Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marianne Meye Thompson's Forthcoming John Commentary

To the writing of commentaries there is no end. For some, this is problematic. For me, however, I enjoy the cacophony of voices that contribute to our understanding of any biblical book. That is not to say that all commentaries are equal. Like any other form of writing each contribution has its plusses and minuses, as no commentary can possibly cover every interpretive dilemma.

With that caveat aside, one such contribution that I have been looking forward to is Marianne Meye Thompson's on the Gospel of John. She is the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, and her  John: A Commentary in  the New Testament Library Series (Westminster John Knox Press) is certain to join the ranks of some recent great commentaries on John's Gospel such as Michaels' in the NICNT.

Here are some of the particulars:

Price: $60.00

Hardcover: 568 pages 

Publisher: Westminister John Knox Press 

(November 6, 2015)

 Language: English ISBN-10: 0664221114

Almost from the earliest days of the church, John's distinctive presentation of Jesus has provoked discussion about its place among the other Gospels. One cannot help but see the differences from the Synoptics and wonder about the origins and character of John. In this new volume in the New Testament Library series, Marianne Meye Thompson explores the ministry and significance of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the Gospel of John, paying special attention to the social, cultural, and historical contexts that produced it. John's Gospel, Thompson posits, is the product of a social-cultural world whose language, commitments, and contours must be investigated in order to read John's narrative well. In doing so, Thompson studies the narrative, structure, central themes, and theological and rhetorical arguments found in the Fourth Gospel. Thompson's expert commentary unpacks and illuminates John's unique witness to Jesus--who he was, what he did, and what that means. The New Testament Library series offers authoritative commentary on every book and major aspect of the New Testament, providing fresh translations based on the best available ancient manuscripts, critical portrayals of the historical world in which the books were created, careful attention to their literary design, and a theologically perceptive exposition of the biblical text. The contributors are scholars of international standing. The editorial board consists of C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary; M. Eugene Boring, Brite Divinity School; and John T. Carroll, Union Presbyterian Seminary.

HT: Nijay Gupta

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part IV

I was also concerned that Paul's own theological urgencies get their proper hearing. From my perspective, it has been a blight on the landscape of much New Testament scholarship—probably related to our twin concerns to affirm pluralism and not to offend others—that we have been good technicians of the text, but have avoided theology like the plague. It is hard to imagine anything less fair to Paul himself who was an intensely theological person. So for good or ill, I wanted Paul's theological emphases, as I perceived them, to get their full hearing. Whether I have understood the Apostle adequately remains for others to judge, but surely one fails to comment adequately on Paul who does not try to "hear" him, to come to grips with what drives him, what motivates the words and the rhetoric -

Gordon Fee; "Reflections on Commentary Writing;" (Theology 
Today; 46.4; 1990; 387-392; here 389)

One of the hallmarks of Gordon Fee's classic 1 Corinthians commentary and much of his subsequent work for that matter, is his ability to tease out the theological emphases of the texts he examines. Not only is Fee a master exegete with all the requisite skills in which that entails, but he never loses perspective; he is able to discern the forest for the trees, answering the big picture questions on which theological analyses are dependent.

Today's "Fridays with Fee" looks at a small unit of  1 Corinthians, 4:1-5, and will illustrate that Fee does indeed give Paul's theological emphases a "full hearing."

In his introduction to the larger unit 1 Cor 4:1-21, Fee writes:

...The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a matter of creed for him; it was the singular reality that conditioned his entire existence. But not his alone. By way of the resurrection the eternal God had set the future inexorably in motion; the 'coming' of Christ and subsequent 'judgement' are inevitable corollaries, as sure as life itself. For Paul, therefore, those sure events radicalize present Christian existence. All merely human judgements are nothing in light of the final judgement; all merely human values, which weigh things heavily toward what might appear to be the favorable end of the scale, have already been judged and are now reversed by Christ himself.
Paul's problem is that in their own way the corinthians were also eschatological people, for they too had received the Spirit. But for them this meant not so much that the future determined one's present life as that one had entered into a new realm of being altogether. They had already arrived, as it were, but in all the wrong ways (4:8). What Paul is trying to do above all else is to get the Corinthians to enter his orbit, to see things from his eschatological perspective. There fore, it is not simply a matter of his being right and their being wrong on certain specific issues. It has to do with one's whole existence, one's whole way of looking at life, since 'you are of Christ, and Christ is of God' (3:23), meaning that 'you belong to Christ, and through him you thereby belong to God as well.' Without this perspective ourselves much of what is said here can be enigma; but it need not be, once someone has been drawn into Paul's orbit by one's own encounter with the living Christ (170).

