Monday, September 29, 2008

Godpod 37

Yep, my first Godpod - joining Jane Williams, Mike Lloyd and Graham Tomlin, discussing theology and life. Our guest was the sharp minded and affable Oxford doctoral student, Stephen Backhouse, and we touched upon matters covered in his (freshly completed) thesis: A Kierkegaardian Critique of Christian Nationalism.

To be honest, sitting in that studio for the first time, with a sound guy behind glass, my new colleagues surrounding me, and with a microphone stuck in my face ... I felt a bit nervous. At least the microphone was only stuck in my face.

Click here to have a listen, download it, write abuseful messages in comment on it ... whatever yanks your chain.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quote of the day

'As for yourself, you shall … come back here … smoking … pot'

(Genesis 15:15-17, NRSV - with ellipses).

Busy busy

And loving every minute.

This weekend we had the first 'residential weekend' for students of St Mellitus, which gave me a chance to get to know folk ... and prepare a lecture.

My first lecture concerns 'covenant' in the Old Testament – but I don't plan on mentioning Eichrodt too much, especially as his name can sound like someone gathering phlegm in their mouths to gob on you. 'Eichrodt', flippin eck. I am guessing the name derived from an old spelling for 'Red Oak (tree)' (Eiche rot), which makes about as much sense as my forthcoming lecture!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quote of the day

By an anonymous writer in a comment to a previous post on this blog about the potential destruction of the world through the CERN particle acceleration experiment:

"While they have turned the big 'on/off' switch to 'on' they haven't actually caused any collisions with the Large Hydron Collider yet. It was estimated that they would create the first serious collision about six weeks after turning it on. But now it seems that will be delayed until November because of an incident on the 19th. So I'm still working on an eschatology which involves God extracting us from a singularity in order to establish the 1000 year rule"


John Polkinghorne’s Times article

Shining a light where science and theology meet: Why literal creationists are abusing and misinterpreting scripture

Hurtling balls of snot

I am not, am I, the only one who thinks these things look like they dropped out of the nose of some large mammal?

‘Interesting’ Quotes of the day

Found on, attempting to answer 'How Could Noah Build the Ark?'

"God most likely brought Noah two young adult sauropods (e.g., apatosaurs), rather than two full-grown sauropods"

Oddly, I didn't find an entry for 'sauropods' in von Rad's OT Theology...

"The Bible does not tell us that Noah and his sons built the Ark by themselves. Noah could have hired skilled laborers or had relatives, such as Methuselah and Lamech, help build the vessel"

... until Methuselah and Lamech cottoned on to the fact that the human living quarters only had enough beds for Noah, Noah's wife, his three sons, and the wives of his sons (cf. Gen. 7:13).

I bet that caused an row.

Indeed, is it not 'most likely' that the two young adult sauropods intervened to solve the issue?

Suitable expression.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Judgment, Noahic style

It appears now that the CERN particle accelerator experiments did not create a 'black hole' and suck the earth and all its inhabitants into something approximating the size of Jim West's brain.

As I awaited news from Switzerland, my mind turned to God's covenant with Noah:

"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11)

If the CERN experiment did destroy the world, one could argue (although that would be pretty difficult, what with the world shrunk to the size of a pea) that God had not been faithful to his covenant with Noah to have allowed such a disaster to have occurred (though I note that Goldingay in his OT Theology comments that God never promised to stop humans themselves from destroying the world!).

However, literature in second Temple Judaism could refer to the coming eschatological judgement in a way that explicitly compared the future with the destruction experienced in the Flood. In other words, God's covenant with Noah - to not destroy so cosmically - lasts until the eschaton (cf. passages in the Similitudes of Enoch, for example).

You may know the Caird, Wright etc. school of thought which seeks to understand certain important NT eschatology passages as colourful yet non-literal language used merely to invest history with cosmic significance. But if some second Temple literature could speak of the coming judgment with Noahic-trouble sized rhetoric, it doesn't sound like events in history were being spoken of, but rather the end of history itself.

No doubt I should read Edward Adams' monograph, Stars Will Fall from Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the New Testament and Its World, which has been confidently touted by some of my readers as the ultimate refutation of Wright on this subject. Of course, if the hermeneutic of, for example, the authors of 1 Enoch could be more literal in terms of eschatological doom, it doesn't follow that the same is necessarily true of the synoptics.

Quote of the Day

On the reason for the multivocality of the Old Testament witness:

[T]he biblical material itself ... refuses to be reduced or domesticated into a settled coherence. This refusal may not be simply a literary one but a theological one, pertaining to its central Subject. The restless character of the text that refuses excessive closure, which von Rad understood so well, is reflective of the One who is its main Character, who also refuses tameness or systemization. Thus it is the very God uttered in these texts who lies behind the problems of perspective and method

Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), p. 42

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review – Dictionary of OT Wisdom, Poetry & Writings

Thanks to IVP for a review copy of the Peter Enns and Tremper Longman III ed. Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings.

