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.


At 1/03/2009 1:17 AM, Anonymous Michael F. Bird said...

This very evening I've been reading through Watson's essay in Hays and Gaventa.

At 1/03/2009 1:34 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

just fyi- i finished the kirk review last week. and, as an aside, (and don't tell dan)- but i'm actually enjoying kim VERY much.

At 1/03/2009 7:34 AM, Anonymous said...

I am sometimes amazed when I think back on the fact that Kim teaches at the same school I attended because I feel like we're worlds apart. At the same time, I do look forward to reading this book (someday) because I too enjoy having my views challenged. It helps to sharpen things.

At 1/03/2009 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've put a link to your blog on mine, and I've ordered the book you mentioned about Romans, since I'm teaching it currently. I appreciate your helpful insights and observations.
Bob Leroe, a Congregational pastor north of Boston

At 1/03/2009 5:33 PM, Anonymous Nick Norelli said...

I read Placher's essay in Seeking the Identity of Jesus in honor of his memory after he passed and it was well worth it. I've yet to dive into the other essays. This is another one I can't wait for you to review so I can pass the link along to Eerdmans and act as if I did it!

At 1/03/2009 9:16 PM, Anonymous dan said...

Hey, wait, don't tell dan who??

As for this dan, I'm starting into the Kim book next week, and plan to review it this month.

At 1/04/2009 5:01 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

Is within me
And you.

At 1/07/2009 11:18 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Bob, I hope you enjoy the book! Thanks for your kind comment.

Dan, I look forward to reading your comments on that book very much.

At 1/08/2009 12:32 AM, Anonymous Purechristianithink said...

HI! We are currently at a conference led by Beverly Gaventa in Santa Fe. We will certainly let her know that your underpants are heading her way.!

At 1/08/2009 8:27 PM, Anonymous James said...

Chris - take it you have listened to these exchanges between Wright and Barclay on the theme of empire etc. ( Found out from Wright that he didn't have the chance to prepare whereas Barclay had a good couple of weeks on him - though he was very sanguine about it: "you win some, you lose some."

At 1/08/2009 10:34 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Purechristianthink, she will appreciate that!!

Hi James, yea I listened to that a while back. I remember not being very impressed by Barclay's 'tone', even if he scored a few points. His comments prompted me to avoid exaggeration in claims of 'empire' echoes in Paul, but it remains true that Paul's letters were not written in a cultural and political vacuum. What did you think of the debate?

At 1/09/2009 10:01 PM, Anonymous James said...

As I recall, Barclay did indeed land some punches - no doubt about it. But I can't remember that much about it, and the tape cut off halfway through Wright's slightly flustered response, so it was hard to make a proper assessment. The consensus was he didn't fare too well. You don't think he might be human after all, do you?

My fear for some NT scholars in the Paul & Empire stuff is that there's more than a whiff of a Marxist agenda driving some of them, especially Horsley (whose polemic against the 'cult of Christmas' in final chapter of "Religion & Empire" could have been written by Trotsky). And financial turmoil etc. will be be putting lots more wind in their sails in the years ahead. Not that a political agenda necessarily makes for bad scholarship, but that's another discussion!

Wright is not caught up in that of course, but they prove useful allies to him when he takes his NT hat off and critiques US foreign policy etc. Besides, the NPP controversies, to which this issue is only tangentially related, is surely generating enough debate for him to be getting on with!

At 1/10/2009 3:13 AM, Anonymous dan said...

Of course, to be fair to the Marxists, some of their agendas are pretty damn admirable... like, oh, trying to eliminate social structures that rob the poor in order to further the wealth of the rich. That Marxist goal has more than a whiff of Jesus' agenda attached to it! (Which, of course, is why a fellow like Zizek can assert that Christians and Marxists should be on the same side of the barricades.)

As for Trotsky, while I don't agree with all that he has to say, I'll take him over Friedman and the Chicago School any day (as, indeed, I think most Christians would... if they actually sat down to educate themselves about these things).

At 1/10/2009 2:15 PM, Anonymous James said...

Absolutely: there are many elements within the Marxist critique which are right on the money (so to speak). This is because Marxism is Christianity's prodigal son. But until it gets its nose out of the trough of secularised eschatologies, Pelagian confidence in the proletariat, historical determinism and chronic anti-theism (to mention a handful), it ain't ever coming home.

Recent events are breathing new confidence into the left's assault on the Chicago School. But it seems to me that - at the very least - both Marxism and the Chicago School (i) presuppose a strikingly similar anthropology (socio-economic units acting predictably, pawns of the collective and market respectively), (ii) share an equally indifferent attitude to the transcendent which leads to (iii) full-blown idolatry of, respectively, state/state leaders and market/market commodities. Each of these
is fundamentally at odds with the Christian position.

At 1/10/2009 10:57 PM, Anonymous dan said...


Fair enough although, to be fair to our Marxist friends (again), it is worth noting that a good chunk of contemporary post-Marxist social theory has gotten its 'nose' out of the various 'troughs' that you have identified (indeed, a good chunk of Marxism was never really deeply committed to some of those things).

However, all of that is rather tangential to the issue at hand -- that of how we are to respond to those who dabble in both Marxism and biblical scholarship.

So, given that we have both identified that there are positive elements within Marxism, I wonder why you react with fear to the whiff or Marxism that you sense in scholars like Horsley.

At 1/11/2009 12:17 PM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

I'm curious about Dale C. Allison's essay in the book, Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage.

Allison told me he was currently working on a book on the historical Jesus (an apocalyptic Jesus).

As for the other book you mentioned, on the Book of Romans, how does anyone take the book of Romans seriously?

Paul compares non-believing human beings to "pots of dishonor" ("chamber pots") CREATED that way by God.

Paul in Rom. 5 says, "For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many... The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."

"All the more?" People still sin and die, even Christian people. So by what stretch of Paul's imagination has "grace abounded all the more?" I'd call such speech typical blind hyperbole spoken by a religious indoctrinator.

Paul damns people who burn after people of the same sex. (To Paul apparently all sexual desire involved burning in a negative sense, and hence his faint praise of marriage, "it is better to marry than to burn.")

And let's not forget Paul's failure as a prophet in this same letter:

"...The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is soon [mello] to be revealed to us... The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now... We...groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. ...Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed! The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand... The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. [Rom 8:18,22-23; 13:11-12; 16:20]

So what is "Romans" but a Chick tract of its era, attempting to indoctrinate people, scare them into believing they will be chamber pots unless they convert, and that they ought to convert soon, because the final judgment was so near?

At 1/11/2009 12:47 PM, Anonymous James said...

All of those elements are central to Marx’s vision, and indeed require one another if that vision is to be understood as a coherent one: they are definitional to Marxism. His 20thC followers developed their own peculiar emphases, but for all the diversity of Marxism in practice, its outcome has been universally catastrophic for mankind in general and Christians in particular.

As an analyst and critic of late modern capitalism, Marx is without parallel in secular thought. But the tabloid headlines which followed Rowan Williams’ recent affirmation of him in this context ("Archbishop: Marx Was Right All Along!") show how crucial it is that this distinction is not only drawn, but seen to be drawn.

I hope I never react with “fear” to anyone else’s views (well, maybe Trotsky's): if one’s thinking is challenged, this should be welcomed as bringing one a potentially truer picture of the world. I'm all for that kind of dialectic at least.

Horsley exhilarates and concerns me in equal measure: he exhilarates me because I believe he is forging a reading of the New Testament generative of a fresh and faithful declaration of Christian truth to pagan power; he concerns me because I think he sometimes relies on resources which are extrinsic - if not antithetical - to the New Testament in order to do so.


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