Friday, December 31, 2010

Tom Schreiner Interview on Galatians Part II

Here is a continuation of my discussion with Tom about his new Galatians commentary. For Part I click here.

8. Could you explain the importance of viewing Galatians 3.10-14 through the lens of salvation history especially vv.12ff?

Galatians 3:10-14 relates to both salvation history and anthropology. One of the big problems is when scholars choose one or the other. It has become so common to split apart salvation history and anthropology. In any case, part of what Paul says here relates to salvation history. One reason works of law don’t justify is now righteousness is in Jesus Christ. What the law mandated was part of the former dispensation, the old covenant. Believers are not under that covenant any more, and hence it cannot be required for salvation. So, when Paul reads Lev. 18:5 we must recognize that he reads it with that salvation historical paradigm in mind. The curse that came from the Mosaic law has been removed by Jesus Christ (3:13), and now believers are in the new age of the Spirit (3:14). Leviticus 18:5 in its OT context represents a humble response of obedience to God’s gracious work in redeeming his people from Egypt, and the life in view is life in the land. Paul reads the verse typologically. The life in Gal. 3:12 is eternal life. And since the sacrifices of the law covenant are no longer in force (now that Christ has come), one must keep the law perfectly to find forgiveness. One cannot live under both covenants. One finds salvation either in Christ and his sacrifice or in the law and animal sacrifices.

9. Continuing with Galatians 3, namely 3.19, what should be made of the phrase regarding the law “having been ordained through angels by the hands of a mediator” (διαταγεὶς δι᾽ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου)?

That is a very difficult phrase, but it was a common Jewish tradition that the law was mediated through angels (Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2). There is a hint of such an idea perhaps in Deut. 33:2. Paul inserts this idea here to teach that the law is inferior to the covenant with Abraham.

10. Galatians 3.28 stands at the heart of the egalitarian v. complementarian debates. Should this be the case or is this a misreading of this passage?

Galatians 3:28 is an important passage in the debate. It teaches that there is equal access to salvation for both men and women in Christ. There are not two ways of salvation, one for men and one for women. But the text must be read in context. If the passage is saying that maleness and femaleness are irrelevant categories, the text would justify homosexuality, which is plainly contrary to Paul’s teaching elsewhere (Rom. 1:26-27). Paul is not denying differences between men and women or Jews and Gentiles or even slave or free. In context, he is saying that Jews have no advantage over Greeks when it comes to salvation. Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised to be saved. So too, women have equal access to salvation as well. The text should not be read to say that there are no role differences between men and women. There are social implications in the text, but we need to read all of Paul to discover what those implications are. And Paul himself believed there are different roles in marriage (Eph. 5:22-33) and in terms of church leadership (1 Tim. 2:9-15). Incidentally, this is quite different from what Paul says about slavery. Marriage was instituted at creation and is a good gift of God, and Paul argues from the created order when giving instructions about men and women. Paul never endorses slavery per se, and slavery is not rooted in the created order. Paul regulates an existing evil institution in his comments on slavery.

11. How are we to understand Paul’s scathing rebuke of his opponents in 5.12?

We have to remember that Paul is writing the Galatians, not the opponents! He is speaking hyperbolically to shock the Galatians, so that they don’t fall prey to a false gospel. We should not read this to say that Paul hated the opponents. He was worried about the Galatians going to hell, and he wanted them to see that they were falling prey to a false gospel, and he says in the strongest possible terms. To do that is to destroy yourself. The opponents might as well cut off their sex organs, for they are heading for destruction. Paul is saying to those whom he loves, “Don’t go that way!”

12. What are some of the ways Galatians 6.6-10 informs our understanding in the church of a giving disposition to which we should all aspire?

Paul argues that giving is a great blessing. It is in response to what God has done for us in Christ. We don’t give because we have to, but we give because God has poured his grace out on us. If someone doesn’t give, if someone is fundamentally selfish, it calls into question, whether they are believers at all.

13. Now that your commentary has been released and is being read and interacted with, what is your hope as to the impact it will make, both in the academy and more importantly, in the pastorate?

I hope it helps pastors and teachers and laypersons understand and live out the gospel. When we understand the good news of the free grace in Christ, our whole lives change. We don’t live under the burden of guilt. We don’t obey out of guilt. We obey out of grace. Our obedience always flows from trusting the great truth that God is for us because of what he has done for us in Christ. Luther said somewhere that if he knew God wasn’t angry with him that he would stand upside down for joy. Well, we know that God isn’t angry with us. He loves us, and when this seeps into our lives (and we never outgrow or master this lesson), then our lives are filled with the joy of living in God’s gracious presence.

14. Finally, can you share with us some of your current and future writing/research projects?

Currently, I am working on 3 different things.

1) I am writing a biblical theology of the whole Bible. Crazy I know. My title is: You Will See the King in His Beauty: A Canonical Biblical Theology. Baker Academic has agreed to publish it.

2) I am participating in a 4 Views on Paul book with Doug Campbell, Mark Nanos, and Scott Hahn, with Michal Bird as the editor.

3) I am also working on a book on church government that I am co-editing with Ben Merkle of Southeastern Seminary.

Thanks Tom for your time.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tom Schreiner Interview on Galatians Part I

Before moving on to the post, first, I would like to say that I hope all of my readers had a very Merry Christmas and I pray that all have a blessed New Year!

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean, Scripture and Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and well-known for his amazing output of scholarly work, especially his commentary on Romans and his New Testament Theology, agreed to be interviewed about his latest work, Galatians, in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series (ZEC).

As an aside, I find Tom's contribution to be solid, and is perfect place to start for any in-depth engagement with Galatians. Pastors, Bible study teachers, and professors will find much to chew on here.

On to Part I of a two-part interview:

 1. You serve on the editorial board for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series. With so many commentary series available, what was it about this particular series that drew your interest and ultimately your involvement?

The series attracted me because it was geared towards teachers and preachers of the word. The structural layout of each passage is a unique feature, which I think is enormously helpful. Also, I enjoyed the application section for the commentary, for that helps us keep our feet on the ground and stay practical.

2. You have contributed the volume on Galatians. Can you discuss the process by which you wrote this commentary and the challenges it presented?

I have taught Galatians many times. In fact, I have probably spent more time on Galatians than any other book (apart from the books I have written commentaries on). I started with my own work on the book, which included diagramming and tracing the argument. I wrote the first draft from my own work, for I had already done a lot of work on the letter as noted above. Then I integrated and edited it with the work of others. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the amount of secondary literature on Galatians. The ZEC series is  meant for pastors and teachers, so I had to be selective and try to read what would be most helpful.

3. I remember hearing Doug Moo say in a lecture, and I am paraphrasing here, “I wish I had written a commentary on Galatians before taking on Romans.” After doing the same yourself, do you understand this sentiment?

I do agree with Doug Moo. When I was asked to do Romans by Baker, I was hoping to do a commentary on Galatians first, for it is shorter and I had spent the most time on Galatians. But there is no way I could turn down Romans!

