Saturday, July 4, 2015

An Intriguing Forthcoming Paul Book

In the fall, November, to be precise, will mark the release of a book that all students and scholars of Paul should be made aware. A. Chadwick Thornhill's The Chosen People Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism, a revision of a doctoral thesis written at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, will be published by InterVarsity Press.

Here reads the description:

One of the central touchstones of Second Temple Judaism is election. The Jews considered themselves a people set apart for God’s special purpose. So it is not surprising that this concept plays such an important role in Pauline theology. In this careful and provocative study, Chad Thornhill considers how Second Temple understandings of election influenced key Pauline texts. Thornhill seeks to establish the thought patterns of the ancient texts regarding election, with sensitivity to social, historical and literary factors. He carefully considers questions of "extent" (ethnic/national or remnant), the relationship to the individual (corporate or individual in focus), and the relationship to salvation (divine/human agency and the presence of "conditions"). Thornhill looks at the markers or conditions that defined various groups, and considers whether election was viewed by ancient authors as merited, given graciously or both. Thorough and measured, the author contends that individual election is not usually associated with a "soteriological" status but rather with the quality of the individual (or sometimes group) in view—the collective entity is in view in the Jewish notion of election. While Paul is certainly able to move beyond these categories, Thornhill shows how he too follows these patterns.

Here are the endorsements:

In what may be the best book yet written on early Jewish and Christian concepts of election, Chad Thornhill provides clear and compelling evidence for the view that election in early Jewish and Christian circles was both corporate and conditional, and that the focus of election language was not on the salvation of particular individuals from before the foundations of the world. In short, election and salvation were not synonymous terms in either early Judaism or the writings of Paul. Thornhill covers a wide swath of early Jewish material and convincingly situates Paul's discussion—especially Rom 9–11—within it. Thornhill's careful and compelling exposition should be a game changer in the age-old battles over the relationship of God's unconditional love and choice of a people and the issue of human freedom when it comes to the matter of individual salvation—Ben Witherington III, Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

The welcome emphasis on Jewish backgrounds that now permeates the field of New Testament scholarship has rekindled a number of traditional discussions surrounding Pauline theology. Among the most illuminating developments is a renewed interest in the notion of corporate election. Based on evidence from the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature, many scholars now insist that the time-worn debate over the relative importance of divine sovereignty versus human responsibility in God's salvific economy must be reframed in collectivist—rather than individualist—terms. The challenge, of course, is to appropriate these background materials in a way that (1) makes sense of the particularity of Paul's social location while (2) still supporting a close reading of the apostle's letters. Chad Thornhill's book is a welcome contribution to the conversation on both counts. Thornill thoroughly surveys Second Temple Jewish thinking about election and then interprets key Pauline texts against this background. Those interested in a fresh and intriguing solution to a familiar theological puzzle will find much to think about in these well-written pages.—Joe Hellerman, professor of New Testament language and literature, Talbot School of Theology 

The book will retail for $35 and will weigh in at 336 pages.

In addition, Thornhill has a website, which includes his original dissertation, To the Jew First: A Socio-Historical and Biblical-Theological Analysis of the Pauline Teaching of ‘Election’ in Light of Second Temple Jewish Patterns of Thought.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Johan Christiaan Beker and the Quote of the Day

I found this quote by the great New Testament scholar, Johan Christiaan Beker, both timely and sobering, especially in light of the events of the past week:

It seems to me that, above all else, personal integrity is the necessary condition for the whole theological enterprise. Integration without integrity degenerates into a facile communal consensus; the exploration of the New Testament text without integrity leads to surrendering the truth of the text. Without personal integrity, the student and pastor will sell out either to an opportunistic hermeneutic that looks for ways to satisfy the demands of the marketplace, or to a anachronistic, fundamentalistic hermeneutic that lacks the courage to adapt the text to the current concerns of the world. Integrity requires the courage to be controversial, to face conflict whenever the gospel demands it ("Integration and Integrity in New Testament Studies"; Christian Century, 109 (17); 1992; 515-17, here, 517).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thomas Boomershine and the Quote of the Day

Thomas E. Boomershine, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and of Christianity and Communications at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, has a fantastic quote in his new book, The Messiah of Peace: A Performance-Criticism Commentary on Mark's Passion-Resurrection Narrative (Cascade) on the importance of hearing a story performed orally and what is missed by the modern practice of silent reading and the distance of the reader from the narrative.