1 Cor 4:1-5: This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Fee on 4:2:

Not eloquence, nor wisdom (nor 'initiative,' nor 'success'--the more standard contemporary requirements), but faithfulness to the trust, is what God requires of his servants. For Paul this means absolute fidelity to the gospel as he received it and preached it (cf. 15:1-11). His intent, of course, is not to provide a general maxim for Christian ministry--although it is still the only valid criterion--but to set up the singular criterion by which God alone could be his judge and which would therefore rule out the Corinthian 'examination' of him and his ministry (175).

Fee on 4:3:

Therefore, for Paul all merely human judgements against him, whether by the Corinthians or by others who would so judge him, are of little or no consequence whatsoever. The only judgement that counts is the final eschatological judgment administered by Christ himself. So much is this so that Paul includes any personal 'judgments' he might make of himself as equally inconsequential. He does not 'even judge himself,' not because he is irresponsible, or intends to be so, but because he is in the service of another. His personal evaluations of his own performance are irrelevant; what is master thinks is what counts. Besides, any such judgments also belong to this age. In his own worldview Paul stands too close to the consummation to be exercised by self-examination (176).

Conclusion regarding 4:5:

The application of this paragraph to the contemporary church seems self-evident. On the one hand, it is a word to those in the church who are forever 'examining' their ministers, and who in any case tend to do so on the wrong grounds. Corinth is not the only church that ever became disillusioned with its minister because he or she lacked enough 'charismatic' qualities. But God's Word to us is faithfulness, not success, is what is required of God's servants. On the other hand, although not intended so by Paul, by implication it is also a word to those who preach and teach, that they recognize themselves as 'under trust.' Their 'trustworthiness' is finally going to be judged by the Lord himself, on the grounds of their being faithful to the trust itself, the gospel. In that hour none of one's self-evaluations as to one's worth in the kingdom is going to count for a thing, only our faithfulness to the gospel itself (179).

Monday, February 16, 2015

John Barclay's Paul and Gift

John Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University, is simply put, one of the greatest living New Testament scholars in the world today. For many years, students and scholars alike have been awaiting his work on the Apostle Paul's theology. Apparently, the wait will end just in time for the 2015 annual SBL meeting when Barclay's Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans) will be released. The release date is October 16th, the book retails for $70.00 and the page count is a hefty 688 pages.

Here is the description:

A fresh scholarly reading of grace in Paul's theology
 In this book esteemed scholar John Barclay explores Pauline theology anew from the perspective of grace. Arguing that Paul's theology of grace is best approached in light of ancient notions of "gift," Barclay describes Paul's relationship to Judaism in a fresh way. Barclay focuses on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, he says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He both offers a new appraisal of Paul's theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans and presents a nuanced and detailed consideration of the history of reception of Paul, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Barth. This exegetically responsible, theologically informed, hermeneutically useful book shows that a respectful, though not uncritical, reading of Paul contains resources that remain important for Christians today.
If folks are interested in learning more about Barclay's work on Paul's theology of grace as gift, one could also explore his audio lectures on this very topic at Regent Audio here .

Also, see his lecture,"Paul and the Gift" as he delivered the first lecture for the St. Mary's Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible (2013; St. Mary's University College Twickenham) here:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Albert Vanhoye's Forthcoming Commentary on Hebrews

One of the most famous interpreters of Hebrews, Albert Vanhoye, S.J.,ironically, has yet to release a commentary on Hebrews until now.  is releasing another commentary on Hebrews. (Brian Small has informed me that this will mark VanHoye's second commentary on Hebrews. The first, A Different Priest: The Epistle to Hebrews, was published by Convivum Press in 2011. Brian has a review of it here).

Vanhoye, now also a Cardinal and 91 years of age, has dedicated most of his academic energies to the letter of Hebrews, highlighted by such works as La structure littéraire de l'Epître aux Hébreux, Desclée de Brouwer, Tournai, 1963; Situation du Christ. Epître aux hébreux 1 et 2, Paris, 1969; and La lettre aux Hébreux: Jésus-Christ, médiateur d'une nouvelle alliance, Paris, 2002.

There are not many details as of yet regarding the commentary to be published by Paulist Press. However, it will be released in July 2015, weigh in at a concise 256 pages, and retail at $34.95.
No doubt, both students and scholars of Hebrews will be eager to read Vanhoye's contribution, no doubt peppered with insight from someone who has spent a lifetime studying this letter.

Fridays with Fee: Part III

Another week with little reading progress, but thankfully, Fee's keen observations are so abundant that a lack of quantitative engagement with his commentary (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed.) does not prohibit the series from moving forward.