4. After reading through the introduction (21-59), I was impressed with the breadth and depth of your engagement of the topics (i.e. location of recipients: N. /S. Galatia; date; the topic of ‘mirror-reading;’ ‘empire;’ the identity of Paul’s opponents; rhetorical criticism, etc.) and the fairness and humility with which you presented diverging viewpoints. Talk about the responsibility of the commentator in presenting these views before giving their own.

I am sure I have failed at this often, but I try to write in such a way that if the author I discuss is sitting in front of me, he would agree that I represented him or her fairly. Now I know that hasn’t always happened, for I have even gotten letters from other authors saying I didn’t succeed! But that’s my goal.

5. One of the best features of your commentary is the “In Depth” essays that you include within the commentary proper. Galatians provides many challenging topics for the reader/interpreter (e.g. ‘justification;’ ‘works of the law;’ ‘faith in/of Christ;’ etc.). One of these essays (‘works of the law’) discusses the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). First, could you discuss what benefit(s) the NPP has had in the interpretation of ‘works of the law,’ and second, what are some of the shortcomings of this particular reading?

I will keep this brief since it is a blog post. But the NPP reminds us that Jew/Gentile issues were crucial in the first century, and what provoked the controversy in Galatia was a boundary marker issue (circumcision), and what sparked debate in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-14) was an identity marker issue as well (food laws). So, the NPP rightly sees that boundary marker issues faced early Christians. The inclusion of the Gentiles in the church is a major issue. If I could sum up the shortcoming of the NPP briefly, I think the NPP wrongly sees the focus on boundary markers in the phrase works of law, whereas the focus is on the law as a whole. The phrase most naturally refers to the entire law (cf. Gal. 3:10). And as we read on in Paul’s argument (cf. Gal. 2:15-21; 3:6-14), it becomes apparent that Paul argues against righteousness by law as a whole (cf. 5:3), so that Paul repudiates the notion that human beings can be justified on the basis of their works.

6. Turning to some more specific issues in Galatians, could you discuss Paul’s relationship to the Jerusalem ‘pillars'(2.9), and why it was important for him to demonstrate the independence of his Gentile mission (1.15-17; 2.6) while also mentioning their validation of his ministry(2.7-10)?

I believe the opponents argued that Paul was dependent upon the Jerusalem apostles for his gospel and then argued that he distorted what he received from Jerusalem. Paul strikes back by saying that his gospel is independent of Jerusalem (ch. 1). He received it directly through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Hence, his gospel stands no matter what the Jerusalem apostles say. But then in ch. 2 he handles a delicate issue. Even though his gospel is true without the ratification of the pillars, he needs their validation practically. Otherwise, everywhere Paul traveled opponents would follow and say that Paul’s teaching was contrary to the pillar apostles in Jerusalem. Paul points out in 2:1-10, therefore, that the Jerusalem apostles agreed with and ratified his gospel. Paul didn’t need their validation for the gospel to be true, but he needed it to progress in his ministry. He needed their validation for pragmatic reasons.

7. One of the touch points in the ‘imputation debate’ is Galatians 3.6. How should we understand the phrase “and it was counted to him (Abraham) as righteousness” (καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην)?

When it says faith is counted to Abraham as righteousness, I think this means that Abraham was righteous by virtue of his faith instead of his works. But we ought not to say that faith is his righteousness. Faith is the instrument by which a believer receives the righteousness of Christ. Believers are righteous because they are united to Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, and hence they enjoy righteousness because they are united to Christ. But such union with Christ comes about through faith.

Part II will be posted in the coming days...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Brian Abasciano Dissertation Online

Brian Abasciano, who received his Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen and now pastors at Faith Community Church in Hampton, New Hampshire, while serving as an adjunct professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has posted the unpublished version of his dissertation, titled, Paul's Use of the OT in Romans 9.1-9Abasciano's published version (T&T Continuum), also has a subsequent volume due to release in late June 2011, entitled Paul's Use of the OT in Romans 9.9-18. More info can be found here on the Continuum site.

Abasciano's work in Romans 9 and the OT is historic as no one has as ever explored these matters as thoroughly as these two studies. Anyone working with Romans 9-11, will want to consult both of his volumes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just Out of Curiosity...

I'm sure this has been discussed at length elsewhere, but I was wondering how my fellow bloggers felt about mentioning their blog on their c.v.'s along with some particulars, such as book reviews, interviews, etc.

I'm not sure that institutions are all that impressed with this info, since anyone can blog and this obviously does not hold the same weight as "real publishing" (books, journal articles, essays, etc.) What do you think? Is the tide slowly changing on this, or not at all?

I for one, value much what is said on blogs and find it often to be the best and most accessible way to participating into scholarship as it happens.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jonathan Robinson's MTh Thesis Online!

Jonathan Robinson, who blogs over at xenos theology, has helpfully posted his MTh Thesis. It is entitled Sex, Slogans and Σώματα: Discovering Paul’s Theological Ethic in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, and can be clicked on here.

Be sure to check it out!

HT: Jonathan Robinson

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blogging From My New Computer and BibleWorks

Many thanks to those of you who chimed in about my computer dilemma. I ended up purchasing a Toshiba Satellite A665 laptop with an A7 processor. My next challenge is to redownload the SBLGNT for BibleWorks. It appears the files are there but everytime I restart BibleWorks I get nothing.

Can someone lay out for me the step-by-step in downloading these zip files on to my BibleWorks?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cult of Personality

I have been enjoying Tom Schreiner's new commentary on Galatians of late, especially some comments he made regarding a proper attitude towards those in authority.

The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary has a section called "Theology in Application" and in Schreiner's section on Galatians 2.1-10, he makes these remarks:

Our evangelical subculture (and larger culture as well!) tends to be dazzled by our religious superstars. How thankful we are for the ministries of pastors like John McArthur, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Tim Keller! And yet we must not venerate them. Some virtually become the disciples of these pastors (and others), and hence they fiercely and dogmatically defend every opinion of such men. Unfortunately, they buy into our celebrity culture and the word of famous pastors in effect becomes more important than the Word of God. We can unwittingly become incredibly secular even when we are talking about the Word of God. Paul warns us of the danger of venerating any human being. The gospel of Christ and the Word of God are our authority, and the pastors I named would agree that is not their word but the gospel that must be prized. May the Lord keep us from venerating evangelical superstars, so that our praise and adoration and wonder are directed to God in Christ alone (italics mine; 134).

Douglas Campbell Video

Douglas Campbell, Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinty School, and author of the most talked about book in New Testament studies over the past couple of years, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, is featured in an interview with Dr. J. Michael Feazell of Grace Communion International on the show "You're Invited", entitled "Our Participation with Christ". Here is the page that features a group study guide based on this interview.

Off the Grid with Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa, whom I consider the best blues guitarist going today, played this gem ("Woke up Dreaming") when I was at the Playhouse Theatre in Cleveland this past spring/summer. This clip is taken from his concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.

