Thursday, July 31, 2008

Your advice once again

Someone mentioned a book in the comments to the previous post, namely Teaching at University: A Guide for Postgraduates and Researchers by Kate Morss.

Would anybody suggest any other book recommendations on giving lectures, marking papers and such like?

Probing your collective wisdom

Let us imagine you could teach a NT introduction course to 1st and 2nd year undergraduates in 10 sessions. In this imaginary scenario there is already a really superb looking syllabus, but you simply want to think through different options.

What would you suggest should be covered? What themes, NT books, background matters, exegetical approaches, etc. would you want to see discussed? Especially if you preach regularly, what have you found to be of the most enduring help when you look back on NT introduction courses?

I quickly dashed off the following without adding too many details – yet soon realised it was too much to cover in 10 sessions! Nevertheless, I will leave it unchanged and simply ask what would you alter, delete or add to the following:

Session 1: An overview of the Biblical Drama (A discussion on the basic trajectories of the biblical narrative(s), with an emphasis on the place of the NT in the unfolding drama; narrative criticism)

Session 2: Historical Jesus debate (The various modern approaches [Jesus as Cynic, restoration eschatology, etc.]. Testimony, historicity and theology – Bauckham)

Session 3: Matthew's Gospel (or Mark, or Luke?) – engaging in depth with one Gospel (what is a Gospel? the place of the Gospel story in the unfolding biblical drama; analysis of parables; the synoptic problem; miracles)

Session 4: The Olivet discourse, the passion and resurrection (including a look at textual and redaction analysis)

Session 5: Acts, and mission of the early church (historical criticism)

Session 6: Foundations for understanding Paul (epistolary and social scientific analyses, creation and covenant, Messiah, apocalyptic, monotheism, Paul's biography)

Session 7: Romans 1-11 (models of interpretation, Käsemann, Wright, Esler)

Session 8: 1 Corinthians (including a look at rhetorical analysis; Christology)

Session 9: Hebrews (middle Platonism or scripture? Intertextual analysis)

Session 10: Revelation (Apocalyptic and political subversion)

I would really appreciate any thoughts. For those of you who know what this is about, please don't say anything in the comments ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Margaret Barker on the web

I stumbled across her webpage today:

While I find some of her arguments quite unpersuasive and even odd, she is a biblical scholar of considerable reckoning. With a writing style that reminds me a little of Martin Hengel, she consistently makes delightfully creative links between different literature, primary texts she knows extremely well. Have a look at her numerous papers, made available online on the above-mentioned webpage under the 'Papers' tab. I'll order her Temple Theology (SPCK, 2004) in the next few days.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fundamentalism + belligerence = disturbing Youtube videos

This Fundie preacher apparently forgot 2 Timothy 2:24-25: "the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness"

Utterly shocking. How should theologians best seek to respond to this kind of perversion of Christian behaviour?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

For Corinthian Aficionados

Albert V. Garcilazo's, The Corinthian Dissenters and the Stoics, has received a glowing RBL review by Stephan Joubert. It is on my list of 'to reads'. A number of years ago Graham Tomlin argued for an Epicurean background for the same group ('Christians and Epicureans in 1 Corinthians' JNTS, 1997, 68. pp. 51-72).

Quote of the day

From the 'Author's Preface' to the first of Dunn's two-volume Word commentary on Romans:

'When the possibility of contributing Romans to the Word Biblical Commentary was put to me ten years ago I almost declined the invitation'

Thank God he didn't!

Friday is for Flatulence

As you do, I just typed into the search engine of my Libronix Digital Library the word 'fart'.

Douglas Stuart's Word commentary on Amos returned the following bibliographical reference

Fart, G. "The Language of Amos, Popular or Cultic?" VT 16 (1966) 312–24.

Poor bloke, I bet he had an interesting time at school. It makes me wonder what the 'G' stood for? 'Great'? 'Gaseous'? - both of which would have made for hours of playground fun. And if we want to be utilitarian in our ethics (greatest happiness for the greatest number), there is a case for making it morally necessary that G. Fart should be so named – for the happiness of all of his school 'friends'.

Oh yes, Tübingen library also has the following item:

Weber, Susanne L., Surface gravity waves and turbulent bottom friction: the evolution of the wind-wave spectrum in shallow seas, Utrecht, Rijksuniv., Diss., 1989

Which resulted from searching the great Tübingen theological resources library for 'wind' and 'bottom'.

As one does.

Don't look at me like that!

Actually, Tübingen library yields far worse. I also found a 1985 Microfilm document (Beeinflussung des Trunkenheitsgrades durch kombinierte Alkohol- und Medikamenteneinnahme) penned by a certain Peter Schitter. Either he was bullied at school for that or he ought to have been (utilitarianism).