Onward to more of Fee's pearls of wisdom:

1 Cor 3:10-15: 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

All to often those 'in charge,' be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as 'theirs.' They pay lip-service to its being 'Christ's church, after all,' then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures, an regularly speak of 'my' or 'our' church. Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have 'attended all their lives,' or who have 'supported it with great sums of money,' as though that game them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, and all other things--structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything--should flow out of that singular realization. Moreover, those 'in charge' must be ever mindful of who is really in charge. To be a servant does not mean the abdication of leadership, nor, on the other hand, does it mean to become everyone's 'errand boy or girl.' It has to do with attitude, perspective, not with one's place on the organizational chart. And as Paul will make clear a bit later (4:8-17), it must be 'like priest, like people.' Servant leadership is required precisely because servanthood is the basic stance of all truly Christian behavior, modeled as it was by the 'Servant King' himself (145).

 1 Cor 3:18-23: 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

The opening salvo is irony once again: 'If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age.' Of course they do; that is quite the point. This same formula will appear three more times in the letter, two of which (8:2; 14:37), along with this one, speak to the heart of the attitudinal issues that plague the church. They think of themselves as wise, as having arrived at knowledge (8:2), and as being spiritual (14:37). That is precisely their problem. And in each case Paul must disabuse them of such opinions; otherwise the church is up for grabs (164).
3: 21b-22: All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

The list of 'all things' begins with the three men (Paul, Apollos, Cephas) mentioned early on (1:12), around whose names the Corinthians are clustering in some form of jealousy and strife (3:3). This of course is the point of everything. One is therefore not quite prepared for the sudden expansion of the list, which really does include all things. One wonders whether Paul himself had all this in mind when the sentence began. Nonetheless it is altogether true to his theology. These five items, 'the world, life, death, the present, and the future,' are the ultimate tyrannies of human existence, to which people are in lifelong bondage as slaves. For Paul the death and resurrection of Jesus marked the turning of the ages in such a way that nothing lies outside of Christ's jurisdiction. In the form of the cross God has planted his flag on planet Earth and marked it off as his own possession; hence the 'world' is his. So also with the whole of existence ('life' and 'death'), which are immediately placed into eschatological perspective ('the present and the future'). Because in Christ Jesus both 'life' itself and therefore 'the future' are ours, 'death' is ours as well, as is 'the present.' We die, but 'life' cannot be taken from us; we live the life of the future in the present age, and therefore the present has become our own possession. For those in Christ Jesus, what things were formerly tyrannies are now their birthright. This is the glorious freedom of the children of God. They are free lords of all things, not bound to the whims of chance or the exigencies of life and death. The future is no cause for panic; it is already theirs. In light of such expansive realities, how can the Corinthians say, 'I am of Paul, or Apollos'? That is too narrow, too constricted a view. Apollos--and Paul, and Peter, and the whole universe--is/are yours. You do not belong to them; they belong to you, as your servants, because 'you--and they--are Christ's, and Christ is God's' (167).

...The Corinthian error is an easy one to repeat. Not only do most of us have normal tendencies to turn natural preferences into exclusive ones, but in our fallenness we also tend to consider ourselves 'wise' enough to inform God through whom he may minister to his people. Our slogans take the form of 'I am of the Presbyterians,' or 'of the Pentecostals,' or 'of the Roman Catholics.' Or they might take ideological forms: 'I am of the liberals,' or 'of the evangelicals,' or 'of the fundamentalists.' And these are also used as weapons: 'Oh, he's a fundamentalist, you know.' Which means that we no longer need to listen to him, since his ideology has determined his overall value as one who speaks in God's behalf. It is hardly possible in a day like ours that one will not have denominational, theological, or ideological preferences. The difficulty lies in our allowing that it might really be true that 'all things are ours,' including those whom we think God would do better to be without. But God is full of surprises; and the Eternal One may choose to minister to us from the least expected of sources, if we were but more truly 'in Christ' and therefore free in him to learn and love.
This does not mean that one should not be discriminating; after all, Paul has no patience for that teaching in Corinth which had abandoned the pure gospel of Christ. But to be 'of Christ' is also to be free from the tyrannies of one's own narrowness, free to learn even from those with whom one may disagree (168-169).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part II

I would think myself to be the least likely person to have ever written a commentary.
So opens Gordon Fee's article, "Reflections on Commentary Writing" (Theology Today; 46.4; 1990; 387-392; here 387). This ironic self-reflection may be the key to Fee's standing as a biblical commentator, one that is marked by the best of those who take on the task of commentary writing, namely, humility before the text, careful attention to detail and the ability to exposit the texts continuing relevance.

