Monday, September 28, 2009

Udo Schnelle's New Testament Theology Excerpt

Baker Academic has released a 23 page excerpt of Udo Schnelle's (trans. M. Eugene Boring)Theology of the New Testament (November release).


Are You the One Who Is To Come? Review Part II

Bird, Michael F.

Are You the One Who is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question.
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2009.

Pp. 207.

Paperback. $22.99.

ISBN: 978-0-8010-3638-5

For Part 1 of this review, click here.

When we last left off in chapter 3, Bird carefully and systematically dissected the objections made by scholars that Jesus did not understand himself to be the Messiah of Israel. One of these objections in short, emphasized that the Gospel authors mined OT texts to find, or as Bird colorfully states "ransacked" them in order to find proof of Jesus's messiahship. Bird finds it inconceivable that scholars quickly dismiss the possibility that Jesus himself could have acted out OT stories and patterns deliberately in order to define his role as Messiah (e.g. Zech. 9; 76).

Chapter 4 (77-115) follows this latter point for the author as he discusses among other things, the thorny Son of Man debate. After examining what significance בר אנשא held for Jesus, Bird states:
"...the son of man figure of Dan.7 contributed to the construction of a messianic narrative; it was capable of sustaining a messianic interpretation and was occasionally interpreted as messianic in pockets of pre-Christian Judaism, and Jesus's employment of the phrase taps into that background" (84).
Bird also discusses Jesus's identification being in line with the "anointed one" that 4Q521 and Luke 7.22/Matt. 11.5 discuss in their drawing from Isa. 35.5-6; 61.1. These texts describe the Messiah performing a series of deeds in which "it is highly probable that Jesus regarded his ministry as demonstrating that the messianic signs of deliverance were present, and that forms an all-sufficient answer to the question posed to him by followers of John the Baptist" (104). The chapter concludes with Jesus's identification with kingship due to his teaching on the Kingdom of God, allusions to David and Solomon (104-109) and the "I Have Come" sayings (109-114).

Chapter 5, entitled "Messiah Jesus-A Crucified Messiah?" (117-160) cover a number of important topics. For brevity's sake, I will just mention two significant points in this chapter. The first point is that Bird argues, rightly in my estimation, that Jesus's triumphal entry and demonstration in the temple were "implicit messianic" acts that caused the Judean leadership to move against him (123). Regarding the triumphal entry (Matt. 21.4-5; John 12.14-15; cf. Zech 9.9) and other messianic acts taken from Zechariah, Bird astutely states:

There can be absolutely no reason why Jesus could not model an action based on events found in Israel's sacred traditions. In fact, several threads from Zechariah may have been programmatic for Jesus. Taken together, the use of Zech. 9:9 (triumphal entry), Zech. 14:21 (temple episode), and Zech. 13:7 (passion prediction) provide a coherent and plausible context indicating that Zechariah was the script that Jesus sought to follow in his final days in Jerusalem(124).

The other point that Bird makes in this chapter, is that it makes little or no sense that the church would retroject messianic status back to Jesus independent from his own actions. In other words, the church did so, due to Jesus's actions.
The messianism of the early church was not an impromptu add-on to disappointed hopes; instead, it issued forth in a comprehensive reconfiguration of the Jewish belief mosaic on topics such as kingship, vindication, eschatology, restoration, and the fate of the nations. The messianism of the first Jesus followers was not merely the Christianization of a homogeneous and extant Jewish messianic myth; rather, it involved the redefinition and transformation of a selection of pluriform exegetical traditions and apocalyptic narratives around Jesus (150).

The final chapter, 6, "Toward a Messianic Christology" concludes with another Bird gem.
Jesus is the goal and fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. The person of Jesus links the story of the church to the story of Israel. He is the supreme mediator between God and humanity. Furthermore, Jesus is for the Gentiles only because he was first (and continues to be!) a servant to Israel. He is the royal and divine Son of God only because he is also the suffering Son of Man. Here is the confession not only of the Johannine network but of all Christians: 'We have found the Messiah!' (167).
In my estimation, this is the best primer on Jesus and the messianic question. First, Bird deftly leads the reader by the hand in summarizing the history of scholarship on this question, and provides a treasure trove of important extra-canonical texts (often quoted rather than referenced!) that shed light on messianism in Second Temple Judaism. Second, Bird writes with an engaging style, making complex arguments easy to follow. Bird also represents the ideas of those he disagrees with fairly and charitably. Lastly, I believe Bird has come at this subject from the right angle, eschewing any attempt at analyzing Jesus's self-consciousness, but rather analyzing Jesus's self-understanding, which can be demonstrated much more readily by evaluating his actions, rather than guessing at his mental state.
This book should be in the hands of every seminary student who wants a better grasp on what calling Jesus "Messiah" actually means!

Paul, His Letters, and Acts excerpt

The latest in the Library of Pauline Studies (Hendrickson), Paul, His Letters, and Acts (forthcoming Jan 2010), authored by Thomas E. Phillips, has available excerpts, 29 pages in all. You can click here, for the main part, chapter 1, "The Plurality of Plausible Pauls."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Piggybacking on Mike Bird

I thought I would point the way to Mike Bird's latest blog post as there are several must click resources that he has pointed out. Good heads up, Mike!