To say his playing is mesmerizing is an understatement especially from the six minute mark out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Couple of Items of Interest

As many of you are now fully aware, the SBLGNT and apparatus are now available as a PDF file.  Also, and I am sure I am late getting to this, but Mark Nanos has a brief entry on Galatians for the Oxford Bibliographies Online. Check out the other 50 entries as well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mariam Kamell's Dissertation Online

Mariam Kamell, who co-authored the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on James with Craig Blomberg, now has her dissertation available online, entitled, The Soteriology of James in light of earlier Jewish Wisdom literature and the Gospel of Matthew. Mariam finished her PhD at the University of St. Andrews.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Initial Take on Fundamentals of New Testament Greek

Yesterday, to my surprise, I received a package from Eerdmans containing Fundamentals of New Testament Greek Grammar and Workbook by Stan Porter, Jeffrey Reed and Matthew Brook O'Donnell.

One caveat before I begin: I have only spent about an hour looking through the grammar, but here is my initial reaction. This grammar will scare away many a beginning Greek student! To be fair, here is what the authors say in the Preface:

We know that this is a very full, comprehensive, and perhaps even challenging grammar (x).

Part of what makes this grammar different from others is the pace it intends to set in introducing material to the beginning student. One, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, this grammar introduces all Greek words that occur 12x or more, 950 in all. Second, the authors include and introduce the student to a parsing guide before chapter one. For example, word classes such as adjectives (ADJ), article (ART), nouns (NON), particles (PAR), pronouns (PRO), and verbs (VRB) are delineated  followed by a discussion of the particular features of the word classes. In the case of an adjective, the reader is alerted that it belongs to one of four declension patterns, including the elements of comparison (c=comparative, s=superlative). One difficulty with this approach is the fact that most beginning students will not have the faintest idea what a declension is! This is then followed up by examples such as πάντες [1/3ADJ-MNP], " 'all' is the masculine nominative plural form of the adjective form of πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν, which takes the endings of the first and third declensions." (xvii)  Again, if I am a beginning Greek student my head is probably already spinning! The authors may have been better off including these within each chapter when a particular word class is introduced.

Moving on to chapter one, like all Greek grammars we are given the alphabet with both Erasmian and Modern Greek pronunciation cues.  Discussions on breathing marks, vowels, iota subscripts, vowel lengthening and compensation, contraction, crasis, elision, diaeresis follow along with some discussions of consonants, accent rules, enclitic and proclitic words, and finally, punctuation, round out a dense first chapter (1-15).

By no means does the brief glance represent my final judgment on the usefulness of this volume. In fact, I rather like the emphases on an expanded vocabulary, the extended discussion on accent rules (11-14). The authors are well aware of the difficulties this grammar may present the beginning student as the quote above demonstrates. I am not in favor of "dumbing down" the approach to Biblical Greek, but I am concerned that the authors of this volume take care to explain difficult concepts clearly and with appropriate timing, something I am not convinced is accomplished from what I have read thus far.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Duke Dissertations

I have found two more theses of interest, this time from Duke University, one being David M. Moffitt's A New and Living Way: Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews and another by Bradley R. Trick entitled Sons, Seed, and Children of Promise in Galatians: Discerning the Coherence in Paul’s Model of Abrahamic Descent.

More information on both authors can be found here and here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Romans Volume

  Well-known and regarded New Testament scholar, Richard Longenecker, has a volume on Romans that will be released sometime in the spring (Eerdmans). The Eerdmans site incidentally, attributes this volume to his son, the equally well-known and regarded, Bruce Longenecker, but this is a typo.

Longenecker is working on a Romans commentary in the NIGTC series (Eerdmans) so this volume may serve as a foretaste to the commentary.

Here are the details:

Introducing Romans: Critical Concerns in Paul’s Most Famous Letter

$40.00 Paperback

536 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6619-6
Paul’s Letter to the Romans has proven to be a particular challenge for commentators, with its many highly significant interpretive issues often leading to tortuous convolutions and even “dead ends” in their understanding of the letter.
Here, Richard N. Longenecker takes a comprehensive look at the complex backdrop of Paul’s letter and carefully unpacks a number of critical issues, including:
Authorship, integrity, occasion, date, addressees, and purpose
  • Important recent interpretive approaches
  • Greco-Roman oral, rhetorical, and epistolary conventions
  • Jewish and Jewish Christian thematic and rhetorical features
  • The establishing of the letter’s Greek text
  • The letter’s main focus, structure, and argument
Update: Eerdmans has corrected the typo and now shows Richard Longenecker as the author of this volume.

Computer Issues

For the last few days I have been without a working computer. My HP laptop has been a real lemon; this time it is the video card. The problem is I have no extra dinero to get it fixed. At the same time I'm going to need something reliable, so I have begun to think about moving on to a Mac.

I have heard many good things about Macs, but I was wondering how different they are from regular PC's? 

How many of you had made the switch?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Durham Dissertations Online!

I found a wonderful resource tonight as I stumbled upon a site called Durham e-Theses. From the Theology and Religion department are 29 theses that can be accessed. Ben Blackwell's, John Goodrich's, Jason Maston's, Kyle Wells', and Jonathan Worthington's theses all pose an interest to yours truly. Please do check this out. What a great resource!

Gordon Fee Article

I found an article in Charisma News Online that features one of my, if not, favorite New Testament scholars, Gordon Fee.

The article focuses on Fee's Pentecostalism on one hand, and rigorous scholarship on the other, which used to be somewhat of an oxymoron in those circles.

Fee has some great quips and quotes here, so do check it out!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cannot Wait! : Arland Hultgren's Romans Commentary

As I alluded to the other day, Arland Hultgren has written a Romans commentary (Eerdmans) that will be published in April of 2011.

Here are the details:

816 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8028-2609-1
On the heels of Arland Hultgren’s successful commentary comes a new volume exploring one of the most significant theological documents ever written. In this commentary Arland Hultgren engages the text of Paul’s Letter to the Romans using careful theological exegesis in conversation with scores of contemporary biblical scholars.

Hultgren walks readers through the letter verse-by-verse, illuminating the text with helpful comments, probing into major puzzles, and highlighting the epistle’s most inspiring features. He also demonstrates the essentially forward-looking, missional character of Paul’s letter — written, as Hultgren suggests, to introduce Paul-the-theologian to Roman believers and inspire their support for his planned missionary efforts in the Western Mediterranean.

This thoughtful commentary, ideal for pastors and serious students of the Bible, includes seven appendices that discuss in detail such hot button issues as “Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality” and “Pistis Christou: Faith in or of Christ?”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Schreiner's responses to Wright and Thielman

In case anyone missed it, Patrick Schreiner, son of Tom Schreiner, has posted excerpts from his father's responses to both Tom Wright and Frank Thielman.

This is quite helpful since these responses are actually from Tom's paper that he read at ETS.

Check it out!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tom Schreiner Videos on Romans

I was scouring YouTube and found a couple of videos of Tom Schreiner delivering the Lloyd Oglive Lecture Series at Biola University earlier this spring.