He states:
One of the reasons why hearing the story rather than reading it in silence makes a difference is that the storyteller narrates the events and the words of the characters in a tone communicating more than factual information, and draws listeners into identification with characters who may be outwardly different. Full engagement with sympathetic identification with the characters of the story is fully possible also with silent reading if readers are attentive to and psychologically open to the clues to the storyteller's invitation. But if readers maintain a high degree of psychological distance in the reading of the story, its actually meaning can become virtually the opposite of the intended meaning, communicated inherently in the structure of the story. The source of that distance, therefore, may be a change either in the self-identity of the listener( from identifying oneself in the post-war first century as Hellenistic Judean to identifying oneself in the post-Nicea fourth century as a Christian) or in the psychological distance to the story(sympathetic hearing to critical silent reading) or both in combination. But, regardless of the cause of this shift, the story can undergo a radical transformation in its meaning. Thus, the story of the man and the woman in the garden can change, especially for male readers and theologians, fro meaning 'we violated God's covenant and our effort to blame it on the woman is a joke' to 'the woman violated God's covenant.' Likewise in Mark's story, the meaning of the story, especially for later Christians who did not identify themselves as Jews, can shift from 'we were involved in the death of the Messiah' to 'the Jews killed Jesus.' (30; italics original)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rodney Whitacre Resources

Rodney Whitacre, professor emeritus of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, best known for his John in the IVP New Testament Commentary, and his A Patristic Greek Reader is on the verge of another major publication, Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek Reading the New Testament with Fluency and Devotion.  Whitacre's latest publication will be a must-have for students of the Greek New Testament, as his deliberate approach to reading Greek should find a wide audience eager to attempt a new approach at reading facility in the Greek NT.

In addition, I also discovered on Whitacre's webpage, many useful resources, and a free class on Revelation, entitled "The Gospel in the Book of Revelation".

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Supplemental Resources for 'Four Portraits One Jesus'

Over eight years ago (man, time flies!), I recommended Mark Strauss' Four Portraits, One Jesus, as a premier textbook that covers both the gospels and  Historical Jesus research as well as any introductory text that money could buy. I have not altered my view in the ensuing years, as I believe Strauss does a wonderful job of addressing a myriad of issues lucidly for the beginning student.

Sample Page of laminated sheet
I am delighted to say that the best is now even better, as supplementary resources have been added to the textbook, including a laminated sheet, encapsulating and distilling the most important information of  each chapter of Four Portraits, as well as a workbook, which expands on the questions and exercises found in the main text at the end of each chapter.

Sample worksheet exercise
Moreover, slated for a July release, Four Portraits will also include video lectures by Strauss. Those who wish to simulate a seminary classroom experience can take advantage of this unique opportunity and learn from one of the prominent Evangelical Gospels and Historical Jesus scholars in the world (I will have a follow-up to this post when the videos release).

Zondervan Academic continues to set the bar for high quality in both content as well as aesthetic beauty, in that readers who purchase Strauss' Four Portraits  and related material, will not only receive materials that are sensibly organized, full of valuable content, but will also receive content that is beautiful, a pleasure to actually take up and read! Zondervan Academic understands perhaps better than any publisher that content and beauty are two sides of the same coin and Four Portraits is no exception.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Story Worth Telling: A Brief Review and Recommendation

Followers of this blog will note that I rarely digress from anything other New Testament-related posts. In this particular case, I am making an exception. This is not to say that this book does not have plenty of New Testament-related material, but the focus is more on the praxis of belief than a theological/exegetical book proper. The author also happens to be my brother-in-law and I have had more than one discussion with him regarding the contents of this book.

Bill Blankschaen's new volume, A Story Worth Telling: A Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life (Abingdon Press, 2015), is a needed corrective to misguided notions of what it means to live a life of faith. According to Blankschaen, "Faith is doing what you believe to be true, often in spite of what you see, sense, or feel" (9). Further, Blankschaen helpfully stresses that believing/seeing are not antithetical aspects of having faith. If what we believe is true, than what we experience will line up with what we believe most of the time. Living a life of faith means having a story that is worth telling.

We all have stories, but most of us cling securely to the mundane of everyday life. Very few of us welcome change, most of us resist it. If you want to cling to your current situation, Bill's book should be one you ignore on the bookshelf. If, however, you are restless and feel like you are "simply existing" and your God-given gifts are lying dormant (13), A Story Worth Telling is a book that will provide a sure-footed guide in changing the course of your life story.