Back in Germany

And a few books the richer.

And I was ill, flippin eck. Hence the lack of blogging.

But my health returned today, thankfully, so time to inflict more posts on the world of biblioblogdom...

One of the books I purchased in England is Robin Parry's Worshipping Trinity. Robin has written an immensely readable book, encouraging that the charismatic church re-grasps the Trinity in its worship. Even though his message is very important and thus serious, it had me laughing aloud on the tube every now and then. Having detailed the problematically practically 'unitarian' and 'Jesus only' content of much evangelical worship, he writes:

I vividly recall a sermon illustration used some years ago in the church. The visiting preacher took a frog and placed it in a pan of cold water and slowly heated the water until it boiled. The point was that if you turn up the heat slowly the frog doesn't notice and will hang around whilst getting boiled alive! I hasten to add that the illustration is in fact mythical and the frog was not a real one (although, interestingly, this fact was not revealed until later and yet we all sat smiling uncomfortably as the chap boiled what we took to be a real frog – fuel for psychology books there). I suspect that slowly but surely there has been a shift away from full Trinitarian worship towards worship that is often in practice 'unitarian'. This shift is not uniform, it is not the same in all churches, it sometimes waxes and wanes, and it has hardly reached boiling point, but I want to blow the whistle and say, 'FROGS OF THE WORLD UNITE! We're being boiled alive here! Let's leap out of the pan before the bubbles start rising!' One simply has to ask the painful question, 'At what point does worship cease to be Christian worship and become simply Christians worshipping?' (pp. 2-3)

Especially if you are an evangelical with charismatic leanings, like myself, this book is a real 'word in season'. This reminds me to point out the online English translation of Jüngel's Trinitarian Prayers for Christian Worship (a pdf file).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Neologism of the Day

Main Entry: Wrighteous
Phonetic pronunciation: [EnTeeWright-eous]
Function: noun

This noun is used to denote a type of biblical exegesis that is characterised by astonishing accuracy and insight. It can also be used, in less formal settings, adjectivally: ‘that academic is one Wrighteous dude’; ‘he is a Wrighteous exegete’ etc. Verb: If one finally grasps the meaning of a biblical passage then one can say that he has Wrighteoused it: ‘I Wrighteoused the living Bultmann out of that reading of John 3’ etc.

Quote of the Day

On the train coming back from central London today, I read the following Moltmannian delight:
"God is nowhere greater than in his humiliation. God is nowhere more
glorious than in his impotence. God is nowhere more divine than when he becomes man"
The Trinity and the Kingdom, Jürgen Moltmann, 119

The last line, being the end of a meditation on incarnation and kenosis, struck my theological inner man with particular force. "God is nowhere more divine than when he becomes man". I can't help but feel that there is something wrong with the claim, but perhaps the problem is mine. A true thought-provoker!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What do you think of this?

Namely, of the lyrics of Brian Doerksen’s song “Thank You For The Cross”.

I am simply curious to hear whether it gets your thumbs up, or down, and why you think as you do.

I will only add here that the tune seems rather out of phase with the lyrics at times. When the music goes all soft and extended, as if expecting a worshipful raised hand or such like, you are singing "Every one of us deserves to die"!

I tend to think this may be a line the death metal monk may better capture than the soft twiddles of a guitar and piano!

Video care of Scott Bailey's grin-inducing blog

His death scream at about 18 or 19 seconds in to the clip makes me chuckle every time I hear it. I may try to occasionally make the same sound if I run out of Marmite in Germany, get checkmated in a game of chess, hear bad teaching in a semon, get stuck behind a slow driver, or other such situation.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chrys Caragounis responds to the Gaventa review

A few days ago I published Alisha Paddock’s helpful review of Beverly Roberts Gaventa's, Our Mother Saint Paul (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007)

Chrys Caragounis, Professor in New Testament Exegesis at the University of Lund, read Alisha’s review and sent me some of his thoughts concerning the claim that Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, “portrays himself both as an infant and as a nurse, taking care of her own children” (Alisha’s summary of one of Gaventa’s argument).

Chrys strongly disagrees with this reading!

I have uploaded his 1 page letter as a pdf here. Do give it a read as on all such Greek language matters, Chrys is an internationally recognised leading authority. I think it is exciting that blogs like this can facilitate such scholarly dialogue.

By the way, the article, which he refers to in his letter, can be downloaded here. Click the top option, “Did Paul Behave?”