BTW- I should be getting around to Part II of my review of Mike's new book, Are You the One Who is To Come? In the meantime see part I, here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Excerpt from Lynn Cohick's new book

Lynn Cohick, Associate Professor of New Testament at Wheaton, and most recently, co-author of the much acclaimed The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context (Zondervan), brings to bear her expertise on women in the ancient world, with a new volume Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Baker Academic; Nov. 2009).

Here is the description plus blurbs:

Lynn Cohick provides an accurate and full picture of the earliest Christian women by examining a wide variety of first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman documents that illuminate their lives. She organizes the book around three major spheres of life: family (daughter, wife, mother, widow), religious community (including both official and unofficial activities), and society in general (work, slavery, prostitution, benefaction). Cohick shows that although women during this period were active at all levels within their religious communities, their influence was not always identified by leadership titles nor did their gender always determine their level of participation.
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians corrects our understanding of early Christian women by offering an authentic and descriptive historical picture of their lives. The book includes black-and-white illustrations from the ancient world.


"Lynn Cohick combines insights from ancient Roman and Jewish texts with current scholarship on the lifestyles and limitations of being female in the first Christian century. The New Testament is not her primary focus, but it is frequently discussed, providing many fascinating parallels, which sometimes confirm and sometimes question traditional interpretations. As well as summarizing previous findings, the book includes many provocative new ideas, which will become the focus of much new work."--David Instone-Brewer, senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament, Tyndale House, Cambridge

"Dr. Cohick offers a richly detailed and finely nuanced invitation into the lives of women in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The study profits from her integrated examination of literary, epigraphic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence. She exposes gender bias and ideology in literary evidence without discarding what reliable evidence these texts offer for the reconstruction of women's 'real life' experience. She remains attentive throughout not only to issues of gender but also to issues of status, class, and ethnicity and to the bearing these have on the levels of self-direction, involvement, and influence enjoyed by women in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This book challenges some oft-heard generalizations about women, women's roles, and women's influence, replacing these with the more complicated and varied realities of women's experience in the ancient world."--David A. deSilva, Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek, Ashland Theological Seminary

"Many preconceptions exist about the role of women in the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds at the time of Jesus. Women in the World of the Earliest Christians is a wonderful tour of the real terrain, providing a solid array of general principles and specific examples. By taking us through the world of women at that time, Cohick offers a solid glimpse of first-century culture--a wonderful window into the world of the New Testament that is well worth the read."--Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"Cohick invites the reader into the lives of women in the ancient world. She carefully assesses the available information--from literature, artwork, inscriptions, and even business receipts--sketching a portrait of 'real women's experiences' in the early days of Christianity. This portrait is one that moves beyond the stereotype of women sequestered at home, but it takes full account of the patriarchy that characterized their world. To combine fascinating storytelling with careful historical assessment is no simple task; Cohick does so with ease. Essential reading!"--Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary

"This is an important book for all students of the New Testament, however novice or advanced. Cohick's historical sensibilities and sympathetic reading of the whole range of available evidence overturn a number of caricatures that have for decades plagued claims about women (and men) in the world of the early church. Her presentation of the life of the ordinary Roman woman from Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources is a model of careful exploration and nuanced reconstruction. It deserves to be read attentively and consulted often."--Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary

"What a gift--a scholarly volume that dusts off images and memorabilia tucked into the 'family album' of Greco-Roman life only to find women everywhere! Cohick deftly examines a variety of ancient sources to reveal explicit and implied norms and actual behaviors, freedoms, and restrictions of women in this first-century context. From treatises to business receipts, the ordinary is allowed to shed light on the extraordinary variety, complexity, and communal significance of women's contributions at every level of social and religious life--rural, urban, Jew, Gentile, wealthy, poor, pagan, Christian. This careful historical investigation does not play to modern temptations that either deconstruct women as props in an androcentric, patriarchal drama and reconstruct them as contemporary free agents or dismiss authentic access to their historical particularity. Nor does it ignore the social structures in which early Christian women and men became Jesus followers. Rather, it offers evidence that Greco-Roman women--daughters and mothers, educators and matrons, slaves and free women, religious leaders and patrons with civic influence--were active participants in an honor/shame-based culture in which gender, status, class, and ethnicity were interwoven. For those wanting a fuller glimpse of the embodied world into which the New Testament was given and enacted, noting its differences from and echoes in contemporary life, this book is a lovely, valuable contribution."--Cherith Fee Nordling

This book appears that it will be on the 'essential reading' list of anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the social world of the New Testament, especially the often misunderstood role of women. To get a feel for what this work is about, Baker Academic has released a 17 page excerpt that can be viewed here.

Recommendation Needed

I have always found this to be a fruitful way to hunt down my next commentary purchase. So here goes: I am looking for a really solid commentary on the Johannine letters. I do own Smalley in WBC, but it is a bit dated (1984).

I have heard that Yarbrough's (BECNT) recent contribution is good, but I am also wondering about anything else that I should be considering.

So if I could have your opinions on Yarbrough and others I would greatly appreciate it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Excerpts from forthcoming James commentary

Although Baker Academic has yet to release excerpts from Dan McCartney's forthcoming James commentary (BECNT), it appears that Amazon has done so, albeit more limited than Baker's usual 40 page excerpts.
Interestingly, Baker has also changed the cover art for the commentary.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Is This Still True?

I was reading through the introduction of Grant Osborne's Revelation commentary (BECNT), when I came across this quote:

The definitive work on the use of the OT in the Apocalypse has yet to be written (2).