I have made my way through one-third of Bill's book and I already feel conviction in how I view almost every aspect of my life. To realize I need to take a personal inventory is in no small part due to this book. I recommend it highly to those of us who have been spinning our wheels and neglecting the gifts God has bestowed upon us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

William R. Telford's Tribute to Raymond E. Brown

William R. Telford, Visiting Fellow, St. John's College, Durham University, has been kind enough to share his recollections on Father Raymond E. Brown, which can be found on the "Recollections of Ray" page here. Also, Dr. Telford was kind enough to share a picture of Fr. Ray from his own private collection which can be viewed here.

Many thanks to Dr. Telford for taking the time to contribute to the site.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Luke Timothy Johnson's The Revelatory Body

Slated for a September release date marks another book from the prolific pen of Luke Timothy Johnson, R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University, Candler School of Theology. The volume, The Revelatory Body, addresses the oft-neglected theme in theology, namely, the physical body.

Here is the description:

Argues that theology can respond faithfully to the living God only by paying due attention to human bodily experience Scripture points to the human body and lived experience as the privileged arena of God's self-disclosure in the world, says Luke Timothy Johnson. Attention to both ordinary and extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit in and through the body is essential for theology to recover its nature as an inductive art rather than a deductive science and to serve as an expression and articulation of authentic faith in the living God. Willingness to risk engaging actual human situations — rather than abstract conceptualizations about those situations — is required of the theologian, Johnson argues. In The Revelatory Body he celebrates human experiences of activity, pleasure, pain, weariness, and aging, showing how theology might be enlivened through careful attention to the ways in which these bodily experiences disclose the movements of the Holy Spirit.

Fortunately, thanks to a Lenten lecture series recently delivered at The Cathedral of St. Philip's in Atlanta, Johnson offers a sneak preview of his forthcoming work. The five-part series can be accessed here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick Plug: Christopher Skinner's Reading John

Once in awhile a book comes along that is not only a good read, but simultaneously proves itself to be eminently useful. Such a book is to be found in Christopher Skinner's Reading John in the Cascade Companion Series.

Although I have yet to finish the little volume yet (152 pages), I have read enough to stand by the above statement . Skinner has achieved a rarity in this book; he writes a primer of the Fourth Gospel aimed directly for students. This is no small feat, as I have read many works supposedly geared for students, which end up overestimating the target audience with dense prose, scholarly jargon, and technical discussions that rarely break down for the audience for whom the work is directed. Skinner avoids these missteps, presenting a well-rounded introduction to John, while only using technical jargon where it is unavoidable.

I cannot say enough about this little gem of a book, and I will be saying more in subsequent posts. For my part, I cannot wait to teach John's Gospel again, and Skinner's Reading John will undoubtedly be my teaching textbook of choice.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ernst Käsemann: An Easter Reflection

Ernst Käsemann
Reading Ernst Käsemann's powerful and moving article, "Guests of the Crucified;" Word & World 33.1; (2013); 62-73, I was struck by these powerful words from the great German NT scholar regarding the significance of Jesus' suffering, and why as "Guests of the Crucified," our own must follow if we are truly to identify with him and his mission.

Even after Easter, our Lord deals with us by pointing us to the cross. He will never do otherwise. For even on the Last Day his enemies will recognize him by his wounds; these are what distinguish him from all gods and all secular rulers.We learn who Jesus truly is only from Golgotha. Here, like nowhere else, we learn what it means to be truly God and truly human. Christ must enter into death—more, into the hell of hatred, scorn, and ridicule—in order to help us. Who can affirm this without losing, at their very core, all illusions about themselves and this world? Whoever has stood beneath the stake of the Crucified knows that
salvation does not arise from our own reason and strength. At the same time, we become aware of a God who sheds his glory and dons the dress of a slave in order to become like those who have forsaken him, who rebel and entrench themselves against him, those idolatrously bent on power and pleasure. Golgotha is the place where the depths of forlornness meet the depths of self-denying compassion. That is why all of us, each in our own way, can find here both ourselves and our Lord. Those who here join in the hatred and ridicule will continue to place law and order and status quo above humanity. Those who look on indifferently will make their own self-interest the measure of all things. Those who here see the truth about themselves and who learn to cry with Jesus, “My God, my God,” will continue to keep Golgotha before their eyes, letting it determine their relation to those near and far, to the forces and powers, to the rules of society and the political necessities of our time. Golgotha was and remains a place of both blessing and curse, a place where, even among Christian churches, the spirits divide—even though not all have taken notice. For the true church and the false church, otherwise scarcely distinguishable, divide when it comes to saying yes to Jesus’ cross, to taking the Crucified Lord as their own. (66)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Gordon Fee Videos on First Corinthians

Apparently, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) continues to churn out vintage Gordon Fee videos. To see my previous post on this, click here. The videos posted here appear to be even older than the previous set on the Kingdom of God. Here, Fee lectures on the work he is most famous for, 1 Corinthians.