The first is based on Romans 1.18-25 and is entitled "The Revelation of God's Wrath":

The second is entitled "Invincible Hope" and is based on Romans 8.31-39:


Monday, November 22, 2010

Arland Hultgren Lecture

Over on YouTube I was able to find a lecture by Arland J. Hultgren, Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary, entitled "Paul as Theologian: His Vocation and Its Significance for His Theology"( Word and World Lectures, 2009).

Incidentally, Hultgren is due to have his Romans commentary come out in the spring (ECC; Eerdmans).


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Frank Thielman on Romans 1.17

Here is another post by Marc Cortez on Frank Thielman's paper at ETS. Once again, kudos, Mark! I really appreciate these posts.

Tom Schreiner on Tom Wright

Marc Cortez has done everyone a huge service by recapping Tom Schreiner's paper on Tom Wright at last night's ETS session on justification.

Thanks, Marc. It feels as if I was there.

Do check it out!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Off the Grid: Who is the Greatest Rock Band of All Time?

Scot McKnight makes the claim  that this is a no-brainer: it is obviously the Beatles. I believe differently; I think that honor should go to Led Zeppelin. While the Fab Four can rightly be described as musical geniuses, maybe with the exception of Ringo Starr, has there ever been a more complete rock outfit than Led Zeppelin? Robert Plant, perhaps rock's greatest lead man, Jimmy Page, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, the most underrated, but perhaps the most talented member of the band, bassist, John Paul Jones, and last but not least, the greatest rock and roll drummer (sorry Keith Moon), John Bonham.

What do you think? I'm sure cases can be made for others, but at least on my iPod there is no one I'd rather have help me through a long night at work. I don't know what I'd do without a little "Led for my head".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Tool to Revolutionize Pauline Studies: An Interview with James Ware

In recent times, many useful compendiums on Pauline parallels have appeared. None, however, have been able to accomplish what James Ware's creation promises to do, bring students of Paul face-to-face with the Greek text, enabling them to see parallels in the Pauline corpus as never before.

This unique work entitled, Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English, will be a must have resource for all serious students of the New Testament. I really do believe that this work will revolutionize Pauline studies in future research of this field. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to discuss the details of  this volume with the author, James Ware, associate professor of religion at the University of Evansville.

On to the interview:

1.This is a unique volume in many ways. Talk about the need for a Pauline synopsis in Greek and how it fills a niche left by other Pauline synopses.

We have long needed a synopsis of Paul’s letters in Greek. The Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English is the very first synopsis of related passages in Paul’s letters in both Paul’s original Greek and English translation. This volume contains both Greek text and English translation, on facing pages. The Greek text is that of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition, the standard critical edition of the New Testament, and the English translation is the NRSV. But I also believe this synopsis is a quantum leap over previous tools for the study of parallel passages in Paul in other key ways. This synopsis features a revolutionary format--based upon an entirely new approach to the study of parallel passages in Paul--which enables users for the first time to work with the multiple and many-faceted parallels to any passage in Paul in a systematic and comprehensive way. The work also has a lot of features designed especially for the English-only user designed to help bridge the gap between the original text and English translation. I include notes to explain key Greek terms underlying the English translation, and in key places where the NRSV obscures things for the English reader, I introduce an alternate translation which follows the Greek more closely. And unlike previous such tools, this volume is cloth-bound and elegantly designed, with a flexible binding which allows it to lay open easily on the desk. It will sit proudly on the shelf alongside your other tools for biblical study. In fact, it is my hope that this work will take its place alongside other standard tools of New Testament study, such as gospels synopses, concordances, and so forth, as an essential resource for the close study of Paul’s letters.

2. Before discussing the unique features of this volume, you have made an important methodological choice in choosing all of the Pauline letters ascribed to the apostle as well as relevant material from Acts. What lead you to this decision and how does this in turn benefit the reader of this volume?

Yes, as you mention, the Synopsis of the Pauline Letters enables the user to study parallel passages in the entire corpus of Paul's letters in the New Testament, together with related passages in the book of Acts. Regarding the inclusion of the entire Pauline corpus: I believe the goal of any standard tool should be to be as neutral as possible on such historical questions such as authorship and so forth. There is thus simply no defensible reason for such a tool to omit any of these letters, such as the pastorals, as some previous tools have done. Solid scholars such as Luke Timothy Johnson have made a strong case for Pauline authorship of the pastorals, and among those who reject Pauline authorship, almost all are agreed that these letters contain authentic Pauline fragments. Under such circumstances, omitting them would not make much sense. Besides, by including the pastorals, this work can be another tool in exploring the precise relationship of these letters to the other Pauline epistles, whereas excluding them would illegitimately preclude such work in advance. The neutrality of this work on such questions is reflected in the title: it is a synopsis of the Pauline letters, that is, the entire Pauline corpus in the New Testament, designed to be useful to all who study Paul, irrespective of their views on authorship questions.

The inclusion of relevant passages from Acts is also important. With the inclusion of the entire Pauline corpus as well as Acts, the user is able to work with the entire canonical witness to Paul’s teaching and ministry in the New Testament. By the way, I found in doing this work that the correspondences between Paul’s letters and Paul’s speeches in Acts are eye-popping, much more extensive than the standard (sometimes disconcertingly shallow) scholarly treatments of these passages might lead one to believe. And the differences are also interesting. For instance, it is clear that Paul’s Jewish identity is a major emphasis of Luke, whereas Paul in his letters tends (in general) to put much less emphasis on his Jewishness. With this synopsis, such similarities and differences jump right out from the page, and can be carefully studied and explored.

3. One of the great features of this work is the 177 groups of related passages. Explain how you arrived at these categories of Pauline thought and taking a number and topic label, give an example of how a Pauline theme can be traced through his letters.

I found in working with Francis and Sampley’s Pauline Parallels and other tools (besides the fact that they only provided the parallels in English), that they were very difficult to use effectively, as the target passages are not categorized by theme, but simply by a phrase or two drawn from the target passage. The reader is constantly left scratching one’s head over the precise connection between the passages. That is why I based this synopsis on entirely different principles. In this tool, the topic is clearly labelled for each group of parallel passages, so the user immediately knows the structural, formal or thematic relationship connecting the passages. The passages are grouped by epistolary structure (topics 1-8), epistolary forms (topics 9-14), literary forms (topics 15-22), content or theme (topics 23-161), key events of the Pauline mission (topics 162-166), and Paul’s co-workers (topics 167-177). Each topic is given a number and a topic label (e.g. 1, "Salutation, " 89, "The Resurrection of the Body," 124, "The Fruit of the Spirit," etc.). As far as the passages collected under each topic, the work includes both obvious and debatable parallels, leaving to the user’s judgment the relevance of any particular passage. The collection of parallel passages represents literally thousands of hours of work with concordances, commentaries, and other tools to uncover all relevant, or even possibly relevant, parallels. Of course, there is a subjective element involved here, especially when it comes to the thematic topics, but I have attempted to follow Paul’s own categories of thought, informed by the best of current scholarship on Paul. The Table of Topics at the front of the work contains a convenient reference list of all the topics. A fellow scholar remarked to me that simply reading through the Table of Topics is an education in Pauline theology!