Osborne's commentary was published in 2002, and I am aware of Greg Beale's and Sean M. McDonough's contribution (pp. 1081-1161)in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (eds. Beale and Carson).

Is anyone aware of other works that attempt an overview of the OT in Revelation? More to the point is it even possible to write the definitive work of the OT in Revelation?

Osborne goes on to say:

Virtually every point made comes in some way via an OT allusion (2).

With that in mind, it seems to me that a definitive work in this area would almost have to ignore other concerns that commentaries in general seek to address, and stick solely to the OT backgrounds that Revelation seeks to engage.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scot McKnight reviews Joel Marcus' Mark Commentary

Over on Christianity Today's Books & Culture, Scot McKnight gives a glowing review Of Joel Marcus' second volume Mark commentary (Mark 8-16) in the Yale Anchor Bible Series.

First off, the review is splendid. McKnight is one of the finest writers going today. He makes me want to purchase this commentary RIGHT NOW! Secondly, he opens with a confession about his own struggles in writing a commentary. Apparently, he was originally slated to write the one for Matthew in the NICNT series, a void R.T. France more than admirably filled, in what is to my mind, the most interesting commentary I have had the privilege of working through. He since has completed the one for James in the aforementioned series, and I'm sure it will be well worth consulting when it is released next year.

Lastly, even though he praises Marcus' commentary, he still insists that Marcus' effort should be read in conjunction with Evans (WBC), France (NICGNT), and Stein (BECNT), among others, insisting that we need to listen to a 'cacophony of voices.' I like his suggestion as well to read commentaries in the order that they were published, so readers can get a feel for the advancements that have been made in the area of exegesis.

Do yourself a favor, take the time and read this review.

Companion video to Introducing the New Testament

About a month ago, I posted on Mark Allan Powell's forthcoming Introducing the New Testament (Baker Academic).

There I noted that Powell has a companion website to accompany the forthcoming volume.

Well, as it turns out, there also appears a video where Powell provides an overview of this volume.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Excerpts on Discovering Jesus in the New Testament

Keith Warrington, Research Fellow in New Testament and Pentecostal Studies and lecturer in New Testament Studies at Regents Theological College, Cheshire, England, has a forthcoming volume out that succeeds his previous effort entitled, Discovering the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. This volume, Discovering Jesus in the New Testament has the following description:

Nearly everyone knows something about Jesus, but how much of what we “know” really comes from the Bible? In this thoroughly insightful book we can find the full portrait of Jesus as described in the New Testament, one that is complex yet rich, one that is diverse yet unified, one that explains who Jesus was and how he continues to speak to our world.

I am somewhat familiar with Warrington's previous work, the aforementioned Holy Spirit volume, and I must say from what I remember reading, it was very helpful in summarizing and explicating how the Spirit is portrayed in each book of the NT. I suspect the volume on Jesus will follow much the same format.

Here are some blurbs to whet your appetite:

“Many want a piece of Jesus, but few want all of him. What else explains the stampede for books, videos, and seminars offering a truncated version of the biblical Christ? How starkly this book stands in contrast! Professor Warrington unveils a full portrait of Jesus, cast in the light of the entire New Testament and wholly faithful to the original. Has your Jesus been downsized? Pick up this book and find out!”—J. Ed Komoszewski, Coauthor, Reinventing Jesus and Putting Jesus in His Place
“The shelves are full of books, written at all levels, on Jesus. Nevertheless, Dr. Keith Warrington has discerned an unresolved need of mid-range readers and addressed it commendably. Discovering Jesus in the New Testament charts the course of reflection on Jesus—his life, works, identity and theological significance—through the whole of the New Testament writings and does so in a way that is eminently readable and accessible. What emerges is a carefully conceived description of Jesus that embraces both the rich diversity of first-century articulation and the profound common threads of Christology that assure us of a single (though marvelously complex) conversation.”—Philip H. Towner, Dean of The Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, American Bible Society
“With clarity and insight, Warrington takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through the multifaceted—yet complementary—presentations of Jesus found in the New Testament writings. Very few introductions to Christology can claim the balance of comprehensiveness, simplicity, and lucidity found in this volume”—Mark L. Strauss, Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego

Since the volume will not be available until January 2010, Hendrickson Publishers has made available 48 pages of excerpts available for reading, including the first chapter (40 pages on the Synoptic Gospels). Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

James D.G. Dunn and the Quote of the Day

Having worked through 2 Corinthians in my master's thesis over 3 years ago, one of the quandaries in interpreting the letter is in handling the various partition theories (e.g. chs. 1-7, chs.8-9, and chs. 10-13) and how to adequately deal with the seemingly incongruous parts.

Here is a great quote in summarizing the difficulties from James Dunn in his latest, Christianity in the Making: Beginning From Jerusalem:

For myself, such hypotheses have the advantage of making sense of the puzzling factors...My only problem is with envisaging the situation and the motivation which caused some anonymous collector or editor to chop off the introductions and conclusions to each letter and simply stick the torsos together in such an awkward way as to raise the questions which the various amalgamation hypotheses are designed to resolve. Why not retain them as complete letters? Nothing was obviously to be gained by giving the impression that Paul wrote only two letters to the Corinthians rather than, say, five or more. If the editor felt so free to 'top and tail' the letters in question, what prevented him from exercising the same freedom to edit the material into a more coherent unit? Or if he was careful to excise greetings, thanksgivings and farewell, would we not have expected him to take care to ensure better links between the sections? Furthermore, unless the editing was done very early indeed, then we might have expected copies of one or more of these independent letters to have been made and circulated more widely, which would almost certainly have left some mark in the textual tradition. But of that there is none.

