Thursday, January 29, 2009

A huge thanks!

To Jim West for kindly sending me a copy of Bultmann's commentary on the Gospel of John!

Fantastic! Bye bye the borrowing of library copies! By the way, new does not necessarily mean better in the world of bible commentaries. Bultmann's commentary on John is widely considered a real classic.

I recently heard Rowan Williams say that 2 Corinthians is closest, of Paul's letters, to the theology of John's Gospel. Indeed! It is not an accident that Bultmann wrote a stonking commentary on 2 Corinthians, perhaps his very best.

All this means of course: I ought to say something nice about Zwingli today.

'I suppose Zwingli gave it his best shot, bless him'

There ya go.

Another memorable theological proposition

OK, so I'm stretching the genre of this series to include the following!

'[T]he original gospel message was about the temple, not the corrupted temple of Jesus' own time, but the original temple which had been destroyed some six hundred years earlier ... The Book of Revelation is the key to understanding early Christianity ... Melchizedek represented the older faith ... Jesus as Melchizedek can now be seen as the key to the New testament'

Margaret Barker, Temple Theology: An Introduction, pp. 1, 4-5

Just a thought: Barker often writes interchangeably of the 'mindmap' of the temple and the 'worldview' of the early Christians, as if they were essentially synonymous. However, is a mindmap, while it may be part of a worldview, sufficient to form a worldview itself (especially as I suspect Barker's temple theology tends to neglect a necessary focus on the crucial matter of 'story' in constructing worldviews)?

Guest Book Review by David M. Moffitt

My thanks to Brill for a review copy of Hebrews: Contemporary Methods—New Insights. BINS 75. Edited by Gabriella Gelardini. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Thanks also to David for another insightful review. Again, before I hand over I should note that the Greek font used is SPIonic.


The general trend to read the texts of the New Testament as works that belong within the pale of Second Temple Jewish literature, and thus more and more against the background of a Jewish milieu, has largely left the subset of Hebrews scholarship unaffected. I have no wish in this brief review to impose a reductionistic dichotomy between Judaism and Hellenism. Nevertheless, to paint with a broad brush, it seems to me that the world of Hebrews scholarship has remained happy to assume that, if any New Testament text can be considered pervasively influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy, rhetoric, and culture—surely this is it. Hebrews, many believe, represents a kind of Philo-like fusion between early Palestinian Jewish proclamation about Jesus and the bigger world of the Hellenized diaspora. As a result, a great number of assumptions about the cosmology, Christology, soteriology, and eschatology of the document have largely remained insulated from the sea change going on in the rest of the New Testament canon. Hebrews: Contemporary Methods—New Insights (now available in an affordable paperback edition) is one of a handful of recent publications containing hints suggesting that even the inlet of Hebrews studies is starting to be affected by the turning of the tide.

I cannot here detail all the essays in this volume. For a more thorough survey of the contents of the book see that of C. Patrick Gray in RBL:,2272,4895,2150,1059,6070,6966,5102,5445,5732. Instead, I will highlight two essays illustrative of what I consider to be some of the book's contributions vis-à-vis the kind of change alluded to above.

The volume's very first essay by Ekkehard and Wolfgang Stegemann is entitled "Does the Cultic Language in Hebrews Represent Sacrificial Metaphors? Reflections on Some Basic Problems" (pp. 13–23). In this piece the brothers Stegemann helpfully remind us that, "[D]ue to our epistemological paradigm, the sacrifice of Christ can a priori be ruled out as a potential historical referent [for the language of Jesus' heavenly offering], since from the perspective of our worldview heaven is no place for historical events" (p. 15). In other words, our modern worldview makes it easy for us to assume that the use of cultic and heavenly language in Hebrews to describe Jesus' salvific work "must be theological and metaphorical" (p. 17). The Stegemanns carefully note that they are not offering a detailed discussion of theories of metaphor (p. 14). Rather, they wish to point out to us that Hebrews scholarship has often used the language of metaphor in opposition to that of real, historical, objective representation. There is what actually happened (Jesus was crucified), and there is the metaphorical language of sacrifice and heaven used by the author to create the spiritual/existential significance of the earthly event. All of this looks like the sort of thing we might expect from a good Platonist after all.

