiful Alizée. I love the French language, especially when it is sung. And that is the only reason I would watch this video of course (thinks about plucking out his eyes again).

Patrick Stewart: ‘but by then it’s too late and I’ve already seen everything’! Great fun.

One of my favourite scenes from the movie, The Blues Brothers, namely the country and western bar scene.

Chess simul taken to another level – I especially liked the last few seconds! (cf. my previous post on the great Harry Nelson Pillsbury)

For those of us who have experienced this horror for ourselves.

Some hilariously cringey X-Factor disasters (read ‘Pop idol’ if you’re American, or ‘DSDS’ if you’re German).


Thanks for the enjoyable comments to the previous post thus far! I’ll wait a few days before Anja and I make a final decision. It won’t be easy!

Book giveaway: Judgment and Justification

Courtesy of the very kind folk at Hendrickson Publishers, I have a free copy of Chris VanLandingham’s Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul to give away (I’ve written about the book previously here and here). However, rather than first come first served, I thought it would be fun to make a little competition out of it.

The competition is simply this: Whoever manages to pull off the most persuasive and sycophantically frenzied brown-nosing and sucking up in the comments will win the book!

OK, not really.

If you want the book, leave a comment about what you think will be the next big breakthrough in New Testament scholarship, and the most interesting or amusing contribution wins the book. Both Anja and I will judge the entries and announce the winner in about a week.

(Thanks for the idea, Ben!)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Church Discipline

Cold’, so Lady Whiteadder rightly asserted in the theologically sensitive television series, Blackadder, ‘is God’s way of telling us to burn more Catholics’. Sadly, such theological insightfulness as this is lost on today’s politically correct ‘Christians’. Nothing like a good heretic roasting to warm up a chilly winter evening.

But there is a ray of hope. Inquisitor Jim West, for example, keeps talking about reintroducing church discipline for the Baptists, which has got me thinking. The traditional method of church discipline has tended to focus either on the environmentally friendly method of burning to death, or the slightly more lenient approach of public humiliation and the command to ‘leave and don’t come back till you’ve repented’.

While I’m obviously, naturally, all in favour of both of these golden oldies in most cases (‘saved, but only as through fire’ - and it can helpfully function as something to grill your sausages on), isn’t it time for the church to be more creative in its disciplinary methods?

  • For example, why not suggest to the sinner the option of non-stop ‘Chinese burns’[Fn 1] until they recant? ‘So you won’t see differently, Gerald? OK. OK. But for now, it’s just you, me, and a time of pain’. Heretic looks confused but Pastor ominously closes his office door and calmly notes: ‘No, nobody is coming to rescue you now’. Pastor rolls up offender’s sleeves, and applies Church Discipline.
  • Or perhaps an arrangement involving the threat of weekly prayer meetings with the extreme-charismatic-demons-everywhere fringe of the congregation would serve to bring forth the fruit of repentance?
  • Or what about a day of forced listening to loud and especially tacky Christian Rock music? That would work with me.
  • Then there is the possibility of suggesting the old schooldays classic of lines: Tell them to write ‘I will not be a stinking heretic Beelzebub loving sinner again’ a thousand times. Write ‘I was wrong, the pastor was right; I’m reaping what I sowed, and I was told so’, ‘I’m ugly, the Pastor is handsome, and I’m in league with the devil’, or ‘I deserve to be burned alive. No more demon shagging antics for me’ etc.
  • While on the school discipline themes, why not send the offender to ‘face the wall’ for a whole service, with a ‘heretic’ hat on.
  • We could pull out the eyelashes of the offender – one for every sin: ‘Not being paying you tithes either, eh? OUT comes another’.
  • A favourite idea of mine is to suggest we keep on jabbing the ‘funny bone’ of their elbows for half a day (each home group on a rota, taking it in turns to poke).
  • Or what about this for a real horror of a threat: Force the offender to read the entire ‘Left Behind’ series - until they recant. Goodness, there are so many possibilities to explore, especially in our ‘postmodern’ congregations.