This brings me to the second installment of "Fridays with Fee." Although I did not cover as much ground in the past week as I would have liked, I have nevertheless found a few Fee gems in reading through his The First Epistle to the Corinthians (rev. ed.).

Without further ado:

1 Cor 2:14: The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

People are revealed for who they are by their response to the cross; to see it as foolishness means to stand over against God and God's ways--and to stand under divine judgment as without God's Spirit and therefore apart from 'what God has freely given us' (125). 

1 Cor 2:6-16:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 

16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul's concern needs to be resurrected throughout the church. The gift of the Spirit does not lead to special status among believers; rather, it leads to special status vis-à-vis the world. But it should do so always in terms of the centrality of the message of our crucified/risen Savior. The Spirit should identify God's people in such a way that their values and worldview are radically different from the wisdom of this age. They do know what God is about in Christ; they do live out the life of the future in the present age that is passing away; they are marked by the cross forever. As such they are the people of the Spirit, who stand in bold contrast to those who are merely human and do not understand the scandal of the cross. Being 'S/spiritual' does not lead to elitism; it leads to a deeper understanding of God's profound mystery--redemption through a crucified Messiah (129).

1 Cor 3:3:  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 

The Corinthians have the Spirit, but are behaving precisely like people who do not, like 'mere human beings.' Being human, of course, in itself is not a bad thing, any more than being sarkinoi is (v.1). What is intolerable is to have received the Spirit , which makes one more than merely human, and to continue to live as though one were nothing more. Receiving the Spirit begins one's life in the age to come, wherein life is to be lived according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh ('sinful nature'). The verb translated 'acting' (lit. 'walking') is used regularly in Paul for 'the walk of life,' that is, one's way of living (cf. 7:17). For him the basic imperative of the Christian life is 'Walk [live] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature' (Gal. 5:16). He simply has no patience for belief that does not issue in proper behavior; and this not 'perfectionism,' is is rather a matter of growing up (136).

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part I

Gordon Fee (image created by Matthew D. Montonini)
Last week, I introduced a series, "Fridays with Fee," in which I will be working through Gordon Fee's classic commentary, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, now in revised form (Eerdmans).

One of the sparkling features of this commentary is the sense in which the reader is captured by the drama unfolding in the letter known to us as First Corinthians. Fee is adept at walking the reader through step-by-step through each section, each verse, each significant Greek word (as well as the more technical footnotes on variants and the like), enabling a reading that sees the forest through the trees.

It is truly remarkable and fitting that Fee's wisdom is on full display in these 900 plus pages, due to the theme of wisdom that is the hallmark of this Pauline letter. Without further ado, I'd like to share some of Fee's quotables on various verses I was able to read up on this week.

1Cor 1:20d: "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"

...The cross is foolishness to the perishing(v.18), but by means of it God has himself thereby rendered as foolish the world's wisdom, wisdom that belongs merely to the sphere of human self-sufficiency. God has not simply made such wisdom appear foolish; by means of the cross God has actually turned the tables on such wisdom altogether, so that it has been made into its very opposite--foolishness (75).
1 Cor 1:21: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

Paul asserts that is was within the province of God's own wisdom that things have been so arranged. He does not explain how so here, but the reason seems clear. A God discovered by human wisdom will be both a projection of human falleness and a source of human pride, and this constitutes the worship of the creature, not the Creator. The gods of the 'wise' are seldom gracious to the undeserving, and they tend to make considerable demands in the ability of people to understand them; hence they become gods only for the elite and 'deserving' (76).
1 Cor 1:25: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

In the cross God 'outsmarted' his human creatures and thereby nullified their wisdom. In the same cross God also 'overpowered' his enemies, with lavish grace and forgiveness, and thereby divested them of their strength.
Thus played out before human eyes is the scandalous and contradictory wisdom of God. Had God consulted us for wisdom we could have given him a more workable plan, something that would attract the sign-seeker and the lover of wisdom. As it is, in God's own wisdom we were left out of the consultation. We are thus also left with the awful risk: trust God and be saved by his wise folly, or keep up our pretensions and perish. Better the former, because this 'weakness of God is stronger than [human] strength'; it accomplishes that which all human pretensions cannot do. It brings one into 'fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.9; 81).
1Cor 1:26: "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth."