The Stegemanns' essay is more a word of caution than a constructive proposal for how we should then read Hebrews. Yet, their brief word of exhortation offers us an opportunity to demythologize some of our own assumptions. What if, for example, the author of Hebrews does not imagine himself as interpreting the real, earthly event of Jesus' death by way of appeal to a spiritualization of the cultic practices depicted in Jewish scripture? What if he is not speaking in terms of metaphors (where the language of "metaphor" is understood along the reductionistic lines that the Stegemanns, rightly in my view, think many scholars intend when they use it)? What if, as those at Qumran seem to have thought, the author believes that there really exists a heavenly tabernacle (that Moses really saw), that there really is a heavenly liturgy and throne, and that Jesus really went to that place? It is not clear that a relatively orthodox Platonist would think this way, though a Jew with apocalyptic leanings just might. The Stegemanns do not develop their point in this direction. It seems to me, however, that their critique of our implicit assumptions at least provides a little space for us to try to reimagine the message of the homily along the lines of Jews who read their scriptures more like the apocalyptic writers than like Philo.

The second essay I want to highlight is that of Christian Eberhart entitled "Characteristics of Sacrificial Metaphors in Hebrews" (pp. 37–64). As the title suggests, Eberhart approaches the depiction of Jesus' death in Hebrews in terms of a metaphorical appeal to the sacrificial system. Yet, relying largely on his own massive research into Hebrew sacrificial practices, he encourages us to take the biblical accounts of sacrifice more seriously in order to clarify what the content of a metaphorical appeal to those practices might be. The first half of his essay provides readers with a concise summary of his own work and the backdrop against which it stands. One of his claims is that the Jewish scriptures do not identify the climax of a sacrificial act with the slaughter of the victim (p. 49). Rather, the offering, i.e., the bringing of the sacrificial blood (or other materials) into the presence of God, is where the effectual benefits of the act are obtained. Referring to the purifying/atoning results of blood sacrifices, Eberhart points out, "[T]his purification would not happen if the animal of, e.g., a sin offering were to be slaughtered without the subsequent blood application rite being carried out" (p. 58). In such cases the death of the victim is a sine qua non for the blood rite, but "the moment of slaughter as such … has no particular significance" (ibid.). One of the interpretive payoffs for Eberhart is that the references in Hebrews to Jesus' blood can be more clearly understood as emphasizing Jesus' death as the prerequisite for salvation. The term "sacrifice" can then be seen as referring to more than just the crucifixion. That is, in keeping with Hebrews' own logic, the sacrifice of Jesus should be seen to be inclusive of his death and "transition from earth to heaven where he now serves as the heavenly high priest" (p. 64).

As an exercise in pushing us to think seriously about the ways sacrifice probably worked, or at least is depicted in the Jewish scriptures, Eberhart does us a great service and helps us begin to think through the Jewish milieu of Hebrews afresh. It is not uncommon for interpreters to conceive of Hebrews as an attempt to map the death and ascension of Jesus onto the two supposedly great moments of Yom Kippur—the slaughter/death of the victim and the offering of its blood. The work of Eberhart, however, challenges this conception of Yom Kippur. There was only one great moment—the presentation of the blood. In light of Eberhart's work, I find it interesting that the preferred verb for Jesus' priestly action in Hebrews is prosfe/rw (prospherō – meaning "to offer, present") and never qusia/zw (thusiazō – meaning "to sacrifice"). Eberhart, unfortunately in my view, translates the verb prosfe/rw with the gloss "sacrifice." Let me be clear that this is probably more an issue of English rendering than the Greek per se, but if the emphasis in Yom Kippur really does fall on the presentation of the sacrifice (where "sacrifice" is a noun) and not the act of slaughter, then it seems more accurate to bring prosfe/rw into English as "to offer/present," than as "to sacrifice." To sacrifice (especially oneself) in contemporary English parlance calls to mind an act that brings about death and connotes all kinds of things that may actually muddy the point being made by the author of Hebrews (and brings too much of Paul into Hebrews to boot). Some translations are more careful about this (e.g., the RSV), though some, like the NIV, prefer to gloss prosfe/rw as "to sacrifice" and thereby leave English readers with the impression that Jesus sacrifices himself in Hebrews. In fact, Jesus always offers himself to God (i.e., he is never the subject of the verb qusia/zw in Hebrews), and, interestingly, when the author speaks explicitly about where this occurred, he locates it in heaven.