4. You have endeavored to make this synopsis user friendly. Talk about how important the "Table of Parallels" is in using this synopsis.

The "Table of Parallels" is the real key to the effective use of this synopsis. The "Table of Parallels" lists, in canonical order, every passage from Paul’s letters, as well as the book of Acts, found in the work. The assumption is that, most of the time, the user will be studying a particular passage in Paul, whether for a sermon, Bible study, paper, or what have you. The user simply looks up the passage in the Table of Parallels, and this leads the user to every topic where that passage is found. Notice that I said "every topic": a passage is usually found in more than one topic, often several. This is where this synopsis is such an improvement over previous tools. Most passages in Paul contain more than one theme. Instead, in any passage in Paul, themes and motifs "cascade" one upon another. Previous tools operated on the (obviously false) assumption that any passage in Paul has only one key theme, and these tools locate the passage under that one theme, ignoring all the others. As a result, these works are very incomplete and frustrating to use. By contrast, the Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English is really revolutionary, because it permits the user to unpack each of these various themes and motifs in any passage, and trace the parallels to each of them throughout Paul’s letters. As one of my students put it, its like an "exegetical explosion." That’s what makes this work such a powerful tool.

By the way, the work also contains an Index of Subjects, so whenever the users wish to trace a particular subject through Paul’s letters, they can do that as well.

5. I was pleased to find that this volume also includes a textual apparatus. What were some of the factors that lead you to include this feature and how did you determine what textual information to include/exclude?

We wanted this to be a truly comprehensive scholarly tool. When working with passages relating to the mystery of Christ in Paul, for instance, it is important to know that, while the Nestle- Aland text reads "the mystery of God" in 1 Corinthians 2:1, there is also strong manuscript support for the reading "the testimony of God." At the same time, a full apparatus, including even the most minor differences which are relatively insignificant for exegesis, did not seem necessary. The solution we came up with was to create for this volume a streamlined, working apparatus, including only those readings of greatest importance for exegesis. This too was a gargantuan task, but I am very excited about the results. The apparatus includes over 175 of the key instances of textual variation in the Pauline corpus and Acts. I think it would be hard to find a textual variation of truly significant importance for exegesis that is not included in this apparatus. And the apparatus has a unique design, differing from Nestle-Aland, but clear and easy to use, which allowed a lot of information to be packed into a small space. For each variant, the apparatus includes the evidence of all available papyri, all the major uncials, and even a select number of important minuscules! And the introduction includes a complete list of the manuscripts cited in the apparatus, providing each manuscript’s name, date, text type, and even current location. Users can use this for reference as they work through any reading in the apparatus. And the introduction also includes a brief but very helpful introduction to text criticism and using a textual apparatus, for those new to this sort of thing or who need a helpful refresher.

I would also add that the English text also includes a textual apparatus, which explains clearly what the variants are for the English reader, and also indicates the general weight of the manuscript evidence for each reading. These notes incorporate all the textual notes in the NRSV, but these NRSV notes have been corrected and expanded at many necessary points. And our English apparatus includes many additional variant readings not given in the NRSV notes. In addition, the English reader can also easily pass their eye over to the Greek apparatus for further information. The introduction to using the apparatus that I mentioned above provides all the background the English reader needs to effectively use the Greek apparatus as well as the English.

6. In my use of this, I can already see how this volume will improve my handling of the Greek text of Paul’s letters. Was this one of your goals in writing this volume?

Yes, one of the advantages of the facing page format is that it is very helpful for those who are seeking to improve their Greek skills, or whose Greek skills may be a bit rusty, in that it provides the translation help they may need at spots, all the time encouraging them to check out Paul’s precise wording on the facing page Greek text. By the way, one of the key aspects of this volume that I think both Greek and English users will appreciate is this: believe it or not, previous tools for comparative study of Paul have by their own admission based their parallels on English translations of Paul’s letters, not the Greek text! It is amazing how many parallels in these previous tools are included or not included, based on the vagaries of translation, often missing obvious connections within the original text. I would think that both those using the volume primarily in Greek, and those using it in English, would want the parallels collected on the basis of Paul’s original text. The Synopsis of the Pauline Letters is based in its entirety on the Greek text of Paul’s letters. Our synopsis is the first work that does this. I think this aspect is crucial for a reliable, scholarly tool for the study of parallels in Paul.

7. Name some of the benefits that the student of Paul’s letters will receive from this volume and give an example how this synopsis has benefited your own scholarship.

I knew I really had something when the manuscript was only partially completed and in unwieldy manuscript form, and yet I found I was already using the work constantly myself in my own study and research. I turn to it all the time now in my own scholarship. To give an example of the usefulness of this volume, let me explain another way in which this resource is a quantum leap over previous tools. The Table of Parallels not only includes every passage in Paul’s letters, arranged according to the standard sense divisions, but also individual units and sub-sections within each passage. So, for instance, if the user is studying Romans 1:1-7, the Table of Parallels, of course, directs the user to topic 1, "Salutation," where the user can compare this passage with every other salutation in all of the Pauline corpus. But the Table of Parallels also directs the user to passages parallel to the very important confessional formula embedded within that passage, Romans 1:3-4. The user can compare this formula to all other such formulas in the Pauline letters under the topics "Summaries of the Faith," and "Proposed Creedal Fragments." The user can also study passages parallel to the content of this formula in the topics "The Son of God Made Flesh" and "The Resurrection of Jesus." And the Table of Parallels lists other sub-sections of Romans 1:1-7 and their related topics. In fact, for Romans 1:1-7 alone, the Table of Parallels directs the user to ten different groups of related passages! The truly revolutionary design of this work makes it comprehensive in a way not achieved previously. I have been working recently on the resurrection in Paul’s letters. The synopsis allowed me to pinpoint specific parallels to the confessional formula in Romans 1:3-4, and this study led me to an important insight into Paul’s theology of Jesus’ resurrection. One of the reasons I am excited that the book is finally out, is that I can now use it in my own research and study of Paul!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pistis Christou Debate on BibleGateway

Over on BibleGateway, Tom Schreiner, Craig Blomberg, Mike Bird, and Darrell Bock are unanimous with regard to pistis christou being translated objectively, that is "faith in Christ", albeit, with some qualifications.

It would be interesting to hear from the other side, namely, Mike Gorman and Douglas Campbell, to name just a couple who support the subjective rendering. I'd like to see their responses as well.

HT: Mike Bird

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paul and Scripture Papers Online

The Paul and Scripture Seminar of SBL has just posted some of its papers online. Among them is Ben Witherington's  and a fascinating study by Leonard Greenspoon who discusses whether Paul cited Scripture from memory.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grant Osborne's Matthew: Subsequent Impressions

In a previous post  I gave my initial impressions of Grant Osborne's new commentary on Matthew (ZECNT).