...sociology is not Paul's concern; his is theological, and he is capitalizing on the less-than-pretentious social standing of the majority--which at the same time may have had philosophical overtones--to make his point, What Celsus saw as the shame of Christianity, Paul saw as its greater glory. By bringing 'good news to the poor' through his Son, God has forever aligned himself with the disenfranchised; at the same time we have played out before our eyes God's own overthrow of the world's standards. Every middle-class or upper-class domestication of the gospel is therefore a betrayal of that gospel (86).
1 Cor 2:4: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power."
 ...the purpose of the Spirit's coming was not to transport one above the present age, but to empower one to live within it (101).

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Introduction

Gordon Fee's The First Epistle to the Corinthians, is one such work that deserves its pearl status. First published in 1987, Fee's work has become indispensable, enjoying the rare status of timelessness that few works enjoy. The only knock against older works that achieve this status are usually due to the fact that they are considered dated and are not abreast of the massive proliferation of secondary literature that has been produced since the publication of the work. To remedy this situation, Fee has provided a service to all students and scholars of 1 Corinthians by updating his classic. The content remains virtually the same, but Fee now interacts with 164 total works in the twenty-five-plus years since its initial publication.

What I aim to do over the intervening weeks is to write a series of posts entitled "Fridays with Fee," as I make way through Fee's commentary. I do not know exactly the exact form these posts will take, but they will probably reflect impressions that I had while reading through the various sections. For now, I will end this post with some Fee quotables:

Although they were the Christian church in Corinth, an inordinate amount of Corinth was yet in them, emerging in a number of attitudes and behaviors that required radical surgery without killing the patient. This is what this letter attempts to do -Gordon Fee;(The First Epistle to the Corinthians; rev.ed), 4.

 To delight in God for God's working in the lives of others, even in the lives of those whom one feels compelled to disagree, is sure evidence of one's own awareness of being the recipient of God's mercies. So it was with Paul. The self-sufficient are scarcely so disposed - Gordon Fee on 1 Cor 1:4; (The First Epistle to the Corinthians; rev.ed.), 35.

Monday, January 19, 2015

James Swetnam's Online Commentary on Hebrews

I am sure I am a bit late in noticing this, but Rev. James Swetnam, S.J., Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and one of the leading scholars on the Epistle to the Hebrews, having studied it for over 50 years, has produced an online commentary on the epistle over at his website,  James Swetnam's Close Readings. At a bit over 200 pages, he spends most of his time on the text proper, providing an invaluable resource for students of the enigmatic epistle.

By my rough count, Swetnam has produced 37 articles on Hebrews alone, to go along with hundreds of other publications. His dissertation, Jesus and Isaac: A Study of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Light of the Aqedah (Analecta Biblica, 94; Rome, Biblical Institute Press, 1981), was written under the supervision of Morna Hooker. Enjoy the rare treat of a free publication from a master scholar.

Anthony Thiselton's New AutoBiography: A Brief Review and Commendation

Anthony Thiselton
Anthony Thiselton, Emeritus Canon Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Nottingham, has penned a brief, yet remarkable autobiography, A Lifetime in the Church and the University (Cascade Books).

Thiselton's life story is fascinating and is marked by what he deems "the providence of  God" (i.e. the miraculous; italics original, 1; et passim), The book is also peppered by wisdom and a wry sense of humor.  In short, Thiselton's autobiography, a brief 114 pages, is a captivating and quick read, well worth the time spent.

On such example of the providence of God at work in Thisleton's life was when he was studying for his university London BD degree. Thiselton, who had poor eyesight from childhood on, was brought before a Church Selection Board, which would advise bishops if he was fit for ordination. Thiselton was informed that he failed his medical exam. The bishop said to him, "The specialist says that you will never be able to read enough books to exercise a useful parish ministry" (4). After Thiselton objected, noting that he passed both his Hebrew and Greek exams, and noted some of the books he read, the bishop decided to tear up the report of his medical exam.

One item from Thiselton's well of wisdom is where Thiselton discusses his forthcoming work Discovering Romans (SPCK/Eerdmans) and the viability of producing yet another book on Romans, an overcrowded field to be sure. Thiselton remarks:
As was the case in writing on 1 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Rosemary (Thiselton's wife) wondered how I could hope to say anything genuinely new about Romans when so many had already worked on it as commentators, even in previous generations. The answer is easy. First, each new commentary assimilates what is best in others, and seeks to build on this. Second, it is easy to find neglected areas (112).
Thiselton goes on to add five new interpretive approaches he will be bringing to Paul's most famous letter.