I realize I may be accused of hair splitting (and that many will likely want to challenge some of my previous comments by pointing to passages like 10:5-10), but, while the semantic domains of these two Greek words overlap to a high degree in cultic contexts, the very evidence Eberhart deduces about the high point of blood sacrifices being the presentation of the blood before God may suggest that the author of Hebrews is more careful in thinking through the relationship between Jesus' death and Jesus' ascension/priestly activity in heaven and Yom Kippur than is generally assumed. In keeping with my comments above, perhaps we ought to take Hebrews' language of Jesus' offering himself, his body, and his blood, which incidentally is the agent of life in Leviticus, not death (a point that Eberhart notes; cf. another essay in the volume, that of Ina Willi-Plein, "Some Remarks on Hebrews form the Viewpoint of Old Testament Exegesis," [pp. 25-35, esp. 33]), in heaven more seriously. Perhaps, that is, what Jesus does in heaven is, very much in keeping with the biblical account of Yom Kippur, far more important for atonement in Hebrews than the crucifixion.

Space already fails me to say more. My own views on the points I raise above are being hashed out in my dissertation (a very brief abstract may be viewed here: Suffice it to say that Gelardini has compiled a volume of interesting and engaging essays, and I am grateful to Brill for publishing it. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about some of the current issues being debated in Hebrews scholarship.

David M. Moffitt

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Guest book review: Misquoting Truth

My thanks both to IVP for a copy of Timothy Paul Jones's Misquoting Truth. A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and to Samuel Ciszuk for his review.

With the basic teachings of Christianity more or less constantly under fire and its demise proclaimed by a multitude of experts for what seems to be a host of different reasons for decades –at least here in the West, one should by now have expected inflation in the appeal of books proclaiming the end of Christianity being nigh. Perhaps at least one should expect people in general and Christians in particular to have become blasé by alarmism and approach their critics a bit more sceptically and patiently. Not so, it seems, as those attacking the validity of Christianity's basic tenets still seem to have a huge opportunity to impact believers', who allow their doubts to be fed and the carpet of trust in the basic tenets of their faith being pulled from underneath them, while not applying at least the same level of questioning against the critics themselves as they apply to their own faith.

One who did not panic when faced with serious questions, but paused for thought and then wrote a book to answer some of the latest claims of fallacy levied against the New Testament (NT), is Timothy Paul Jones, who in his "Misquoting Truth, A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus" (2007, IVP Books), gives a strong defence against claims from a fellow textual criticism scholar, Bart Ehrman. Ehrman claims that so many mistakes have entered the NT and so many different versions have been put together, that the NT of today has very little in common with what the eyewitnesses of Jesus and the apostles originally wrote. His book "Misquoting Jesus", made discussions within the highly technical field of textual criticism accessible to lay readers, explaining much of the field's intricacies, while forcefully putting forth his revisionist thesis about the validity of the NT and his –to the lay reader often shocking claim- that "there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the NT". Because of Ehrman's accessibility, his book became something as rare for a textual criticism tome as a bestseller, thereby taking the place as perhaps the only book on the subject read by many a believer -struggling to deal with the book's message- or indeed un-believers, inoculating them safely from coming to view the Bible as any reliable source of truth and authority. Jones' "Misquoting Truth" therefore fills a deeply needed void, in that it continues on Ehrman's path in making textual criticism even more accessible to readers without formal theological schooling, while systematically addressing the allegations of textual fallacy raised by Ehrman.