I sent Alisha a copy of Chrys' letter before I left for England, and she has already written a brief response in the comments to her guest post. I think it is the mark of a good review that it generates such discussion. So if you want to review any more, Alisha .... :-)

I must say, Chrys' article is rather impressive, and it functions, I would add, as a good case study to demonstrate one of the points made in his book The Development of Greek and the New Testament. Namely, that a linguistic and philological inquiry needs to address “the evidence of the entire history of Greek” (p. 5 of his online version of the Festschrift article).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A London Visit

Tomorrow I am flying to England on important business. Apart from hopefully finding time to visit the LST Bookshop, I won't divulge the reason for my trip here. I simply want to say that any prayers are much appreciated for a blessed time.

Besides, I'm getting through my Asda Teabags, and if they run out ... pandemonium breaks loose.

Time to stock up, in other words, with the essentials:

  • Marmite
  • Asda Teabags
  • More Asda Teabags

So if you see a slightly overweight but devastatingly handsome chap in London, obsessively reading theology books, stuffing his face with salt and vinegared fish and chips almost constantly - that may well be me. I need a fix every now and then to control my specifically English shaped vices.

A new blog of note

My friend Robin Parry of Paternoster has just started his own blog, and his first few posts are simply delightful. But don't be too clever and witty, Robin, it will just make the rest of us look bad – and then I'll have to delete your blog like I deleted Jim... No. I won't finish that sentence.

Do check it out:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Over 1,000 posts on Chrisendom

Time for a bit of self-congratulating nonsense.

I just passed 1,000 posts for Chrisendom; this is number 1003. I have had enormous fun in the process - and have learnt a lot from many of my readers' comments too.

To celebrate the occasion I'm going to make myself a cup of tea ... and suggest a little competition.

The challenge is to complete the following sentence. The winner will be posted, from the Chrisendom Merchandise Department, a bottle of CTRVHM Miracle Healing and Sin Removal Holy Phlegm (apply to forehead). Plus a bit of honour.

Complete this sentence (wicked suggestions get eschatologically judged)

"Chrisendom has now over 1,000 posts of sheer brilliance, theological innovation, exegetical insight, ecumenical subtlety, and ...."

Books that have made me cry

  1. The Pan Guide to Circumcision without Anaesthetic
  2. Jim West Writes a Commentary on your Favourite Bible Verse (series)
  3. 1001 Recipes with Onions
  4. The Penguin Guide to Becoming a Eunuch: The Blunt Scissors Edition
  5. Little Johnny Gets Pelted in the Face with Yellow Snowballs by Andrew and his Older Brother

Quote of the Day

"Anyone who perceives God's presence and love in the God-forsakenness of the crucified Son, sees God in all things"

Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, 82

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guest Book Review: Our Mother Saint Paul

My thanks to WJK for a review copy and to Alisha Paddock for her review.


Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Our Mother Saint Paul, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. 218 pages, $24.95.

In Our Mother Saint Paul, Beverly Roberts Gaventa embarks on a project long in the making. Gaventa has long been interested in Paul's use of metaphors, especially those referring to the role of mother. She not only combines articles previously written, but also brings them up to date by adding new insight and research. In this book, Gaventa takes on two tasks. First, she investigates four passages in which Paul uses maternal imagery and second, she explores Paul's theology, specifically in Romans, keeping God's apocalyptic act at the forefront of her discussion.

In part one, Gaventa argues, and rightfully so, that the passages in which Paul employs maternal imagery have been neglected or glossed over in recent scholarship. After isolating these passages, Gaventa discovered that Paul uses these metaphors to add new dimensions to the apostolic office. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul portrays himself as both an infant and as a nurse taking care of her own children. Apostles are not only to be innocent and childlike, but also "the responsible adult" who tends "charges with care and affection" (27).

In Galatians 4:19, Paul writes that he is going through the pain of labor again until Christ is formed. Paul is so desperate not to let Galatians return to their pagan ways, he is willing to go through the painful birthing process again. Gaventa argues that Paul shows how an apostle is to "birth" people into the family of God.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a, Paul is dealing with spiritually immature believers who cannot handle solid food, but milk provided by a "nursing" Paul. This utilization of maternal imagery has a three-fold function. One, it stresses the importance of the concept of family (which is lacking in the Corinthian community). Two, it "places Paul at the margins of what is perceived to be 'genuine' manhood," to show the apostolic role is of servant leadership (50). Three, it emphasizes the bond between Paul and the Corinthian believers which is akin to the bond between a nursing mother and her child.

In the final passage (Romans 8:22), Paul is not the one who takes on the role of mother, but it is all of Creation which is in labor. Here Gaventa contends that one has to read this text apocalyptically. Even though Creation is in labor, what is awaited is not Creation birthing something, but God's actions of adoption and redemption (57).