This is the third Old Testament volume in the now famous IVP "Black Dictionary" series, offering almost 150 articles covering, as the blurb says, 'all the important aspects of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ruth and Esther'. Of course, as with any similar reference dictionary, the articles will be uneven, yet these volumes have already established themselves as reflecting quality scholarship even if the spectrum of perspectives is more narrow than that represented by, say, the Anchor Bible Dictionary. But whatever your academic standpoint, at 1,000 pages this volume will need to be a to-hand resource for anybody working on the field of Wisdom, Poetry or Writings. Contributors include the likes of Brueggemann, David deSilva, Peter Enns, John Goldingay, Allan Millard, Philip Johnston, and many others, and a sample of some entries listed under 'A' can be found here. Of course, one major bonus this volume has to offer is that the various bibliographies will be up-to-date.

The earlier IVP volumes could fall into the trap of functioning like a compendium of sporadic apologetic essays on various themes, rather than rounded reviews of scholarship and serious contributions to academia – even though they were stil immensely useful. My impression was that this apologetic trend reduced in the following NT related volumes, a shift in general ethos that I suspect has continued with this volume (though I haven't, of course, read all of the articles so I cannot say for sure). Either way, I am very glad to have the Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings on my shelf and I will make regular use of it.

"At last, a fully comprehensive, fascinating compendium of information about Psalms, Wisdom literature and other writings of the Old Testament! From characters such as Ruth to major Wisdom books such as Job, from scholarly method to major theological themes, this volume gives us articles of real depth and substance. Its broad and thorough remit includes contributions on Jewish and Christian tradition, festival worship, ancient Near Eastern background and Hebrew language from a range of highly qualified experts in the field. An essential reference book for all serious-minded students of the Hebrew Scriptures."

- Katharine J. Dell, Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, University of Cambridge


Friday, September 19, 2008

SPTC Webpage facelift

The able folks at HTB have updated the St Paul’s Theological Centre (SPTC) webpage, and I think it looks pretty cool. If anybody can think of any other suitable quotes to go at the top of the webpage, drop me a note in the comments.

I suggest a word game instead of a quote, saying “Make sense of the following: Instantly Money Chris Ministries Holy Tilling Very Really Donate or Guilty Feel”

Or perhaps: “Come to learn more about the Bible; Leave, drunk on the swill of Bultmann, having your universe demythologised to oblivion”

Or: “Read, diligently study and agree with everything penned by Tom Wright - the sure way to good grades in your New Testament modules”

Or: “Aids to patch up your flailing Sacred Canopy” (I know, I suppose that isn't funny even if you have read Peter Berger)

Or: “Free weekly live demonstrations on how not to handle the New Testament”

Or: “Don't ask the NT Tutor difficult questions that make him look stupid – he took a large dose of gamma rays as a kid and has been known to turn green”

For the Chrisendom uninitiated, I am of course kidding ... (apart from the Wright bit)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is the Pope the number 1 German theologian?

Cicero Magazine thinks so.

But their list is so off-whack it's almost offensive, so I am not taking it altogether too seriously (they put Anselm Grün on place 11 [!] ahead of Wolfhart Pannenberg and Eberhard Jüngel, on places 21 and 22 respectively!!! Enough to make me cough up my tea)

Quote of the Day

"Christian Theology is not, in its most elemental form, a terribly tame and dutiful discipline; students of theology need to be intrepid and bold, even passionate"

Mark A. McIntosh, Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Blackwell, Oxford: 2008), x

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

On what 'really happened' in the Old Testament:

"The pressing question almost everyone would agree is not, 'Did it happen?' but rather, 'Why on earth did they tell their story like that?'" (in John Holdsworth's entertaining SCM Studyguide, The Old Testament, 54)

I would simply add, in the spirit of Brueggemann, that the pressing question is also 'What on earth does their story actually say?'

Inducted into SPTC

Today in London I had the joy of being officially inducted into the staff of St Paul's Theological Centre. I can't tell you how exciting all of this is. To top it off, I returned home to find my new computer speakers, WinTV USB stick and digital aerial ... so I'm busy watching Family Guy!

My thanks to David Vinson for kindly sending me a copy of Kenton L Sparks' God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship! This looks like a hugely helpful volume on a massively important and open-ended discussion.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Book review: Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man

My thanks to the kind folk at Eerdmans for a review copy of the Gabriele Boccaccini ed. Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2007).

Given my new teaching commitments, the move to the UK, my need to finish my doctorate while holding down a full-time job etc., my book reviews will become less detailed and thorough – at least until the middle of next year. Nevertheless, I plan to accurately introduce you to some great books in the following weeks. For a perfectionist like me, it will surely be difficult to keep my comments to a minimum!