Jones does not spare energy on gracefully meeting Ehrman's contentions head on, chapter by chapter allowing Ehrman to speak for himself through numerous and often lengthy quotations, before attempting to paint a picture of what actually more-or-less is the broad consensus among scholars and going through the evidence which testifies against Ehrman's claims. Jones goes through the facts surrounding the original NT manuscripts in chapter 1, placing them into their historical context and also explaining how they were handled in the early church. In chapter 2 he delves into an assessment of the copyists, who copied and preserved the original texts, describing their stringent standards and meeting Ehrman's questioning of their abilities. In chapter 3 Jones meets Ehrman's criticism about the truthfulness of the Gospel full on, exposing the flaws in his reasoning and laying bare the facts which actually are widely agreed upon within the international body of NT contextual criticism scholars. First in chapter 4 does Jones takes his argument further, from defending the NT against Ehrman's charge and into scrutinising Ehrman's questions themselves, demonstrating how they seem bourn out of a will to find fault with the Gospel, rather then out of a fair will do research eventual textual discrepancies. In the second part of the book, Jones outlines and introduces the concept of oral history, the Gospels' authors, the concept of historical eyewitness testimony and how the books now forming the NT were originally chosen, in their respective chapters, informing and educating the reader, while continuing to undermine the basis for the relevance of Bart Ehrman's questions. The book is finally tied up with some more personal remarks from the author, tying his personal journey through theology and contextual criticism in with Bart Ehrman's and reflecting on their respective different outcomes.

Throughout the book, Jones meets Ehrman's charges of fallacy against the NT in a highly gracious way. Perhaps he is even too gracious, given how successfully he appears to not only defend the NT, but also expose Ehrman's questions as being the wrong questions -posed out of an initial will to discredit the relevance of the Gospel, and therefore exploiting a lack of detailed knowledge among readers in order to seem relevant, rather then to base them on anything even remotely close to objectively defined problems.

While successfully meeting a large swathe of charges against the validity and trustworthiness of the NT, the book is also a wonderfully easy and concise introduction to the history, background and treatment of the Gospels, as well as the field of contextual criticism. It is full of "fact sheets" and "know more"-boxes, for everyone needing to get a quick background on everything from parchment, to characters like Marcion of Sionpe. The will to make all jargon and terms understandable to all is perhaps taken too far occasionally, slowing down the narrative somewhat. Also, I might have found the narrative a little bit too personal and chatty at times, although that arguably is a question of taste. While, luckily, not all of us have struggled with these issues, I would clearly recommend the book to everyone. Not having given these issues any particular attention, I was rapidly drawn in by the book and it is my firm belief that any reader's respect for the Gospel and for the early Christians will be strengthened by it.

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Another memorable theological proposition

"Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens"

James Dominic Crossan on Luke 24:13-32 in Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography.

Again, I'm not saying it is agreeable, simply memorable!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Guest Book Review: Martin Hengel's Die vier Evangelien

My thanks to Dr Thomas Scott Caulley, of Tübingen's Institut zur Erforschung des Urchristentums, for the following superb review of Martin Hengel's, Die vier Evangelien und das eine Evangelium von Jesus Christus, WUNT 224, Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2008. Before I hand over to Scott, I would point out that the Greek font used in the review is SPIonic, which can be downloaded here.

This work is an expansion of Hengel's book, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ (SCM/TPI, 2000). The new volume is a re-working of the Vorlage from which The Four Gospels was translated, "um über 40 prozent auf den jetzigen Umfang". Both volumes are dedicated to Hengel's long-time translator and friend, John Bowden, who translated The Four Gospels. Some of this material has roots in Hengel's earlier work, including on the Gospel titles and John's Gospel.

While Hengel engages with the latest scholarship, this book is more than just an updating of the literature. The new section VII.2, "Die 'Minor Agreements' zwischen Lukas and Matthäus gegen Markus", is significant. The previous section VII.1 ("Das Rätsel 'Q'") includes changes which transition to the new material. On the other hand, most of the additions are supplemental to the overall argument, which remains unchanged.

Hengel begins with a two-part problem: (1) What is the relationship between the early Christian understanding of "Gospel" as the preached message (Paul); to the written "biographical" reports of the four Gospels, and how can both of these represent the same title ("Gospel")? (2) How is it that we possess these written "Gospels" in a four-fold form, which though canonical, presents us with several contradictions? He restates the problem in two overlapping questions: (A) "What was the 'Gospel' originally, as the message of salvation? Was it accounts of Jesus from his closest followers, or was it teaching about him as "christology" and "soteriology"? Or is this only an apparent contradiction? Must not the Gospel have necessarily contained both from the beginning? (B) Why, and from what time have we had the "Gospel" also as story (Erzählung), and indeed in such different literary forms?