Thus far, only three videos have been posted. When more appear, I will be sure to update my own post. For now, enjoy!

Update (June 20, 2015): Two more videos have now appeared with Fee teaching 1 Corinthians.

Here is part 4:

Here is part 5:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Johannine Monograph Series: An Interview with Paul Anderson

Paul N. Anderson
Paul N. Anderson, Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University, along with R. Alan Culpepper, Dean of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, have spearheaded a unique and important series for students of Johannine literature, The Johannine Monograph Series, Wipf & Stock.

I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Paul Anderson about this important series. Without further ado, on to the interview.

1. How did the Johannine Monograph Series (JMS) come about?

 Thanks, Matthew, for asking. The field of Johannine studies is a broad and extensive field, and as we do our work using various methodologies in international settings, having access to “the classics of the field” is vital for first-rate scholarship to continue. And, even monographs of monumental significance go out of print or are sometimes hard to come by, so I asked Alan Culpepper if he would join me in championing a Johannine Monograph Series that would seek to get some of the most important Johannine works back into print. We also have chosen to introduce each book with a foreword, situating its place and impact within the larger field of study, so those essays not only serve the volume being introduced, but they also provide something of a Forschungsbericht (research report) as state-of-the-art updates on the field of Johannine studies. Formative in my thinking here was the superb “Lives of Jesus” Series edited by Leander Keck in the 1970s, published by Fortress. And, of course we’re delighted that Wipf & Stock has agreed to sponsor the series and to keep things in print! We could not have found a more serviceable and innovative publisher.

2. Discuss the purpose and vision of the series.

Right; here’s our vision statement, featured in the front matter of each of our volumes: The vision of The Johannine Monograph Series is to make available in printed, accessible form a selection of the most influential books on the Johannine writings in the modern era for the benefit of scholars and students alike. The volumes in this series include reprints of classic English-language texts, revised editions of significant books, and translations of important international works for English-speaking audiences. A succinct foreword by one of the editors situates each book in terms of its role within the history of Johannine scholarship, suggesting also its continuing value in the field. This series is founded upon the conviction that scholarship is diminished when it forgets its own history and loses touch with the scintillating analyses and proposals that have shaped the course of Johannine studies. It is our hope, therefore, that the continuing availability of these important works will help to keep the cutting-edge scholarship of this and coming generations of scholars engaged with the classic works of Johannine scholarship while they also chart new directions for the future of the discipline.

3. What are the criteria for a volume to be considered in the JMS?

Our criteria are fluid; we want to be sure that some of the most important Johannine works continue to be maintained in print, especially ones that continue to inform the best of Johannine studies. Such factors as whether a book is out of print and whether we can also secure the rights to publish the work also play roles in how things develop, of course. For non-English works, the capacity for translation is a factor, and for works deserving a revised edition, we’re happy to also consider such possibilities. Michael Theobald’s Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium is an example of the former, and David Wead’s Literary Devices in John’s Gospel is an example of the latter.

4. Was it a slam-dunk in choosing Rudolf Bultmann’s The Gospel of John: A Commentary, to be the first release in JMS?

Well, Bultmann’s monograph came onto the horizon after we’d already decided to try to get Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel back into print. After we began working on it, though, things came together with the German publisher, the American publisher, and the translators so that it made sense to feature it as Volume 1, with Smith’s analysis of Bultmann’s commentary on John being Volume 2 in our series. An amazing one-two punch! And, Käsemann’s A Testament of Jesus will be Volume 4, with Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective having come out just last month as Volume 3.

5. In the Foreword (i-xxviii), you state that Bultmann’s commentary “is arguably the most important New Testament monograph in the 20th century, perhaps second only to The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer” (i). What aspect(s) of Bultmann’s John remain influential in scholarship? 