In this post I will assess the different features of the commentary proper and show how Osborne utilizes them in a specific unit, namely, the beginning of the body of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5.17-20 (179-185).

Each section begins with the heading Literary Context, with the goal of situating the scriptural unit with what precedes and follows, while also demonstrating how the passage fits in this case to the Gospels overall agenda.
Here, Osborne states that the central issue of Matthew 5.17-20 is Jesus' kingdom teaching relates to Torah (179). Torah is demonstrated to be "caught up and fulfilled" in Jesus' kingdom teaching (179).

Included in this section is a box that shows an outline that displays the larger and smaller units to which these passages belong (179).

Next, another heading, Main Idea, describes in a one or two sentences what this passage is all about. Regarding Matthew 5.17-20, Osborne writes:

The scribes and Pharisees had developed the oral tradition in order to explicate the law more clearly for the people; they wanted to make its meaning evident on the practical level of living rightly. Jesus is saying in effect that they have failed to do so. Only he can 'fulfill' it, that is, bring it to its intended end or goal (179).

Incidentally, I find that this component of the commentary could be most useful to the pastor, in that, the "main idea" brings a focus to the big picture of the passage, thus helping the pastor or bible study leader frame their sermon/lesson more expediently and decisively.

Following the main idea is the Translation. It is hard to do this section justice, because its strengths lie on the visual department which cannot be replicated here. Nevertheless, the first part of Matthew 5.17-20 appears something like this:

17a  Assertion           "Do no thin that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets.
    b  Contrast to 17a  I have not come  to destroy but
    c                                                        to fulfill it.
18a Basis #1               [1] For I tell you the truth,
                                                                                   until  heaven and
                                                                                           earth              disappear,
    b                              not the smallest letter,
                                    not the least dot of a pen, will disappear from the law

    c                                                           until everything is accomplished.   (180)

What my reconstruction in this post fails to capture is that the passage is framed by a box, the bold face font is in gray, and numerous lines are drawn to show the relationship between lines. For instance, Osborne draws a line from "disappear" in 18b to "until" of 18c.

Structure and Literary Form provides the reader with a summary of how the flow of thought proceeds. Here, Osborne cites favorably Guelich's  reading (Sermons on the Mount, 134-135) that these sayings of Jesus can be deemed as an "I have come" (ἦλθον) saying (v.17), a legal saying (v.18), a sentence of holy law (v.19), and an entrance saying (v.20; 180). These saying fit the pattern where Jesus challenges the legal assumptions of the Jewish leaders. Moreover, "Jesus' conclusion and the transition to his study of ethical righteousness in vv.21-48 are the basis of his proclamation that his is a superior form of righteousness to that offered by the leaders (181).

Another very helpful feature for the pastor/teacher is the Exegetical Outline. The passages overall structure is displayed here and again needs to be seen to be appreciated. Here is a partial rendering:

I.  Jesus Fulfills the Law (5.17-19)
    A. Purpose of his coming-- not to destroy, but to fulfill (v.17)
    B. Basis 1--abiding value of Torah (v.18)
        1. Limit 1--heaven and earth's passing
        2. Extent--not the smallest part
        3. Limit 2--all accomplished
    C. Basis 2--importance of Torah (v.19)
        1. the least--breaking a commandment
        2. The greatest--obeying the commandments

Finally, the text proper comes into view. The author's translation comes first in boldface font (e.g. 5.17 Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets) followed by the Greek text in regular font (Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον τοὺς προφήτας). This choice it seems is to give those with limited or "rusty" Greek an aid in piecing together the phrase(s). It should be noted however, with regard to the Greek, that exegetical discussions require some felicity on the part of the reader and are best suited for those who have had more than one year of Greek. That is not to say that the average reader cannot benefit greatly from these sections, after all there is plenty good exegetical discussions that all may benefit from.

The last section focuses on application and is entitled Theology in Application. Here, the theological message of the passage is summarized as well as its contribution to the broader areas of book and canon as well. This is followed by a focus on how this passage might speak to today's church. For this particular unit, Osborne has 3 separate headings: 1. Jesus Fulfilled the OT in His Life and Teaching (184-185); 2. The OT is Still Part of the Canon and Should Be Preached Directly; 3. The Disciple Must Live Rightly with High Ethical Standards (185).

My overall impression of this work is that one, this will be a commentary that is possibly the most useful for pastors/teachers due to its repeated focus on driving the reader back to the text. This does not mean that this will take the place of other Matthean

Second, Osborne does a tremendous job of distilling massive amounts of information for the pastor-teacher in that he refers to the major interpretive issues and the major players in the debate. For instance, when Osborne provides an overview of the Sermon on the Mount (5.1-12), he addresses the question of its relationship with Luke's Sermon on the Plain, asking "Are they the same sermon (Origen, Chrysostom, Calvin, France, Carson, Hagner) or two different messages (Augustine, Morris)?" (160).

In sum, I believe that when folks bemoan the plethora of commentaries on the market it is due usually to the perception that the commentator cannot add anything that has not already been said, so why go out and purchase another? The Zondervan Exegetical Series turns this notion on its head by offering the reader unique conceptual components that is aimed primarily to pastors/teachers, while simultaneously remaining conversant within scholarly circles. Grant Osborne's Matthew is an excellent addition to an already crowded market of commentaries on this wonderful Gospel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forthcoming Releases of Note: Baker Academic

Thomas Schreiner, who continues to publish at an astonishing pace, has another volume coming out, actually, for the second time, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles (second edition). Here are the particulars:
Price: $21.99
ISBN: 978-0-8010-3812-9
Release Date: May. 11

Leading Pauline expert Thomas Schreiner provides an updated guide to the exegesis of the New Testament epistles traditionally assigned to Paul. The first edition helped thousands of students dig deeper into studying the New Testament epistles. This new edition is updated throughout to account for changes in the field and to incorporate the author's maturing judgments. The book helps readers understand the nature of first-century letters, do textual criticism, investigate historical and introductory issues, probe theological context, and much more.
"This is a wonderfully clear and thorough guide. Schreiner draws on his decades of scholarship to paint a 'big picture' of how to read Paul's letters. At the same time, he breaks the reading process down into smaller steps, and he illustrates those steps with numerous examples. For students who want to move from guesswork and random dabbling to informed, life-changing engagement with the divinely inspired writings of the apostle Paul, there is no better starting place."--Robert W. Yarbrough, professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO
"In a welcome update to a tried and trusted textbook, Tom Schreiner shows us how to find our way around Paul's world, letters, language, culture, and theology. Whether deciphering Paul's Greek grammar, learning how to follow his arguments, or studying Paul's unique vocabulary, Schreiner is a reliable guide to the novice and veteran alike. Seminary students will be forever grateful to Schreiner for giving them this book!"--Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology, Crossway College, Brisbane, Australia

Another second edition, this one by Robert Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, set to release in June, ($19.99) "helps readers identify various biblical genres, understand the meaning of biblical texts, and apply that meaning to contemporary life. This edition has been completely revised throughout to reflect Stein's current thinking and changes to the discipline over the past decade. Students of the Bible will find the book effective in group settings."