Failing all of these we still have hundreds of years of church practice and wisdom to put into practice, i.e. burning and drowning. But it would be best to ‘deny everything’ when it comes to the questions of snooping police officials.

But what suggestions could you make that would profit a revival and reformation of ‘church discipline’ in our congregations? Any ideas?

[Fn 1] A Chinese Burn: ‘A basic form of causing physical pain that is usually experienced for the first time in infant school. It invloves gripping the top of somebody's forearm with both hands then rotating the hands in opposite directions, thus stretching the skin. Tolerance to this increases with age, unless a meathead tries it and mangles not only your skin, but your muscles, ligaments and bones also’ - from the informative Urban Dictionary. See here for a picture of the effects of a Chinese Burn, but make sure no children are around to see it.

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Communists attack Chrisendom!

Some will have noticed that my entire webpage just disappeared from all existence yesterday!

Do I know why that happened?

Not a clue.

‘Great’, I thought, ‘it’s been deleted, and I haven’t made a back up!’ To add to the bemusement, in the news last night we were told of Chinese hackers invading German webpages ... So, after got their act together, I quickly downloaded my entire webpage for safekeeping!

I naturally repented again for the dancing-Wright, just in case this was judgment.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thought of the day

I’ve been busy today researching for an article for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. My entry is on ‘The Tribes of Israel’ and it needs to be submitted rather quickly - not an easy task for someone who doesn’t look beyond the Apostle Paul all too often. Of course, if anyone could recommend any books, articles or important topics to me that I ought not skip on in relation to this article, please log your suggestions a.s.a.p! Actually, the subject of the tribes of Israel in connection with the historical Jesus is a fascinating one and the study process is giving me a good deal to think about.

For example, and this leads me to my thought of the day, in relation to Acts 26:6-8 Jacob Jervell writes:
‘The restoration of Israel is the same as the hope of resurrection’ (Luke and the People of God, p. 86)
This caused me to rub my chin thoughtfully! Is it really ‘the same’? If not the same, what relation does the prophetic hope for the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel have to do with resurrection? This leads me to a wider set of questions that won’t settle down: Assuming at this point a reconstruction of the ‘historical Jesus’ that has more in common with Sanders/Wright etc than Crossan, was Jesus’ hope for the restoration of Israel (cf. the establishment of the Twelve disciples, and the tradition [Q?] represented in Matt 29:28/Luk 22:30) a simple failure? Is the Christianisation of this language in Jas 1:1 the only resolution to the tension possible? Why am I so damned attractive?


Tuesday, February 06, 2007



Apart from being ill, which has decreased my ability to concentrate and read (I really hate that), I have managed to work though – or at least start to – a couple of extraordinary books.

The first, Brant Pitre’s Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile, is one of the most engaging and suggestive books on the historical Jesus I have read in a good while (I first mentioned it here). One point hit me between the eyes because it was so obvious. What do you think the Gospel talk of ‘gathering the elect from the four winds’ means? Pitre ties this into the prophetic hope for return of the northern tribes (the ten scattered among the Gentiles in the Assyrian Exile about 700 years BC). Fascinating!

And I’m thrilled that Brant is joining blogdom!

The other gem of a book which I shall review in more depth in due time is Chris VanLandingham’s Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul mentioned previously here. This one has to be the most provocative thesis about Paul and justification that I have read for a long, long time. It is ‘messing with my head’ as it seems to me to be trying to prove that a theological square is a circle, but I’ll certainly try to keep an open mind. It is a brutal critique of Sander’s notion of ‘covenantal nomism’, but if Chris is right it won’t be just Sanders who should be quaking in his boots – all Pauline exegetes and theologians will need to take a deep breath and do some serious rethinking. My thanks to the kind folk at Hendrickson for sending me a review copy.

When I read stimulating books like these, whether my initial reaction is ‘hot damn!’, ‘oh dear’, ‘no frigging way’, or whether it is pure epiphany, an ‘ahhhh, of course!’, it is always exciting!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Review of How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?