Today I wanted to draw attention to the important book noted above. I read this from cover to cover in a few days, thirsty for more knowledge on what I was slowly coming to realise was a hugely important text for early Christianity: the Similitudes of Enoch (chapters 37-71 of 1 Enoch). Most consider these chapters to have influenced at least Matthew's eschatological discourse, and a copy of the first chapters of 1 Enoch were very possibly known in the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem (as Jude 14 testifies, at least if the author of Jude is considered a member of the Jerusalem church. Bauckham thinks so: Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter [Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1983], 14–17; Bauckham, "Jerusalem," 86; Richard J. Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church [Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1990], 171–78. Whether he is right about this or not will be disputed, of course, and I refer to David R. Nienhuis' new volume Not by Paul Alone for discussion – a book on my 'to read' list). Certainly, Enochic ideas were floating around in the first century that influenced the young Christian movement, and these chapters of Enoch are a crucial window into that world of thought. And one need not accept the developed (and questionable) speculations of Margaret Barker, or such like, to swallow this pill: understanding the Similitudes of Enoch will help one better understand early Christianity. Conservatives and all others simply need to accept this. Indeed, 1 Enoch is actually still considered canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Daniel C. Olson, in Enoch: A New Translation (North Richland Hills, Tex.: BIBAL Press, 2004), details well the many ways 1 Enoch is important for understanding early Christianity in his introduction, so I refer to that for more on this subject (though, frankly, I don't see much, if any, influence of these chapters on Paul – and the supposed allusions proposed by Nickelsburg in his commentary and Anchor Bible article leave me decidedly unconvinced. At the very least, Paul was still breathing in a landscape touched by Enochic myths).

So if the above 'pill' needs to be swallowed, how does the Boccaccini volume shape up to the task of helping one better understand the issues involved in scholarly discussion on the Similitudes?

In a word: brilliantly.

This volume was the most important help for me in clarifying my thoughts on numerous fronts concerning 1 Enoch 37-71, it showed me where modern scholarly discussion is 'at' in relation to the chapters (the contributors are leading scholars in the field, including Boccaccini [bet you didn't see that one coming!], Nickelsburg, Knibb, VanderKam, John Collins, Grabbe and many others – see the full list here) and provided a number of excellent examples of scholarly acumen. Perhaps my favourite article was Matthias Henze's utterly brilliant and devastating response to an essay of the volume's editor (cf. "The Parables of Enoch in Second Temple Literature: A Response to Gabriele Boccaccini" pp. 290-98). The articles were well organised and managed to retain something of the dialogical character of the Enoch Seminar at Camaldoli, upon which the book is based, and thus made the reading experience all the more enjoyable.

Of course, in any volume like this the essays will be uneven. But instead of griping about this or that article/argument, I do want to raise one objection: there is no index in the back, not for authors, subjects or, most importantly, for the primary texts. Nicht Gut! I would also recommend that the reader not uncritically accept Sacchi's concluding summary regarding the supposed consensus concerning the dating of 1 Enoch 37-71. In other words, don't think you can read the conclusion alone!

Whether you are interested in learning more about the Similitudes of Enoch, or whether you are an Enochic scholar, there is much in the precious volume. In terms of 1 Enoch 37-71, this is, by miles, the first non-commentary book that I would recommend.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Islam researcher doubts existence of the prophet Mohammed

This ought to cause a bit of a stir!

Your favourite theology quotations

Oh pool of collective theological brilliance, what are you favourite theology quotes, ones that manage to say something profound in a punchy way?

For example: "If our faith does not stretch our minds it will probably not stretch our lives" - Mike Lloyd.

While looking on the net for similar lines I came across this slightly more cynical offering by Dawkins: "What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody?" ... which, of course, says more about his knowledge of theology than anything else!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Christologie wird bei Küng wieder neu, was sie ursprünglich einmal war: eine Suchbewegung unter der Leitfrage: Wer ist dieser? Welchen Gott verkündet er?"

Karl-Josef Kuschel in his essay "Hans Küng: Neue Horizonte des Denkens" in Hans Küng – eine Nahaufnahme, p. 57. With an impressive list of contributors and at only 10 euro, this book is what German's would call a definite schnäppchen.


My thanks to Hans Küng

For kindly sending me a copy of the new book: Hans Küng – eine Nahaufnahme. A nice touch is that it arrived in the post on my last full day in Germany, and that in the front Küng wishes Anja and I all the best for, as he puts it, 'Merry Old England'!

I haven't gotten too far into the book yet, but Karl-Josef Kuschel's chapter, "Hans Küng: Neue Horizonte des Denkens", is simply brilliant – a must read for anyone interested in Küng's work.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Guest Book Review: Pagan Christianity

Cardinal Spin* reviews Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola and George Barna.

Utter crap


* Disclaimer: The views expressed in articles published on Chrisendom are those of the authors alone. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries, or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of Her Majesty the Queen, the McDonalds restaurant chain, the Pope, or any entity of heavenly, intermediary or earthly nature. Just that of the author.


Finally back in the UK and online

After two very long car journeys, a plane flight and much hassle with my laptop, I am glad to say that I have safely arrived in the UK ready not only for my new teaching position, starting on the 16th of September, but also for the London School of Theology NT conference. I am very much looking forward to meeting folk, and I gladly have the opportunity to present and receive feedback on my own paper 4 pm tomorrow afternoon, so here is my usual request for your prayers:

Dear Lord, may all the attendees at the LST NT conference blindly love Chris' paper, and may the unrighteous, those who are tempted to disagree with his obviously anointed thesis, stub at least one toe on a desk as punishment. Amen.