I do not believe the puzzle of 2 Corinthians is finally resolvable. The unavoidable fact is that all the data of the letter in its present form are capable of supporting a variety of hypotheses. What is frustrating in this, as in other debates on the beginnings of Christianity, is the unwillingness of some to make allowances for changes of circumstance or information or mood which might provide a perfectly adequate explanation of the various infelicities and disjunctures which grate on the ear of the twentieth-or twenty-first-century reader of such documents. The inadequacy of our historical imagination is often a greater problem than the puzzling data of a letter like 2 Corinthians (emphasis mine; 835-836).

Having been an advocate of one form of the various partition theories, I have since revised my thinking. To me the clincher is not having any evidence for any of these partition theories in our manuscript evidence. Some might accuse this as being an argument from silence, but I steadfastly maintain that a cautious and careful interpreter of this letter will ultimately be swayed by this inevitable fact. Furthermore, rhetorical conventions cannot and should not be set aside when evaluating these letters. Dunn is spot on when he accuses the historian for the lack of imagination in making allowances in viewing the text as an organic whole.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review: Are You the One Who Is To Come? Part 1

Bird, Michael F.

Are You the One Who is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question.

Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2009.

Pp. 207.

Paperback. $22.99.

ISBN: 978-0-8010-3638-5

Michael Bird, Tutor in New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland, prolific author, and fellow biblioblogger , has provided New Testament scholars and students with a wonderful primer revolving around the knottiest of historical Jesus questions, namely, "Who did Jesus understand himself to be?" Or to put it more specifically:"Did Jesus understand himself himself to be designated by God as the Messiah of Israel?" To this question, Bird answers with a resounding "Yes!" Bird arrives at this affirmative by arguing "...that the historical Jesus understood his mission, ministry, or messianic categories" (11).

Bird organizes his study into six succinct chapters. Chapter 1 titled "Jesus Who is Called the Christ" (Pp. 23-30) provides an overview of scholarship regarding the "messianic question" of whether or not Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah. Bird demonstrates that scholarship has largely answered this inquiry in the negative. Furthermore, Bird addresses the topic of Jesus's self-understanding. After surveying the various options that scholars have posited, Bird states that "the goal of this work is to argue ...that Jesus of Nazareth did claim, in action and speech, to be the Messiah of Israel" (29). Bird prefers to use the term "messianic self-understanding" as opposed to "messianic self-consciousness" due to the fact that analyzing an ancient figures psychological and mental states go beyond what historical inquiry can prove. Conversely, Bird defines "messianic self-understanding" as "Jesus's identifying himself in a messianic role and couching his activities as messianic in character and purpose" (29). Further, Bird is interested in "intentions and identity as they pertain to Jesus and messiahship" (29; emphasis original).

In Chapter 2 (Pp. 31-62), Bird sets out to explore the origins of messianism during the Second-Temple period. The author stresses that there was no single conception of what the messiah would be. Certain texts such as 1QM and Pss. Sol. 17-18 expected an early warrior, while others viewed him to be a preexistant and transcendent figure (1 Enoch; 4 Ezra), and yet others such as those at Qumran pictured two messiahs, one of Aaron and one of Israel (1 QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13.20-22; etc.) Next, Bird tackles the Old Testament (OT) in a attempt to understand the extent of the roots of messianism found therein. The author takes on Joseph Fitzmyer and his volume similarly titled The One Who is To Come, stating that the former has wrongly correlated messianic and eschatological expectations from the OT data. For Bird, Fitzmyer is much too strict in viewing messianic texts by tying his method to the word משיח‎ ('anointed one') as it relates to the continuance of the Davidic dynasty in subsequent texts pertaining to the history of Israel (35). Bird opts for this viewpoint: "When we come to messianic hopes, biblical and postbiblical, we see that functions and roles are often more important than a single title" (35). after surveying a myriad of OT texts (34-46), Bird concludes:

...what I propose then is that we identify an Old Testament text as "messianic" when the plain sense of the text...designates a figure with royal qualities who is sent by God, and also that either the text itself was treated as messianic in postbiblical interpretation, or else the pattern of activity that the figure embodies corresponds to a pattern of activity often expected of messianic figures in antiquity (46).