The following review will shortly appear in the journal Theology. Given that I only had 500 words, I did not try to present my own critique of Hurtado’s main arguments. I am writing a doctorate to do that.

You can purchase this helpful and readable book from the Eerdmans webpage here.

How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus by Larry W. Hurtado (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2005. 234 pages, pbk. £10.99/ $20.00)

When it comes to the question of early Christology and how Jesus came to be treated as divine, Hurtado is one of, if not the, world’s leading scholar. This book, based upon his 2004 Deichmann lectures (chapters one through four, titled ‘Issues and Approaches’) and earlier journal publications (chapters five through eight, titled ‘Definitions and Defense’), is offered as a compact presentation, for the general reader, of the issues involved.

The deliberately provocative title indicates that Hurtado is addressing the historical reasons that account for how Jesus came to be treated as divine. He doesn’t mean to imply that a historical study of these questions negates matters of theological truth, he is simply engaging with the issues as a historian. His own angle of approach into this field has focused upon early Christian devotion to Jesus, one which places his own thesis in a unique place on the map of modern scholarship in relation to early Christology (chapter one). For Hurtado, numerous early Christian practices indicate that Jesus was treated as divine, not next to the one God of Israel, or in such a way as to replace this God, but rather precisely as an expression of the will of God (chapter two). Indeed, it was this very devotion that strengthened and sustained the early Christians through all manner of persecution (chapter three). Hurtado then analyses the important passage, Philippians 2:6-11, and argues that the original context for this material was to defend devotion to Christ ‘for those whose religious outlook and world of reference were shaped by Jewish biblical traditions’ (chapter four, p. 106).

However, does such Christ-devotion imply that the early Christians couldn’t have been monotheists, as some have suggested? In response, Hurtado argues that it is the self-confessing monotheistic literature of Greco-Roman Jewish religion, inductively read, which should answer this question. One should not seek to impose a later definition of monotheism back on to the texts (chapter five). And did this homage of Jesus exist in Jesus’ own lifetime? Something like it did, Hurtado argues, but it was considerably developed in the early Church (chapter six). Some scholars have criticised Hurtado’s thesis for suggesting that the evidence for Christ-devotion really amounts to treating Jesus as divine, for this would have prompted serious opposition from fellow Jews for which there is no evidence. Hurtado responds by simply maintaining that such opposition did indeed exist (chapter seven). However, if Hurtado’s arguments thus far are correct, how can one account for the early development of full blown Christ-devotion? Hurtado points to the significance of early Christian revelatory religious experiences (chapter eight). Finally, two appendices are included which relate to the original lecture series and the university of Ben-Gurion.

This volume is a crisp and lucid overview of many of the important issues relating to early devotion to Jesus and the implications of this for Christology. Highly recommended.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Biblical Studies Carnival XIV

Chris Weimer has put together a great post for Biblical Studies Carnival XIV.

Under the title Et Cetera he writes: ‘Chris Tilling wonders if swearing is a sin, and of course, Jim West says that Chris is going to hell. Nothing new there’!

Yes, quite! I seem to remember Jim West also going to the trouble of writing this post - probably filed under a ‘Speaking the truth in love’ label.

Featured Blog of the Month

I’ve been ill, hence the ‘blog silence’, but I’m well enough to rattle off a post at last.

As president of the JWFC, it is of course a delight to notify that Jim West is the featured biblioblogger of the Month! Do have a read of the delightful interview here - salted with typical JW dry wit.

He writes: ‘Academics and Biblical studies go hand in hand so that Bible Study, Sermon preparation, and Sunday School class lessons are all based on a critical-exegetical foundation.’

Well, Amen to that!

He continues: ‘And, as an aside, since I can do my own exegesis, I am not dependent on “sermon books” and those sorts of crutches’.

Half an Amen, as I’m waiting for the Jim West sermon book to finally be printed ...


Have a read of this and prepare to be scared, inspired, humbled and made to feel guilty all at once. This is truly mental. As one friend at LST said: I got tired just reading it!