Hengel's answer to these questions leads to the conclusion that the gospel was both "proclamation" and "story". He points to proclamation in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, but notes that "story" was not totally absent in Paul. The "narrated Gospel" is most important in the case of Peter, whom Hengel believes stands firmly behind Mark's Gospel. Finally, Hengel compares the Gospel to the Torah, two examples of the "Erzählung des Heilsgeschehens".

Hengel defends a traditional "slow-growth" theory of the development of the four-Gospel collection, against recent attempts to redefine that development as "punctiliar" (variously, T. Heckel; D. Trobisch). He faults H. Gamble (Books and Readers) among others for perpetuating the old assumption that the Gospels were circulated as anonymous documents—Hengel thinks the titles were necessarily present once the Gospels began circulating. "Jedes schriftliche Evangelium braucht den Nachweis der Autorität, die dahinter steht". The reception of Mark's Gospel in Rome, the congregation which emerged as de facto leader of the Christian west after the destruction of Jerusalem and Neronian persecution, marks the transition from the use of the term "Gospel" as preached message to written document.

Hengel's detailed account of the first Christian "book cupboards" is integral to his argument. As book titles met the needs of the libraries, scriptoria and book shops of hellenism, the titles of the Gospels were functional necessities in the church from early on. Hengel notes what others have pointed out, namely that in the manner of ascription, the titles of the Gospels break with convention found throughout the hellenistic world. This usual form is the genitive of the author's name, followed by the title of the work. Indeed, this conventional form is used with the Catholic epistles (Pe/trou e)pistolh/ A). The apparently unprecedented Kata\ Ma/rkon, etc. as ascriptive title is a shortened form, presupposing the collection title, "The Gospel(s)". The short titles within the collection should thus be rendered: "(The Gospel) in the version according to Mark", or "Luke", etc. But since "der eigentliche 'Autor' des einen Evangeliums war Jesus Christus selbst", the ascription to the "human author" in the genitive is inappropriate, and we find instead in Mark 1:1, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ". Thus, the title of the work cannot read simply "Ma/rkou eu)agge/lion", as convention would dictate, and the double genitive Ma/rkou eu)agge/lion )Ihsou~ Xristou~ would be stylistically very awkward.

Hengel argues for the priority of Luke over Matthew. He sees in the Lukanischen Doppelwerk the work of a "direct" Paulusschüler as well as Pauline companion. Acts cannot have been written a long time after Paul. Where would an anonymous 2nd century author have acquired the historical details in Acts which are largely confirmed by a comparison to Paul's epistles? The "We" sections in Acts are not from an unknown source, but are autobiographical reports in the same style as the entire work. Citing Luke's Passion narrative with Jesus' admonition about the coming catastrophe (Lk 23:28-31), Hengel asserts that the author of Luke must have experienced those days, after which he also was involved in the disputes with fanatical Christians over the imminent expectation of the Parousia.

In the last part of the work Hengel outlines his case that Matthew is the latest of the Synoptics, and dependent upon both Mark and Luke. In general, Matthew reflects the Jewish War only where he inherits the material from Mark. On the other hand, like John Matthew reflects the later development of the Christian argument with the Synagogue that emerged as stronger after the war. Matthew presupposes the post-70 emergence of the Pharisaic Scribe as preeminent religious authority in Palestine, a situation reflected throughout the Gospel, but especially in Matthew 23 (the hendiadys "Scribes and Pharisees", and Matthew's special material "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so do what they say, but not what they do..."). The trinitarian formula of Matt 28:19 suggests a relatively late time of writing. Finally, next to John's Gospel Matthew presupposes the furthest development of the polemic between Jews and Christians. Hengel adds a section here not found in The Four Gospels expanding his argument for the early date of Luke-Acts. In closing, Hengel cites the irony that the two "non-apostolic" Gospels are the earlier of the four, and closely linked to the apostles. The other two are later, and bear the apostolic names with which they were provided. Once a Gospel had been identified as apostolic, all subsequent Gospels must also be apostolic.