The second part of Our Mother Saint Paul attempts to place the passages from part 1 into their proper apocalyptic context. The first half is an in-depth look at Paul's autobiographical remarks in Galatians 1 and 2. Gaventa argues strongly that these verses should not be looked upon only as an apology, but as a way to show how the singular gospel Paul preached puts an end to "all prior commitments, conventions and value systems," including Paul's Jewish beliefs (93).

The second half of part two thoroughly examines the letter to the Romans and its apocalyptic context. Gaventa explains that God had an active role in handing over Creation to "cosmic conflict" (113). She also clarifies that the idea of sin in Paul's letter is more than a transgression, but an anti-God Power (capital 'S' Sin) that is defeated by Jesus' resurrection (127). With this defeat of the cosmic powers believers are liberated, but this freedom comes with certain behaviors and boundaries. Believers are actively to support one another, be engaged in prayer and thanksgiving, all serving in the house of the Lord. The boundaries of the believing community are "the shared memory of God's action" against Sin and Death and "God's persistent calling and saving" of both Israel and Gentiles (143).

One of the more important contributions to Pauline discussion OMSP brings is a new framework in which to deal with the issue of women in the Church. Gaventa maintains that Paul's gospel is one that "obliterates worlds" (68). There is no room for gender in Christ. Instead we are a new creation in which identity markers mean nothing. Gaventa does not attempt to answer the questions she poses, but to present them in order to prompt more discussion.

Beverly Roberts Gaventa sheds light on texts and wrestles with issues that have been in the dark too long. But there is one issue I have with the book. Part one and part two do not seem to be connected. After the introduction of part two, there is no mention of maternal imagery; the focus turns wholly to explaining Paul's apocalyptic context. Gaventa needed to work a bit harder keeping the theme of maternal imagery at the forefront of the reader's mind. This might have been achieved had there been a conclusion to the book. A summary would have helped the reader place the metaphors mentioned in part one into their apocalyptic context. Overall, Gaventa sets forth a new and refreshing perspective that will add much to Pauline scholarship, doing a wonderful job going where few men have gone before.

Alisha Paddock

Manhattan Christian College
Manhattan, Kansas

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Neologism of the Day

Main Entry: Zwinglis
Phonetic pronunciation: [schwinglis]
Function: noun

This noun is used to denote an uncontrollable and ferocious public flatulence that not only embarrasses the suffering party, but also causes multiple vomits from watching bystanders. Plus children cry and need therapy for years afterwards. Precisely this state of affairs is called 'having the Zwinglis'. As a verb: 'the man zwinglied on the pavement, and the people began to puke'. Participle: 'look at that poor soul, he is zwinglining like a park water sprinkler'. Adjective. 'zwinglian stains are hard to remove, even with fire'.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Neologism of the Day

This is the first in a series proposing new words that should be added to the dictionary.

Main Entry: Asbestosunderpantsinsurancepolicy
Phonetic pronunciation: [aspestos-underpants-insurance-policy]
Function: noun

This noun is used to denote certain versions of the gospel preached in some more conservative pulpits. It can also be used adjectively, e.g. 'That pulpit thumper sure laid on thick the asbestosunderpantsinsurancepolicy gospel, today'. As a verb it becomes, e.g. 'I asbestosunderpantsinsurancepolicied the men's bible study group'.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Link of the month

R.T. Jones has provided the entire Judeao-Christian world a religious service by putting to music the Philo passage blogged here yesterday.

No, I'm not kidding!

Immediately you will find that Philo becomes curiously relevant and trendy again ... in a Pop Idol kind of way.

I'll be nodding my head to this one for weeks, all the more prepared to whip it out at the opportune moment. This is to music what a toilet is to a man with a weak bladder caught in a traffic jam for the last 4 hours. A total musical release.

Actually, it is rather brilliant - almost genius, in a song lyric ear-molestation type of way. I still can't get the tune out of my head ... ('those who hate virtue')

Monday, July 07, 2008

Philo helps me communicate better

At the beginning of Philo's On the Confusion of Tongues there is a particularly tortured defence of the divine logic behind the Babel incident. In Conf. 33 Philo writes of ...