Skipping ahead to chapter 3 (63-76), Bird tackles what is perhaps the central question of the volume: "Did Jesus understand himself to be the Messiah?" First, he summarizes the five reasons scholars have traditionally rejected the possibility of Jesus's messianic self-identification: 1)Linking the resurrection with Jesus's status as Messiah. In other words, Jesus did not become Messiah until after his resurrection as traditional material ( e.g. Rom. 1.4; 2 Tim. 2.8) and kerygmatic summaries of the early church demonstrate (e.g. Acts 2.36; 13.33; 64). Bird's response to this theory is manifold: One, The resurrection itself has not ties to messiahship apart from a messianic claim by Jesus or the expectation of such by his disciples. Second, there is no analogy in Jewish thought for a resurrected Messiah. Third, resurrection did play a role in messianic beliefs about Jesus in that it marked "a transition into a higher rank of sonship, and his sonship exercises a new eschatological function that he did not previously discharge before Easter" (65). 2) Another argument against Jesus understanding himself to be the Messiah is the so called "messianic secret" proposed by William Wrede. Wrede argues that this 'secret' as found in Mark's Gospel was merely theological, in that it accounted for Jesus's messiahship even though he himself never claimed to be so. Among other objections, Bird rightly refutes Wrede's attempt "to compress all miracle and kingdom traditions under the aegis of messiahship..."(67). Furthermore, Bird points out that the so-called "messianic secret" would be better categorized as a "messianic misunderstanding" due to the fact that Jesus's actions are still widely publicized even with injunctions not to do so (68).
The last 3 objections that scholars posit are briefly mentioned here: 3) The disciples' enthusiasm and the authorities' perception of Jesus as the Messiah; 4) An inference from the Titulus on the cross; and finally, 5) The Scripturizing of the Tradition. For brevity's sake, I will only discuss the last point. This objection states that the earliest Christians "ransacked" their Scriptures to find scriptural proof that Jesus was the Messiah. Bird, conversely states that "Although the evangelists and their sources interpreted Jesus's activities through the lens of Scripture, we have no indication that their reading of Scripture somehow created the story of Jesus's messiahship" (75). In addition, the author astutely points out:
What is more, it remains a mystery as to why scholars continue to insist that the evangelists or the early church created stories about Jesus out of Scripture, and yet this same propensity to engage Scripture is never attributed to Jesus himself. We muster wonder, why, in principle, Jesus was unable to deliberately act out stories and scriptural patterns that were also creative, innovative, subversive, provocative, and even offensive (75).
This segues nicely into Bird's next chapter where he discusses Jesus as deliberately acting and playing out messianic motifs in his ministry and teaching. This concludes part 1 of this review.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Off the Grid: And You Thought Usain Bolt was Fast!

Check out this video about Sarah, a cheetah from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. 100 meters in 6.130 seconds! That is only about 3.5 seconds faster than Bolt's amazing 9.58.

A Good Idea Just Got Better

For reading comprehension, Zondervan has produced two stellar editions with A Reader's Hebrew Bible and A Reader's Greek New Testament . Regarding the latter, which I do not own, (I use The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition, read my review here) is already in its second edition, and uses a slightly different text than the UBS 4, namely, the text used as a base for the TNIV.

It is my practice to bring my UBS to church every Sunday and there have been many occasions where, much to my dismay, the reading will be from the Old Testament, and you guessed it, my Hebrew Reader's edition will be sitting at home. Well, Zondervan has good news in that they will be combining the aforementioned titles into one handy volume with the title, A Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible. The release date is not until April 2010 and retails for $74.99, but the 2,256 page volume has all of these features making the price and the wait worthwhile:
This combined A Reader's Greek New Testament and A Reader’s Hebrew Bible offers the following features: • Complete text of the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible, using the Westminister Leningrad Codex • Greek text underlying Today’s New International Version—with footnotes comparing wherever this text is different from the UBS4 text • Footnoted definitions of all Hebrew words occurring 100 times or less—twenty-five or less for Aramaic words—with context-specific glosses • Footnoted definitions of all Greek words occurring thirty times or less • Lexicons of all Hebrew words occurring more than 100 times and Greek words occurring more than thirty times • Eight pages of full-color maps separate the OT and NT sections Ideal for students, pastors, and instructors, A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible saves time and effort in studying the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. By eliminating the need to look up definitions, the footnotes allow you to more quickly read the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text. Featuring fine-grain black European leather binding, A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible is a practical, attractive, and surprisingly affordable resource.
I think I have just solved my problem no matter what testament is preached from on Sunday!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Discovery: Largest Cache of Bar-Kokhba Coins Ever Found

According to GNews:

The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.
The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons.
The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University.

In total, 120 bronze, silver, and gold coins were discovered within a hidden wing in a cave. For more on this story see here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Covenant Commentary Series Now Out!

The first two volumes of the New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS: Wipf & Stock) has been released.

Michael Bird, whose credentials all of us know about, has authored the volume on Colossians and Philemon, and Craig Keener, another amazingly prolific scholar has authored the volume on Romans.