Another volume on the roles of submission and gender roles is on its way with Alan Padgett's, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission ($19.99; August 2011). The description reads:

What does the Bible really say about gender, the ethics of submission, and male-female roles? In this book, well-regarded theologian Alan Padgett offers a fresh approach to the debate. Through his careful interpretation of Paul's letters and broader New Testament teaching, the author shows how Christ's submission to the church models an appropriate understanding of gender roles and servant leadership. As Christ submits to the church, so all Christians must submit to, serve, and care for one other. Padgett articulates a creative approach to mutual submission and explores its practical outworkings in the church today, providing biblical and ethical affirmation for equality in leadership. 
The strong commentary series, Paideia, has another volume on its way in John by Jo-Ann A. Brant. This commentary is set to release in August 2011, retails for $29.99 and checks in at 416 pages.

Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld investigates the New Tetsament witness regarding violence in the offering entitled, Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament ($22.99; August 2011). Here is the description:

Is the New Testament inherently violent? In this book a well-regarded New Testament scholar offers a balanced critical assessment of charges and claims that the Christian scriptures encode, instigate, or justify violence. Thomas Yoder Neufeld provides a useful introduction to the language of violence in current theological discourse and surveys a wide range of key ethical New Testament texts through the lens of violence/nonviolence. He makes the case that, contrary to much scholarly opinion, the New Testament is not in itself inherently violent or supportive of violence; instead, it rejects and overcomes violence.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Updated NIV

The updated NIV 2011 is now online and is available for viewing. Also, some of the changes are highlighted in this translators notes package.

HT: Mark Stevens

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kudos all the Way Around: Michael Holmes and Michael Hanel

The two Michael's, Holmes and Hanel, have just made my studying of the GNT that much sweeter! First, as many of you well know by now, Michael Holmes has partnered with SBL, creating a free GNT (SBLGNT)! Please, take the time to read through all the particulars here.

I am also grateful to Michael Hanel, of the Bibleworks blog, for creating a download to place into Bibleworks! As soon as I saw that SBL partnered with Logos (which I do not own), I had wondered if anyone would create a module for Bibleworks. I have already downloaded the module and it looks great! I'm anxious to see how it differs from the NA27.


First Impressions: Grant Osborne's Matthew

While at work last night, my wife called me to let me know that a package from Zondervan arrived. I asked her what is was, and she said, "Don't know, but it's pretty thick." Well, that comment certainly piqued my curiosity, so I had her open it. Alas, once opened we discovered it was Grant Osborne's Matthew in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series. "Thick" is a very fitting description, rivaling the size of Ramsey Michaels' John (NICNT), checking in at a whopping 1154 pages!

Thus far, I have only read through the introductory material (21-47), but here is my initial reaction. First, this is a commentary that is targeted for pastors. In the preface, Osborne traces the genesis of this commentary back over 30 years, when he took a sabbatical at Tyndale House in hopes of writing a commentary on Matthew (13). Osborne is emphatic on his emphasis in writing this commentary for pastors, stating:

"If I were to dedicate the rest of my life to one single, thing, it would be bringing the Bible back into the center of the church's life. One of my greatest worries is the 'dumbing down' of the church, and in my forty-plus years of ministry I have seen biblical preaching receive less and less place in the life of the church. I cannot help but wonder if some actually believe the Bible is the Word of God when they do not care what it means and do not want to proclaim its truths to their congregations. ...Thanks be to God that there are many pastors who are standing sure on the Word and proclaiming it to the best of their abilities. This commentary is for them" (13).

One of the ways Osborne aids the pastor in this commentary is to briefly summarize what other scholars say about a given passage. His bibliography is representative (49-56), and all the major players are represented (e.g. Davies and Allison, France, Keener, Luz, Nolland, etc.)

The introduction contains the usual preliminary matters, authorship: Matthew, as held by the early church (33-34), date: AD 65-67 (35), genre: Matthew's gospel is most similar to Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Hellenistic biographies (30-31), audience: Mainly Jewish, but also targeted to a Gentile audience (31-33), sources: Q, M, L (35-38), structure: follows the narrative-discourse pattern (40-47).

Other introductory matters, as befits this series, are unique. The first section focuses on the studying and preaching of Matthew's Gospel (21-22), studying the Gospel's plot both at the macro and micro level (22-24), studying redactional changes (24-25), studying the characters and dialogue (25), and studying the implied reader and performing reader identification (25-27). Other issues are taken up, such as historical reliability (27-30), and Matthew's use of the OT (38-40).

In the next post, I will focus on some of the unique features in the commentary proper.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tim Gombis: The Drama of Ephesians Interview

(Tim and his son, Jake)

For awhile now I have been wanting to interview Tim Gombis, associate professor of New Testament at Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio. When I was doing my "Getting to Know..." series of interviews where I would interview an up and coming New Testament scholar, Tim and I planned to do an interview at that time. That was about two years ago! The timing just was never right.

Now, however, the timing has never been better, with Tim publishing a wonderful and provocative book entitled The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God. This book is a rarity in that it has the potential to transform the reader's life and should be read repeatedly. Tim brings Ephesians to life, calling us to take on the cruciform character of our risen Lord, modeled in the life of the Apostle Paul, in order to transform our communities.

Without further ado, here is the interview I conducted with Tim on this volume:

1. Talk about how The Drama of Ephesians grew out of your dissertation at St. Andrews under Bruce Longenecker where you studied the concept of divine warfare in Ephesians.

I had the most wonderful experience in St. Andrews. Not only was Bruce an excellent supervisor, but the town is just the most lovely spot on the planet. We lived just over a mile from St. Mary’s College, which housed the Divinity faculty, and I mostly walked to and from work each day. Those walks afforded me time to think through what I had been studying all day, not only the logic of the text and interpretive arguments, but to revisit the rhetorical force of the text. It was difficult to rehearse all of that daily and not be struck by the transformative power of the epistle. Quite frankly, writing the dissertation transformed the manner in which I related to my wife and kids, how I conceived of my relationships, and how I envisioned my future, along with so much more. So, while the dissertation took the shape it did as an academic work, I planned to write a separate work to communicate what I had seen in Ephesians to a wider audience. This book took shape during that long and wonderful “conversion of the imagination,” to use Richard Hays’s phrase.

2. Your main goal in this book is to perform ‘a dramatic reading’ of Ephesians (9). Could you explain how this differs from the typical way Ephesians is mined for doctrinal truths in order to produce a coherent theological system?

Christians sometimes fall into the habit of reading the Bible as a resource for something else—something outside of the Bible, like a doctrinal system. So, we see Paul mention justification in Galatians 2 or Romans 3 and we call to mind our doctrine of justification and note mentally that these passages are ones that can be utilized when speaking of that doctrine. Any part of Scripture, then, becomes a collection of bits of data to be taken elsewhere and arranged along with loads of other bits to create something else.