Hengel builds a plausible case for the origins of the reception of the Gospels in the early churches. He notes that in hellenistic contexts, under certain circumstances a well-known pseudepigraphical name was given to a document so that it would not be anonymous. It is suggested that the first Gospel received its title in this manner. But this solutions begs the question, Who made such decisions, and how did they become nearly universally accepted, and, seemingly "over night"? The argument, "once a Gospel had been identified as apostolic, all subsequent Gospels must also be apostolic" seems a bit contrived. Was this not rather merely a function of advancing time and changing needs of the communities?

While Hengel makes an impressive case for the early superscription of titles to the Gospels, pushing the events back into early obscurity does not ultimately answer the questions about the remarkable uniformity of the Gospel titles, the near-universal popularity of the codex in Christian circles, and the seemingly universal use of the nomina sacra in early Christian texts. In fact, Hengel's argument against D. Trobisch (that "the Vierversammlung cannot have been the work of an individual Christian authority or school, since no person, no school, and no congregation in the early 2nd century possessed the authority and power to impose on everyone else their individual decision about a four-Gospel collection") appears to work against his own case. While we owe Prof. Hengel a great debt for illuminating the events and possible motivations behind the development of the four-Gospel collection, the search continues for more complete answers to these basic questions about the early Christians and their scriptures.

Thomas Scott Caulley

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another memorable theological proposition

'We have relationships; God is the relations that he has'

Nicholas Lash Believing Three Ways in One God: A Reading of the Apostles' Creed (London: SCM, 1992), 32

By the way, I am simply suggesting that these propositions are memorable, not necessarily agreeable!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beyond lost immediacy

My bible reading used to be motivated by a strong sense of immediacy, an expectation that God would speak to me in a direct, obvious and practical way. It was this sense that kept me going back to the bible again and again; I could read it an 'hear God' directly speak into every detail of my life in a no-nonsense one-on-one way.

But like so many Christians who enjoy probing their faith and chewing on difficult questions, one can quickly lose such early, for want of a better word, naivety. And then reading the bible suddenly becomes far more complex and the clear waters that used to so profoundly inspire become muddied. It is like outgrowing the excitement of Christmas morning, waking up on the 25th December without that expected magical feeling. And not only is the bible then left on the shelf, the good book can even become the source of great annoyance! Indeed, some, as a result of this process, turn into outspoken sceptics. Not all of course. Others press in and through their questions (and sometimes faith-crises) to Ricoeur's 'second naiveté', one that does not ignore but is profoundly shaped by the critical phase. For those of you who recognise what I am getting at, I would be interested to hear how you managed to reengage the bible with pleasure. How did you relearn a love for the bible? What changed about your vocabulary, thinking, expectations? Any thoughts?

Another memorable theological proposition

Religion ist Unglaube; Religion ist eine Angelegenheit, man muß geradezu sagen: die Angelegenheit des gottlosen Menschen

Karl Barth, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, I/2 §17, p.327

The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary Pt. 4 of 4

With all my Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary talk of late I am glad to announce a special offer for all Chrisendom readers (previously offered here). You can purchase the AYBD and download it right at a 30% discount! Simply add the coupon code YALE, and hey presto.

Actually, I am reminded of A.J. Jacobs' quest to read the whole of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, documented in his book The Know-It-All. It would be quite the New Year's Resolution to try to read the whole of the AYBD in a year or two... Dan could no doubt read it in a week or two, but the rest of us would manage it (and all its 6,000 plus articles) at just over 8 articles a day for two years!

Thanks again to the kind folk at Logos for the review copy.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary Pt. 3 of 4

Classic lines of wisdom from the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary:

'The real value of LXX resides not so much in its function as a corrective to some Hebrew text of which we have a copy, but rather as a record of the way in which a group of Jews in the 3d century and for some time thereafter understood their traditions. In the pre-Christian centuries, there was wide textual variety as is evidenced in the discoveries of materials both in Palestine and Egypt, and thus it is well established that the parent texts (and certainly the translators) for each book of the LXX were probably different. It is also quite clear that the revisional activity which took place after Origen was in fact taking place long before his time, both on the Hebrew and Greek texts. Thus, while 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. Ulrich 1988). Even more reprehensible is the widespread practice of assuming that the text of one uncial represents LXX. It has been shown that the character of B, the ms most often mistaken for LXX, is by no means consistent throughout. In Daniel, for instance, it witnesses to the text of Theodotion' (Melvin K. H. Peters' article, "Septuagint" in AYBD, 5:1100)

Lines like that can forever change how we make comments on the supposed LXX reading of the MT. Reread and inoculate yourself against many a fallacious argument!