Here are the details:
Romans By Craig S. Keener; edited by: Michael Bird and Craig S. Keener
Retail Price: $32.00
Web Price: $25.60
ISBN 10: 1-60608-156
XISBN 13: 978-1-60608-156-3
Pages: 294
Description: A helpfully concise commentary on Paul's letter to the early Christians in Rome, which the Apostle wrote just a few years before the outbreak of Nero's persecution. Keener examines each paragraph for its function in the letter as a whole, helping the reader follow Paul's argument. Where relevant, he draws on his vast work in ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman sources in order to help modern readers understand the message of Romans according to the way the first audience would have heard it. Throughout, Keener focuses on major points that are especially critical for the contemporary study of Paul's most influential and complex New Testament letter.
By grounding his exposition of Romans in the world of the first century, yet keeping his eye on the needs and concerns of the contemporary world, Keener offers here a rare commodity: a lucid commentary that is simultaneously conversant with the latest biblical scholarship and pastorally sensitive."—John T. Fitzgerald, University of Miami, USA and North-West University, South Africa
"Craig Keener has written a marvelous commentary that will prove to be a valuable tool for ministers, students, and scholars alike. By insightfully introducing and contextualizing, as well providing excurses that guide the reader from ancient to modern times, Keener has done with excellence what a commentary should do."—Manfred Lang, Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg
Colossians By Michael Bird; edited by: Michael Bird and Craig Keener
Retail Price: $22.00
Web Price: $17.60
ISBN 10: 1-60608-131-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-60608-131-0
Pages: 192
Every generation needs to grapple anew with the Bible, and every pastor needs a series that pushes the text into the community and this commentary series accomplishes these tasks. May God bless these commentaries to yield communities that live out God's gracious covenant with us."—Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies North Park University
"Michael Bird's treatment of Colossians and Philemon is incisive, informative, and independent. He guides readers with a light touch, accurately setting out competing positions, but judiciously weighing the merits of each of these alternatives. The commentary is built on a foundation of mature, balanced, and sane exegesis—and from this firm foundation Bird draws weighty theological implications. This is a masterpiece of succinct writing and an auspicious start to the New Covenant Commentary Series."—Paul Foster, School of Divinity University of Edinburgh
Here are the remainder of the commentaries and their order of projected appearance:
EPHESIANS – Lynn Cohick
JAMES – Pablo Jimenez1–
3 JOHN – Sam Ngewa
JOHN – Jey Kanagaraj
PASTORAL EPISTLES – Aida Besancon-Spencer
MARK – Kim Huat Tan
ACTS – Jungmo Cho
LUKE – Jeannine Brown
2 PETER AND JUDE – Andrew Mbuvi
MATTHEW–Joel Willits
1 PETER – Eric Greaux
PHILIPPIANS– Linda Belleville
HEBREWS – Tom Thatcher
GALATIANS – Brian Vickers
2 CORINTHIANS – David DeSilva
What's more is that the Wipf and Stock website is offering a 40% discount on these inaugural volumes when you enter the coupon code: NCCS09.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another fun-filled trip to Half-Price Books

My wife and I just finished dinner at a local Italian restaurant when I suggested that we walk over to Half-Price bookstore just across the parking lot.

I did not know this until I entered, but everything in the store was 20% off. My first pit stop as always was the Biblical reference section. For months I have been eye-balling the late Samuel Terrien's magnum opus, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary in the Eerdmans Critical Commentary series. The reason I had not picked up the massive commentary earlier was that Half-Price was still asking $29.99 for it, a far cry from the original hardcover price of $95.00, but still not inexpensive enough even with the 20% off sale. Well, nothing was different on this trip; the price tag was still the same and I again resigned myself to waiting. It wasn't more than a minute or two later that I noticed another volume in the series, namely, Philemon by Barth and Blanke , which incidentally, I had purchased from Half-Price a few years ago under $10, was reduced to $6.98. I thought I would bring this to the attention to an employee at Half-Price. When I explained that I was curious why one of the volumes in the ECC series had been marked down to $6.98 he replied that since both volumes arrived around the same time that he would be happy to reduce the Psalms volume to $6.98 as well! Plus, I saved another 20% ending up paying about $5.60 for it in the end.

The second cool purchase was another Lincoln volume, Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words by Ronald C. White, Jr. who holds the distinction of writing the definitive biography on Lincoln and the best book I have read this year. This purchase was about $6.oo in the end, making my two purchases total under $12.00!

Book Notice: An Introduction to the Bible

Kugler, Robert and Patrick Harton

An Introduction to the Bible

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. Pp.538+xxv. Hardcover.

$50.00. ISBN: 9780802846365

With a plethora of fine introductions available in both Old and New Testaments it might not be readily apparent for the need of yet another. Before following this judgment however, it would be wise to first, recognize that this an introduction to the entire Bible, not subdivided between the testaments like most introductions, and secondly, one should always give a volume a chance to see what unique contributions are made, or at least seek what questions the authors attempt to answer in this introduction.

One of the unique features of this volume is a 16 page 'Glossary of Terms' section that greets the reader almost immediately (pp. x-xxv). Everything from 'Anthropomorphism' to 'Yahwist' are discussed, making the glossary of some 237 terms valuable to the student who will inevitably come across these terms later in the volume. A "General Introduction' follows (Pp. 1-4) where the authors orient the reader on what to expect for the present volume. These particulars will be discussed below.

Before approaching each writing in both the Old and New Testaments, Kugler and Hardin open the discussions by asking what the Old Testament is (Pp. 7-17), describe the world of the Old Testament (18-34), and devote a chapter to the principles in interpreting the Old Testament (35-41). Similarly, in the New Testament, Kugler and Hardin discuss its contents and origin (Pp. 329-336), the political, social, religious dimensions of the NT world (337-348), and interpretive methods brought to bear on its writings (349-358). It should also be mentioned that each genre has essays (i.e. Pentateuch, 45-50; Synoptic Gospels, 361-365; etc.) that precede the individual content. In addition, there is a brief article on the Second Temple writings (Pp. 319-325) sandwiched between the testaments.