But we seldom imagine that there are narratival and theologically rich trajectories in Scripture, even in Paul’s letters. We need to learn to read “across” the text to determine these trajectories and then immerse ourselves in them to see how the gospel that Paul articulates to churches in Rome or Asia Minor might rebuke, redeem, and transform us. It’s a far more compelling exercise to find ourselves as characters in these gospel narratives, trying on different roles and gaining wisdom for creative Christian action in the world.

3. The “powers and authorities” play a powerful role in Ephesians (1.20-23, 3.10, 6.10-18). How does an understanding of the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish texts shed light on these figures?

People across time have looked out at their world and noticed that things are broken in ways that are greater than the sum of all human decisions. There are small-scale injustices, but there are also massive and trans-national systems of oppression on a massive scale that boggles the mind. Contemporary social scientists, political theorists, and economists have a variety of modern tools for describing and predicting these phenomena. The ancients noted these dynamics, too, and saw the work of rebellious supra-human figures at work. The Old Testament manifests such a worldview, developed and extended in a variety of Early Jewish texts. All of this, obviously, shaped Paul’s view of an open cosmos, so he utilizes this language when speaking of how the world is broken on a range of levels and in a variety of ways. The challenge is translating this language to a scientifically determined worldview. But just to say that this conceptual framework provided a way for Paul to speak of community habits and individual behaviors that partake of larger matrixes of corruption, and, alternatively, habits and behaviors that draw upon and radiate God’s presence.

4. You speak of some responsible and practical ways we are to engage these powers (48-58). What are some of the biggest misconceptions regarding engagement of these entities and what can we learn from Paul’s stance when he is read faithfully?

I think the biggest misconception is that we engage them directly. Another might be that they have direct influence over our brains. For Paul, they are figures behind the perversions of cultures and the large-scale systems of oppression we see in the world.

Paul makes reference to these figures only to note that the cosmos is broken on more levels than we typically imagine. He doesn’t focus on them directly as objects of fascination in themselves. And we do not encounter them directly. The church is called to identify the powers’ malignant influence in the world by naming practices of exploitation, oppression, manipulation and destruction, and then to resist conforming to these practices and patterns. God has sent the Spirit to form New Creation communities that embody together the self-giving and cruciform life of Jesus on earth. That is our engagement with the powers—naming and resisting.

5. How should we understand the ‘in Christ’ language that so pervades Paul’s description of the union of Christ and believers in Ephesians 1.1-14?

Paul’s phrase is meant primarily to indicate our new cosmic location. We are no longer ‘in the world’ or ‘in death’ in the sense that we were formerly enslaved to destructive patterns, cut off from the life of God. We are now ‘in Christ’, subject to the transforming power of God’s Spirit and united intimately with God and God’s people.

Paradoxically, this means that we are now truly ‘in the world’, since we are now set free to inhabit creation as humanity was originally meant to. In this sense, the ‘in Christ’ language functions along with Paul’s ‘new creation’ language.

6. You describe Ephesians 1.20-2.22 as being structured according to the pattern of divine warfare (86). Could you discuss how the church fulfills the temple-building component of this pattern?

The pattern of divine warfare in the ancient world runs broadly as follows: A deity goes out to conquer, triumphs, and returns to build his temple, the symbol of his triumph. His people then gather at the temple for worship and celebration of his sovereign reign.

Paul utilizes this pattern in proclaiming the triumph of Christ over the hostile cosmic forces, but Christ does not gather his people to his temple. He gathers them as his temple, which he fills by the Spirit. The church then—the multi-ethnic people of God—is the symbol of God’s triumph over the powers. This is indeed a rich ecclesial notion and Paul wonderfully exploits it for all its worth. The triumph of God is magnified on a cosmic level when God’s people are unified. When we are fractured or don’t pursue unity as we ought to, the glory of God’s triumph is diminished. But, as Bruce Longenecker says, when churches are unified and when former enemies embrace as reconciled friends, the victory and supremacy of God is advertised to the cosmic powers of darkness.

7. Could you talk a bit about Paul’s cruciform role in Ephesians 3.1-14, and how as actors in the gospel drama what are some of the ways we are to model ‘power in weakness’?

This was the most powerfully transformative passage for me personally. It is so utterly counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. We imagine that we will succeed personally and professionally through self-assertion and will advance in our careers (or in ministry!) through power-accumulation and the exercise of power over others.

But throughout Ephesians (and everywhere in Paul), the manner in which God triumphs in Christ sets the normative pattern for Christian discipleship. God triumphs through the death of Christ, he wins by losing. The victory of the powers was their defeat and the defeat of Christ was his victory. Paul draws the clear implication that if God triumphs through the cross, then cruciformity thoroughly shapes Christian communities and Christian lives.

I believe this is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 3. His imprisonment is not a set-back, but the perfect place for God to magnify his triumph over the powers. God builds his church through the preaching of this shamed prisoner, this ‘least of all the saints’, rather than through someone with loads of social or political capital. For Paul, this makes perfect cruciform sense, and it is one of a number of passages that sets the normative ethical pattern for Christian existence.

How do we model that? By cultivating postures of servant-hood and humility in relationships, never exercising power over others nor relating manipulatively. For those who are well-practiced in (self-)destructive relational modes, our repentance is a bit more painful! But the way of life is the way of the cross.

8. Much ink has been spilled on the famous ‘armor of God’ passage in Ephesians 6.10-18, and many have used this text to justify militant political views within the church. How does a proper reading of this passage subvert the common militant one?

Yes, sadly, in our heated political climate this passage is tragically hijacked to speak about the necessity of battling this or that political opponent. Paul makes clear, however, that we aren’t battling against other humans or political parties!

Our cosmic warfare is truly performing the script of Ephesians—embodying the ‘ethical’ vision of the entire letter. This involves cultivating postures of humility toward outsiders, living cross-shaped lives of peace-making, seeking to shape our churches into communities of joy and justice, realizing that we are only good for the world when we are the first in line to repent and receive God’s grace.

If the powers of darkness, according to Paul, are seeking to transform the church into just another institution that seeks power, exploits, dominates, oppresses, and hurls vitriol at its enemies, then our cosmic warfare is to resist this and imagine alternative strategies for participating redemptively in our surrounding cultures.

9. After reading this volume, I realize two things immediately. One, pastors and leaders need to engage your volume in order for the message of Ephesians to be captured within their faith communities. Second, this is a book that needs to be read more than once, as there are many profound and practical insights of which the reader needs to be reminded.

What is your hope for this volume?

I hope the book sheds light on Paul’s cosmic vision of God’s redemptive mission and how communities are empowered to participate in that. I hope that it expands the horizons of readers’ imaginations so that they see that God’s salvation is huge—cosmic in scope. At the same time, it is embodied and performed in the simplest acts of humility and self-giving love. God’s resurrection power is overwhelming and overpowering, but we get in on it when we reconcile, forgive, transform strangers into friends, and love one another in the name of Jesus.

Thanks, Tim. This interview was well worth the wait!