As I mentioned above, Thiselton's story also includes humorous tidbits throughout. One such story was during his curacy in South East London (1960-1963). Thiselton notes that he accepted an invitation to preach in another parish on behalf of the Church Pastoral Aid Society. It was during this occasion that Thiselton received his worst comment regarding one of his sermons:

I had meant to explain the word pastoral, by trying to illustrate this from the Parable of the Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep. I must have been an enormously bad communicator. For one lady commented at the door, 'Thank you so much. I have been waiting for years to hear a sermon about the need to be kind to animals; at last you have given it!' (17; italics original).
Many other such examples could be given regarding Thisleton's striking little book. I could not help but be inspired by his example after reading this; I suggest you do the same.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tribute to Gordon Fee

At last year's Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego, The Society for Penecostal Studies took the opportunity to honor one of the greatest New Testament scholars of the last half of the twentieth century in Gordon Fee.

Regent Audio is now offering the mp3 of that session for free. Click here to get it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Richard Bauckham's Gospel of Glory

An embarrassment of riches awaits students of the Fourth Gospel as a proliferation of excellent secondary literature continues to be published at a rapid clip. In particular, many excellent introductions to the Fourth Gospel already exist (see Brown [Moloney], Kysar, Anderson, Köstenberger, etc.), with more on the way (Skinner [Reading John; Cascade; forthcoming]). One of these anticipated arrivals, Richard Bauckham's Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology (Baker Academic), will be a must have for any serious student of John's Gospel. Undoubtedly, the volume will give readers a sneak preview of the author's highly anticipated commentary on John for the NIGTC series. Due in August, and weighing in at 240 pp ($24.99), Bauckham provides an overview of the relevant themes unique to this Gospel.

Here are the particulars:

Throughout Christian history, the Gospel of John's distinctive way of presenting the life, works, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus have earned it labels such as "the spiritual Gospel" and "the maverick Gospel." It has been seen as the most theological of the four canonical Gospels. In this volume Richard Bauckham, a leading biblical scholar and a bestselling author in the academy, illuminates main theological themes of the Gospel of John. Bauckham provides insightful analysis of key texts, covering topics such as divine and human community, God's glory, the cross and the resurrection, and the sacraments. This work will serve as an ideal supplemental text for professors and students in a course on John or the four Gospels. It will also be of interest to New Testament scholars and theologians.

 Contents:  Introduction/Preface 1. "Individualism" 2. Divine and Human Community 3. Glory 4. Cross, Resurrection, and Exaltation 5. Sacraments? 6. Dualisms 7. Dimensions of Meaning in the Gospel's First Week 8. The Four Gospels and the "Real" Jesus Indexes

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bruce Metzger Centennial Audio/Video

Bruce M. Metzger 1914-2007
Bruce M. Metzger, one of the foremost textual critics and New Testament scholars of the 20th century, taught at Princeton Theological Seminary for over forty years. When the centennial of his birth was celebrated at Princeton last year, Michael Holmes, one of Metzger's former PhD students and currently University Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, gave a lecture about Metzger's life and career during the centennial celebrations.
Michael Holmes

Holmes lecture last April, is very informative and full of wonderful anecdotes about his beloved Docktorvater.

Click here to access both audio/video of the event.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tom Schreiner on Hebrews

Tom Schreiner
With the proliferation of commentaries and their series at an all-time high, it is becoming more important for publishers to have a distinctive approach when it comes to their production.

Broadman & Holman is entering into the crowded field of the commentary genre with such an approach called the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP). The series mission statement in part reads:

...explores the theology of the Bible in considerable depth, spanning both Testaments. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, though all affirm the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. United in their high view of Scripture, and in their belief in the underlying unity of Scripture, which is ultimately grounded in the unity of God himself, each author explores the contribution of a given book or group of books to the theology of Scripture as a whole. While conceived as stand-alone volumes, each volume thus also makes a contribution to the larger whole. All volumes provide a discussion of introductory matters, including the historical setting and the literary structure of a given book of Scripture. Also included is an exegetical treatment of all the relevant passages in succinct commentary-style format. The biblical theology approach of the series will also inform and play a role in the commentary proper. The commentator permits a discussion between the commentary proper and the biblical theology that it reflects by a series of cross-references.The major contribution of each volume, however, is a thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole. This format allows each contributor to ground Biblical Theology, as is proper, in an appropriate appraisal of the relevant historical and literary features of a particular book in Scripture while at the same time focusing on its major theological contribution to the entire Christian canon in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture. Within this overall format, there will be room for each individual contributor to explore the major themes of his or her particular corpus in the way he or she sees most appropriate for the material under consideration.This format, in itself, would already be a valuable contribution to Biblical Theology. But there are other series that try to accomplish a survey of the Bible’s theology as well. What distinguishes the present series is its orientation toward Christian proclamation. This is the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series! As a result, the ultimate purpose of this set of volumes is not exclusively, or even primarily, academic. Rather, we seek to relate Biblical Theology to our own lives and to the life of the church. Our desire is to equip those in Christian ministry who are called by God to preach and teach the precious truths of Scripture to their congregations, both in North America and in a global context.