Turning to the methodology of the author's, let us take a look at an individual letter, in this case, Philemon (Pp. 451-453). Each section opens with a "Getting Started" header with instructions and questions for the reader. In Philemon, the reader is asked to identify the main characters of the letter and the "phrases that Paul uses to describe them" (451). The second point is for the student to think about the significance of these descriptions. The next header, "Background Information" provides the reader a snapshot of what is found in the longer commentaries, i.e. authorship, historical situation, genre, etc. The authors posit that Paul wrote from his imprisonment in Ephesus, due to his expectation of release form prison (v.22) and the relatively short distance between Ephesus and Colossae (100 miles), that Onesimus would have traversed to come to Paul (451). The next header is "A walk through Philemon" (451-452). It is the authors hope that "...these relatively lesiurely strolls through the books of the Bible will serve as roadmaps for students as they read the Bible itself" (1). As such this section is similar to what is found in Bible handbooks and one-volume commentaries in that units of Scripture are described rather than individual verses as found in individual commentaries (e.g. Philemon 1-7: Opening and Thanksgiving; 8-16: Plea for Onesimus; 17-22: Paul Expands his Plea; 23-25: Final Greetings; 451-452).

A strength of this volume is found in the next two sections, "Critical Issues in Studying Philemon" (452), and "Theological Themes in Philemon (452), namely, balance. In the former, the authors goal is to "include coverage of the most significant issues, theories, and hypotheses that modern critical scholarship has developed in studying the Bible" (Pp. 1-2). For Philemon, this means that the 1st Century institution of slavery is described along with Paul's attitude towards it, i.e. acceptance of the status quo along with his apocalyptic perspective, that would put an end to human institutions with the imminent return of Christ (452). Regarding the second unit, "Theological Themes..." the authors rightly fill a void felt in many introductions: "To us, it makes no sense to introduce students to the Bible merely as history, literature, a record of political or ideological history, or a testimony to societies living or dead. The Bible may be read as the text presents itself as, a theological witness" (1). With regard to Philemon, Kugler and Hardin stress that Philemon presents "the most beautiful appeal to forgiveness in the entire New Testament" (452). Finally, each letter is followed with questions for review and discussion, and further reading.

One item that I had some difficulty with was the lack of color photography throughout. I hate to sound like I am catering to the masses, but if you are introducing students to the study of the Bible it helps if the presentation is aesthetically pleasing. Black and white photographs, although in the case of the current volume are well done, are no substitute for color, glossy, photographs. Aside from this quibble and other minor ones that a reader will approach along the way (i.e. historical reconstructions), this volume has filled an important niche in biblical introductions.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Loving Lincoln

As many of you who have followed this blog are aware my love of all things Abraham Lincoln is second only to my love of all things New Testament studies. Well, here is the photographic evidence courtesy of my wife, Faith.

Now if I could only locate his hat!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paul, the NIV, TNIV, TNIV 2011: 'Sinful Nature' or 'Flesh'?

The title of this post was inspired by the Godfather of New Testament biblioblogging, Mark Goodacre (btw-Happy 6th anniversary!), where he comments among other items on the forthcoming NIV:

As far as the content is concerned, I will be disappointed if they regress to some of the non-gender-inclusive language of the NIV. But there is one thing I will be looking for more than anything else, to see if they finally drop "sinful nature" as a translation of sarx in Paul, which was retained in the TNIV. It makes it unusable as a translation for teaching Paul.

This immediately struck a chord with me, as I remember Doug Moo writing an essay on this very problem. It can be linked to here. Moo, now the chairman of the CBT for the NIV, stated in this essay ("Flesh" in Romans: A Challenge for The Translator") sentiments very much aligned with Mark's but with an additional caveat:

The decision of the original New International Version (NIV) translators to render the Greek sarx, when it had its distinctively negative connotation in Paul, with the phrase sinful nature has been widely criticized. I was one of those critics. Every time I taught on passages in which the phrase occured, I insisted that students heed the marginal note indicating the alternate rendering "the flesh" and criticized the translators for their decision. Along with many others, I worried that the introduction of "nature" would further encourage the questionably biblical focus on contrasting "natures" as a framework for conceptualizing the contrast between pre-Christian and Christian experience. Then, in 1995, I was asked to join the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), the group charged with the oversight of the NIV text. As we comprehensively reviewed the NIV text with a view to needed revisions, we came to Romans--and I was asked to serve on a subcommittee that would recommend alternatives to the existing NIV rendering of sarx in Paul. As we did our work--based on a comprehensive review of the translation alternatives by my colleague Walter Liefeld--it quickly became apparent to me that the translator had to consider factors that the exegete and teacher did not (365).

Moo, in the end is not thrilled with the gloss of sarx as 'sinful nature', but skillfully presents the difficulties the translator faces on this particular word by surveying Pauline use in general and more specifically, the use of sarx in Romans 7-8 (In The Challenge of Bible Translation: ‘Communicating God’s Word to the World. Essays in Honor of Ronald F. Youngblood, ed. Glen S. Scorgie, Mark L. Strauss, and Steven M. Voth, 365-379. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.)

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2011: TNIV Shelved; NIV To Be Revised

Alan Bandy has posted and has some article links for plans to discontinue the TNIV and revise the NIV in 2011. Doug Moo, incidentally, is the new CBT chairman (Committee on Bible Translation) over the NIV.

Here is a website that provides official information.

I must say that I was not a staunch critic of the TNIV. I also realize it was a lightning rod of controversy and failed miserably in the marketplace. Let's hope that a revised NIV won't cave into pressure from the various agendas that surrounded the TNIV.

Gordon Fee and the Pauline Greeting

The other night I was perusing through Gordon Fee's new commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians and came across his comments regarding Paul's typical greeting χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη which occurs in some form of the majority of Pauline letters, both disputed and undisputed, at Rom. 1:7; 1 Co. 1:3; 2 Co. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Phlm. 1:3.