'Intelligible as the thesis might seem—a priori—that Christianity adopted the worship of Jesus to the extent that it abandoned exclusive Jewish monotheism under the influence of the pagan environment, the evidence does not bear it out. On the contrary, it indicates that from the NT period onwards Christians held to exclusive monotheism as tenaciously as they did to the worship of Jesus, because both features were already definitive of Christian worship when it emerged from its original Jewish context into the pagan world' (Richard Bauckham's article "The Worship of Jesus" in AYBD, 3:816)

Yes, Bauckham's position is disputed – by people who are more or less wrong. This classic article is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the shape of early Christology.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Things not to say

When you first meet your fiancés mum:

  2. What nice false teeth you have

When you have an audience with the Pope:

  1. Avoid any word beginning with 'F' in case Mr Tourette smashes you on the head with the ill fated tongue slip hammer

When you go for an interview at a Bible college:

  1. That your motto is "if anything can be stuffed in a pipe, I'll smoke it"

By the way, my previous post was number 1,111 - interestingly the same number of words Zwingli could say in one belch (he was the world champion at the time, even preached whole sermons in one long burp - at least this is what his congregation believed was happening)


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Moving home is a time black hole

Found a flat in London at last and having signed the contract we spent our first night here yesterday. This has meant moving all the stuff again and has consequently swallowed time as only moving can. But I've never lived so close to central London before, just a few miles away from Big Ben, and even closer to St Paul's Theological Centre. Hugely exciting, especially as I can settle into church life properly now at Holy Trinity Brompton, not to mention save hours a week on travelling.

Oh yes, Jim Pest Breast Crest Vest Infest Jest West is coming to London tomorrow, so Anja and I thought we should head off to the train station, pick him up and make sure he gets on the plane back to the States. For the sake of all England. I've also already spiritually cleansed the new flat so I might have a go at shifting that spirit-of-Bultmann-heresy from him with some holy water, while we have a cup of tea. (If you don't cleanse the flat first, the spirit may escape West but lodge into any random object in the house, and manifest to scare the daylights out of you just when you don't have a Tom Wright book to hand to thwack it out the window). Pity Anja didn't agree to the Bishop Wright portrait wallpaper, duvet and marble bust...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Three cheers for Eerdmans

Arriving in the post from the kind folk at Eerdmans were a few surprises this Christmas, ones that gave me serious palpitations of excitement as, apart from the last, I just wasn't expecting them.

  1. Seyoon Kim, Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2008). Kim argues, against Wright, Crossan and co, that an anti-imperial interpretation is actually unlikely. I look forward to reading this exciting contribution and having my own views challenged. It simply makes sense to me that some of Paul's important language would have naturally struck cords in people's minds concerning the empire, and that this was no accident on Paul's part. Kim may just change my mind on how, or even whether, I see this happening. Of course, he may not and I am not altogether convinced of the rather mathematical approach he takes to the Damascus Road experience and Paul's theology, but Kim is a scholar of considerable standing so I expect to be challenged and to learn a lot reading this new book.
  2. Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Hays Richard B., eds, Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2008). This one arrived, together with the next, this morning. If I were one of those crazed teenage girls at a rock concert when the star walk on the stage, I would have screamed and thrown my underpants at this book! Flippin awesome! Instantly go and look at the contributors and the titles of their essays!
  3. J. R. Daniel Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2008). I already started this after it arrived this morning as I have been really looking forward to it. Jim West is reviewing it on his blog at the moment too. Reading the first chapter I found myself punching the air with an internal 'yeeeeeeeesssss' with his remarks about the sort of questions to which Romans seeks to provide the answer. I will no doubt agree with much in this book and learn even more. His general proposals in the first chapter are delightfully resonant with my own instincts and stance on various matters, which is always nice. I am really looking forward to downing this one. My pencil has already scribbled notes all over the place in the margins and lines. It has become my official bedtime reading, actually. It is the book I most want to read at the mo.