For their inaugural volume,  the BTCP turns to the capable hands of Tom Schreiner,James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology; Associate Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Known for his scholarship on Paul, and in particular his commentaries on Romans and Galatians, Schreiner dives into the deep theological waters of Hebrews to kickstart the series. Schreiner comments:

The words of Jesus on the cross, ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30) capture the theology of Hebrews.My aim in this commentary is to focus on the biblical theology of the letter. The emphasis on biblical theology shows up especially in the introduction and conclusion where theological structures and themes are considered. In the introduction I will examine four different structures that are woven into the entire letter: 1) promise/fulfillment; 2) eschatology; 3) typology; and 4) spatial orientation (which can also be described as the relationship between heaven and earth in the letter). The commentary will conclude, after presenting an exegesis of each chapter, with a discussion of some major theological themes in Hebrews. 
Most modern commentaries consist of significant introductions and then conduct an intensive exegesis of the text, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. By way of contrast, the introduction and the commentary are relatively brief and non-technical. With the proliferation of commentaries today, a new commentary should have a distinctive approach. We now have many excellent commentaries on Hebrews which examine the letter in some detail. Many of these commentaries provide a useful function in that they draw on other parallels from both Jewish and Hellenistic literature to illuminate Hebrews. The advantage of such an approach is that the reader is plunged into the cultural world of the author. On the other hand, the careful sifting of various traditions may cause the reader to lose track of the argument of the letter. At the same time, the theology of the author may be muted, not because it isn’t recognized but because it may be difficult to follow in the welter of information given to readers. I hope a commentary that probes the theology of Hebrews will prove to be helpful. I have been helped by many scholars in preparing this commentary, especially those who have written in depth commentaries and those who have written monographs on the letter. No one writes from an objective standpoint, and hence I should state up front that I write as an evangelical Christian who believes that the scriptures are the living and authoritative word of God.
The commentary will be released in February, retail at $39.99, and weigh in at a hefty 560 pp. Meanwhile, one can read an excerpt here .

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

E.A. Judge on the Examined Life

Edwin A. Judge, the great scholar of early Christianity, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, had some wonderful words of wisdom regarding the topic of identity. This interview was conducted by CPX three years ago. Consider this a daily dose of wisdom from a great man:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis: An Interview with Moisés Silva:

Recently, I had the distinct privilege to interview one of the premier New Testament scholars and linguists, Moisés Silva, on his monumental revision of The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT) with The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE).

Without further ado, on to the interview:

Moisés Silva

1. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) is the successor to the highly successful New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT). Talk about the need for updating this reference work and the reason for the name change.

Since this work’s initial publication, a whole generation of scholarship has left its mark on our knowledge of the NT language and message. In addition to the obvious need for updating bibliographical data, it was important to take advantage of new English translations and of progress in several fields related to NT studies. Because the changes were so substantial (including the restructuring of the material on an alphabetical basis), a new title seemed appropriate; the name we chose is meant to suggest a certain affinity between this work and the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. 

 2. Over eight years in the making, what were some of the biggest challenges faced in a work this scope and size?

 Rather than produce a completely new work from scratch, we wanted to maintain a genuine continuity with the first edition while at the same time introducing changes that were necessary (or sometimes simply valuable). The tension between these two goals was indeed challenging. Inevitably, some readers will regret that we deleted or substantially modified as much material as we did; others will be disappointed that many passages received little editing or that certain new publications or proposals were not included. But we believe that most users will appreciate the resulting balance. Another significant challenge was the unevenness of the material from article to article. Some of the original contributors, for example, included a flood of references to classical literature, whereas others were satisfied with very brief summaries of extrabiblical usage. Some paid little or no attention to LXX lexicography, while others sought to point out every single Hebrew-Greek equivalence. And so on. These discrepancies made it difficult for readers to compare the usage of semantically related terms. In the process of revision, therefore, much effort was expended in bringing greater consistency to the material.

 3. In the NIDNNT, 144 scholars contributed to the series. Was there any consideration of employing a similar approach to the NIDNTTE, and what were the reasons to take a different approach?

 If the goal had been to produce a wholly new work, it would have been necessary to enlist the help of many new contributors. The success of the first edition, however, demonstrated that the basic contents of NIDNTT continued to be useful and that readers would be best served by making adjustments to what had already been accomplished. Moreover, most of the revisions envisioned (such as the need for consistency mentioned above) required a uniform approach -- something very difficult to achieve if many hands were modifying different articles.