It has been noted that Paul transforms the typical Greco-Roman letter greeting χαίρειν ("greetings"; cf. Acts 15.23), but what concerns me here is not the well documented and supported argument that Paul transforms the greeting, it is simply how the phrase is translated.

To clarify, the phrase χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη can be translated in one of two ways. First, the most natural reading "Grace to you and peace" is supported by translations such as the ESV, NAS, and the NRSV. The second option is "Grace and peace to you" supported by the NIV without being changed in the more recent TNIV.

On the surface it appears that there is very little that is significant in choosing between the two options. Fee, who interestingly enough, serves on both the NIV and TNIV committees, believes that following the word order in Greek makes a big difference. He writes:

It is worth noting that this is the invariable order of Paul's words, not "grace and peace to you" as in most translations. Very likely there is significance to this order: the grace of God and Christ is what is given to God's people; peace is what results from such a gift. Hence, "grace to you--and peace." In a profound sense this greeting therefore nicely represents Paul's larger theological perspective. The sum total of God's activity toward his human creatures is found in the word "grace"; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ. Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved. The sum total of those benefits as they are experienced by the recipients of God's grace is "peace," God's eschatological shalom, both now and to come. The latter (peace) flows out of the former (grace), and both together come from "God our Father" and are made effective in our human history through our "Lord Jesus Christ," so that in all subsequent appearances, beginning with 2 Thessalonians, Paul adds the source already assumed here, but not expressed: "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (The First and Second Letters to The Thessalonians; 18).
Two thoughts come to mind here. First, I fully agree with Fee's point on this verse. I am curious, however, about his judgment that "most translations" favor the other reading "grace and peace to you." I noticed that Fee's quote is nearly verbatim with his Philippians commentary (70), so I thought maybe at the time of publishing (1995) there were more translations other than the NIV whom translated the Pauline greeting this way, but I was unable to establish this. Even the RSV, precursor of the NRSV, and the KJV translated this greeting in a way Fee would approve.
Secondly, I wonder what the NIV/TNIV translation committee meetings were like when they came upon these greetings. I have heard and read both Fee and Doug Moo, who serves on the TNIV committee, that they are not satisfied with how this verse or that verse ended up being translated in the end.
So, what do you think? Is Fee on the money or is he making much ado about nothing?

Postscript: Correction: Fee has only served on the TNIV committee.

Forthcoming Introduction to Paul

Anthony Thiselton, one of the most prominent theologians and New Testament scholars in the world today has another offering on the way--a introduction to Paul entitled: The Living Paul:
An Introduction to the Apostle's Life and Thought Introduction to the Apostle's Life and Thought
(192 pages; IVP).

The book is not set to release until March 2010. Here are some of the particulars:

The apostle Paul has long had his admirers and revilers. And contemporary Christians often harbor private misgivings about this prominent apostle. Paul sounds harsh, intolerant, misogynistic, and his gospel surely misconstrues the message of Jesus. "How is it," they want to ask, "that some Christians can speak so fondly of Paul?"
Anthony Thiselton is an unabashed admirer of Paul, a student of his letters and a devotee of his gospel. Over a range of issues, Thiselton cleans the lens and sharpens the focus to give us snapshots of Paul's life, mission and thought. Whatever your level of knowledge and experience of Paul, you will find The Living Paul informative and interesting, nuanced and inspiring. A portrait of Paul rendered in the deft strokes of a master.

Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
Time line of Paul's Life
1 A First Obstacle to Appreciating Paul: Paul and Jesus
2 A Second Obstacle to appreciating Paul: an “Immense Cut”
3 Apostle to the Gentiles (1) Traveller and Missionary-Pastor
4 Apostle to the Gentiles (2) Traveller; Pastor; Letter Writer
5 Jesus Christ in Paul
6 Paul's View of God and its Trinitarian Implications
7 Paul's View of the Holy Spirit
8 Paul's View of Humanity
9 Human Alienation and Corrections to Views of Paul on Sin
10 The work of Christ and being "in Christ"
11 Justification and the Law
12 Why the Church?
13 The Ministry of the Word
14 Baptism and the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist
15 Paul's Ethics and Views on Christian Lifestyle
16 Cosmic and Human Destiny and the Present Resurrection, Judgment, and the Parousia
17 Paul and Postmodernity
Bibliography of Books Cited
Index of Names
Index of Subjects
Index of Biblical References
Index of Non-Biblical Ancient Sources

By the way, if anyone knows where I can find his 1 Corinthians commentary for a reasonable price let me know. I think $85 is a bit steep!

James Dunn reviews Reumann's Philippians

A poignant review of the late John Reumann's Philippians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary is delivered by James Dunn and can be viewed here.

My favorite comment (regarding the three letter hypothesis that Reumann adheres to):

I wonder that the hypothesis can be put forward so boldly without asking, Why would the Philippians (or others) so mutilate three letters in order to make one? Would they have felt free and uninhibited in doing so? And what would the action say about their respect or reverence for Paul and his writings? I confess to finding it difficult to escape the feeling that the subdivision of Philippians into two or three letters is for some a too easy (and unrealistic) solution to what modern readers regard as the imperfections of an ancient text, such imperfections as they, of course, would never allow in their own writing! (p.3)

Hilarious and right on the money at the same time!