'those who hate virtue and who love learning, use speech as their ally for the exposition of doctrines which are disapproved; and again, on the other hand, virtuous men employ it for the refutation of such doctrines, and for establishing the irresistible strength of the better and true wisdom'

Step one: Memorise the above Philonic nugget. Step two: Enjoy various social conversations until you are contradicted and opposed by some disagreeable person. Step three: After the expressed disagreement, mutter Philo's words under your breath a few times so that it can just about be heard. Step four: When Philo's bombshell has carved a moment of silence in the conversation, flirt a self-righteous glance in the direction of your detractor. Step five: Walk away feeling rather smug that you quoted Philo from memory.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

How do you understand the ‘δικαιοσυνη θεου’ in Paul?

Yes, that's anew picture of me on the right. Ladies, get a control of yourselves – I'm already married.

Many of you no doubt know the many different options for understanding the phrase 'δικαιοσυνη θεου' in Paul. As I am about to teach on this subject, I would find it most helpful and interesting to hear from any of you how you understand this phrase. As a righteousness from God, or, as Luther put it, 'die Gerechtigkeit, die vor Gott gilt'? Or as God's own righteousness? If so, how would you understand that? Relationally? Covenantally? Or how? Or would you perhaps see both subjective and objective readings somehow involved? Or sometimes one, sometimes another? Shower me with your wisdom!

To show my own hand, I usually understand this phrase (and yes, also in 2 Cor. 5:21, despite what some say) as referring to God's covenant justice and faithfulness.

Book Reviews

I thought it might be useful to list all of the book reviews on this blog. I may have left one or two out, but here are all I found today.

I'll update this page with each new review.

My book reviews:

Guest book reviews (reviewer in brackets):

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Your preferred model for understanding Paul’s gospel

I will shortly be publishing here a long overdue review of Douglas A. Campbell's highly stimulating work, The Quest for Paul's Gospel: A Suggested Strategy (London: T & T Clark, 2005). His chapters on homosexual ordination, and the one on the 'justification by faith' in terms of its contractual construal were particularly fascinating!

As I shall explain, he offers three main models for understanding Paul's gospel:

  1. The 'justification by faith' one
  2. The 'salvation history' model and
  3. The pneumatological participatory martyrological eschatology model (which in important ways is similar to what others call an 'apocalyptic' model) – Campbell makes a case that this is the best one to adopt.

What is your preferred model for understanding Paul? Salvation history? Apocalyptic? Justification by faith? Something else?

I think that in order to understand Paul's letters, one must accept a certain amount of salvation historical continuity. This also carries with it the recognition that there is no free-floating object called 'Christ' unrelated to the scriptures and the scriptural story(ies) (a point Watson makes in Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith – another book I will review in the next few weeks). Nevertheless, to understand Paul's letters one must equally accept a degree of discontinuity, novelty and outrageous creativity in Paul's thinking in light of his relation to Christ. If we insist too strongly on one or the other we will misrepresent the Apostle.

With those points in mind, I like to understand Paul's gospel in terms of salvation history (informed at points by the 'justification by faith' approach) and apocalyptic. Indeed, the mysteries God reveals in apocalyptic literature is often the plan of God's saving actions, i.e. salvation history! They do not exist in either/or (a point made beautifully by Wright in Paul: Fresh Perspectives).

Zum Thema: NT Wright hat in allem mehr recht als Zwingli


Selbstverständlich. Unzweifelhaft. Gewiss. Natürlich. Zweifellos. Sogar beweisend

Nie vergessen

Zwingli is to Wright what a cave painting is to a Michelangelo or Monet, what a course of leeches is to antibiotics or penicillin, what an albeit vigorous and tasty carrot is to a three course meal at the Ritz Hotel. Anybody who denies this hasn't understood Wright.

Not to be provocative, of course ...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Baptismal Verse Ideas

If you are a churchgoer you may have a tradition of choosing a bible verse for those being baptised or confirmed. Kid 1 comes to the front, is either dunked, sprinkled, or awarded a piece of paper, and is given a bible verse too. Kid 2 does the same but receives a different bible verse. They are usually of the 'God is with you' sort, which is fair enough. But I thought it would be interesting to swap some of the texts the night before to spice things up a bit in the service, and to provide a tad more variety.

To give to the porky one (yea, yea, porky like me. I saw that one coming):

Judges 3:17 'Then he presented the tribute to King Eglon of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man' (Fat like you)

To give to the one that annoys you:

1 Chronicles 1:24-26 'Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; Eber, Peleg, Reu; Serug, Nahor, Terah' (Get some existential soul-stroke out of that one, sonny)

To give to the whimpering spotty one with no friends:

Hosea 1:6
'Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call her Lo-Ruhamah"' (explain Lo-Ruhamah means 'not loved')

Or if you think that is a bit too mean, you could unleash the following on the spotty one:

Jude 23 'hating even the coat from the flesh spotted' (for particularly spotted flesh)