 4. Many of the new features are very helpful. One of the most useful is the “List of Concepts.” In your estimation, how does this feature mark a major improvement over the prior edition?

The first edition had grouped the terms according to concepts, and so the decision to reorganize the articles according to the Greek alphabet made necessary the production of the List of Concepts (a labor-intensive, time-consuming process). But such a list made it possible now to enhance this aspect of the work well beyond what the original work had envisioned. Users who are willing to spend time exploiting this treasure trove of semantic relationships will find their understanding of the NT Greek vocabulary greatly enriched.

 5. How did reference tools such as the TLG (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) enrich the entries for these volumes?

 Without the TLG and other electronic resources (esp. BibleWorks), it simply would not have been feasible (within the lifetime of the revising editor!) to gather in organized fashion the large amounts of data needed to make the intended revisions. Moreover, the TLG made it possible to double-check quickly (and correct) numerous references to extrabiblical literature.

 6. I noticed that your entry for λόγος is over forty pages long (3: 127-170). In your estimation, what are the top five most essential words in the NT?

It is doubtful anyone can give a proper answer to that question, but there are some obvious ones that would be on anyone’s list, such as θεός, Χριστός, πνεῦμα, νόμος, δίκαιος-δικαιοσύνη, πίστις-πιστεύω, χάρις, etc.

 7. The NIDNTTE is a gold mine from which the student, scholar, and pastor can all benefit. What are some of the ways these volumes can help the pastor prep for a sermon or a student for an exegetical paper? 

 Perhaps the best way to respond is to refer your readers to a booklet put together by Zondervan’s team precisely to address this question:

 8. The NIDNTT had a rich legacy spanning nearly forty years. Are you hopeful that the NIDNTTE will have a similar impact? 


Sunday, January 4, 2015

The CEB Study Bible: A Brief Review

Some time back I received a copy of the Common English Bible (CEB) Study Bible. I have had the pleasure of owning many study Bibles like the NLT, ESV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  The CEB may not contain some of the bells and whistles that some of the others do, but what it lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in content.

First, the CEB Study Bible utilizes the services of sixty-two contributors. This number reflects the edition that contains the Apocrypha, another unique feature that is absent in many of the ones I listed above (e.g. NLT, ESV, NIV). As expected, many of the names are very recognizable in the field of biblical studies, but what impressed me more were the names that were not as recognizable. This shows the editorship, lead by Joel Green, did their homework, finding and giving opportunities to a diverse array of scholars whom they felt were deserving to have their voices heard.

Not unique to the CEB, but a feature that was well conceived and executed were the various sidebar articles that get more extensive treatment than the study notes proper. By my count, (I had the edition that contained the Old & New Testaments) 253 sidebar articles appear, spread across 66 canonical books, or nearly four sidebars per book. So, for instance, the bizarre image of the four living creatures of Ezekiel 1:5ff. has a sidebar article called "The Living Creatures." John T. Strong, author of the Ezekiel study notes, provides some helpful information about various archaeological evidence that depicted similar imagery of a god enthroned, surrounded by creatures, giving the reader helpful context in what or whom this imagery represents (1319, OT).

My favorite area of study currently is the Gospel of John, and I was delighted to see one of my favorite scholars, J. Ramsey Michaels, author of the magisterial commentary by the same name in the NICNT series, as the author of the study notes. In fact, one can say that Michaels' contribution is a bite-size version (pp. 167-213, NT) of his massive NICNT contribution (1,094 pp.). Ramsey's introduction is brief and to the point (167-168), covering authorship, differences and similarities to the Synoptics, unique features of the Fourth Gospel, highlighting distinctive Johannine stylistic themes that appear repeatedly throughout the narrative. An outline, identical to the one contained in his commentary is featured, marked by Ramsey's unique emphasis on the "Preamble" (1:1-5) within the Prologue (1:1-18). Included in these notes is a wonderful sidebar, "The Stoning That Doesn't Happen" (187, NT). This sidebar is the bracketed episode of the woman caught in adultery (7:53-8:11). Many are aware that this episode does not appear in the earliest manuscripts, but has been retained, albeit in brackets, by the CEB. What makes Ramsey's article interesting, much like his comments in his commentary, is he discusses what the episode contributes by keeping it in the narrative, as well as how the narrative reads without the episode.

Much more could and should be said about the CEB Study Bible. Along with the NRSV Study Bible, it is now first off my shelf for consulting and reading. There is a wealth of information in these pages, and the editors deserve a hearty, "Congratulations" on a job well done.