Yes, that’s an audacious claim, but here’s my judgment. First of all, I think it is arguable that Rudolf Bultmann was the leading New Testament scholar of the 20th century; the exegetical, scientific, theological, and existential quality of his work really remains unsurpassed in terms of its mastery and its reach. And, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, especially when combined with his Theology of the New Testament (featuring a major section on John in the second volume—note the excellent volume on Bultmann’s NT theology just out by Longenecker and Parsons, eds.) and his related New Testament works, is clearly his most technical, exegetical, and interdisciplinarily innovative work. Just look at the footnotes! In my earlier analyses of John’s Christology, tradition, and potential contribution to Jesus studies, Bultmann’s role is undoubtedly central to scholarly approaches to all of those larger issues, and in that sense, it extends beyond Johannine studies to History-of-Religions Criticism, the history of early Christianity, Jesus studies (or the dearth thereof), biblical theology, gospel relations, and source and redaction criticism. Bultmann even contributed to new literary theories in seeing the Beloved Disciple as a rhetorical device connecting Hellenistic Christianity with its “mother,” Jewish Christianity. As Haenchen quipped, Bultmann’s work has been like a giant oak tree in Johannine studies, denying the growth of alternative approaches under its shade. Then again, in my own analysis of Bultmann’s theory (in addition to the 12 K-word forward to his commentary, see especially my new introduction and epilogue in the third printing of The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010), I have tested all of his source-critical criteria referenced throughout his entire volume using John 6 as a case study, and the evidence for alien sources underlying John 6 is completely lacking. It is even non-indicative, although we do indeed have a narrator. However, the contributions of the final editor seem (with Brown, here) to be augmentative and conservative rather than theologically intrusive. I do see that person (with Bultmann; I call him a “compiler”) as plausibly the author of the Johannine Epistles, and I concur with Bultmann that John’s narrative is not dependent on the Synoptics. It has its own story to tell, which in some ways sets the record straight over and against the Markan renderings. So, in considering the impact of Bultmann’s work on source-critical, redaction-critical, history-of-religions-critical, and theological-exegetical New Testament scholarship in recent decades, his commentary on John stands out as preeminent in the 20th century—among those who have agreed with him as well as among those who have not. I reside, of course, in both camps.

6. What other volumes can readers expect to see from JMS?

 As mentioned, Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel is in process, and it should be out in a couple of months or so; Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective just came out last month, and it includes a new essay on slavery in the Roman era as well as my analysis of six or seven crises in the Johannine situation, of which the Roman-Johannine dialectic is a highly significant one. Other works that are “on deck” include: The Prophet-King by Wayne Meeks, Bread from Heaven by Peder Borgen, and several other books, including the two books mentioned above by Wead and Theobald and the controversial monograph by Käsemann. If anyone has a suggestion of other books to include in the series, do let me know. Our purpose is to make available on a continuing basis some of the best and most significant of Johannine monographs in service to scholars and students alike, and we are greatly appreciative of the high place of prominence that Wipf & Stock has given this new, innovative series. And, thanks, Matthew, for the interest and for the ways you are furthering the good work of biblical studies through your website and other endeavors! It’s a high privilege indeed to be working together in furthering the good work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

David deSilva's Recent Revelation Lecture in Lebanon

Last February 26th, David deSilva gave a lecture entitled "A Political Reading of the Book of Revelation" at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. His lecture is followed by two responses from local theologians. Watch the video above and enjoy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Richard Longenecker's Paul, Apostle of Liberty Reissued?

Richard Longenecker, one of the eminent New Testament and Pauline specialists of the past fifty- plus years, has a busy fall ahead. Not only does Longenecker's long-awaited Romans commentary await the eager hands of scholars and students alike, but it appears that his Paul, Apostle of Liberty is getting another run. Originally, (so far as I can tell) Paul, Apostle of Liberty was published in 1964 by Harper and Row. Baker picked it up in a reprint in 1980, while Regent College Publishing did the same in 2003. Now it appears that it is Eerdmans turn (October, 2015). This volume includes a foreword by former student and top Pauline scholar in his own right, Douglas Campbell, Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School.

I cannot think of a scholar I admire more than Richard Longenecker. His work his always top shelf (I love his Galatians commentary), so this volume will be a must have for those who have yet to purchase previous editions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Last Supper

Brant Pitre, Professor of Sacred Scripture, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, and author of one of the best historical Jesus books I have read in some time, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Mohr Siebeck; Baker Academic; 2005),is getting ready to release his latest offering, Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, Nov 2015).

Details are scarce but the book will be 560 pages long and retail for $55.00.

Brant is a first-rate scholar and this book will set a high mark for all future work and research on the Last Supper.