Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moises Silva on iTunes

Danny Pierce of Boston Bible Geeks blog has made a great find. Westminster Theological Seminary has posted 13 free lectures on Galatians taught by none other than Moises Silva!

Way to go Danny! Thanks for sharing this with us. You have just made my nights at work a bit more bearable!

Here's the link to download.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Should Be on the Bookshelf? Old Testament Resources

A very helpful post by John Anderson on what should be on bookshelf of every Old Testament student can be found here.

Also, John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton has compiled a list of his recommended commentaries on each book of the Old Testament.

I am also looking forward to seeing a copy of J. Daniel Hays' The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament. If this volume is anything close to Mark Strauss' Four Portraits, One Jesus, we should be in for another treat, as I consider Strauss' volume to be required reading for anyone in a Historical Jesus and Gospels intro class. For now, you  can read a small sample of Hays' volume here.

A Website Worth Checking Out!

George Guthrie, Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible and chair of the School of Christian Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, has developed a really interesting program called the Read the Bible For Life Initiative. Guthrie's program is to foster better readers of the Bible and helping people catch the overarching story of Scripture.

Guthrie interviews among others, Darrell Bock, Bruce Waltke, Mark Strauss, Clint Arnold, and J. Daniel Hays for this project.

Do check this out!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frank Thielman Interview on Ephesians Commentary

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Frank Thielman, Presbyterian Professor of Divinity: New Testament at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University. Thielman, a well-known Pauline scholar,
has written these titles: The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach, From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans, The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity, and Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. The latest volume to add to this impressive resume is Ephesians for the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series (BECNT).

One will not be disappointed with Thielman's thoroughness. He pays particular attention to grammatical, lexical issues and displays a deep awareness of the ancient world, particularly Greco-Roman backgrounds. So without further ado, on to the interview!

1) Could you explain your process of writing this commentary? Did you do your own translating, exegesis first, and then consult the secondary literature?
I suppose that everyone who writes a commentary has his or her own way of doing it, and it probably varies a bit depending on the type of commentary one is writing.  Since I have taught the Greek text of Ephesians every year for a number of years to students at Beeson Divinity School, I usually started commentary work on a particular passage with some basic exegetical decisions already in place.  As I worked on each new passage, I tried to think through my own exegetical decisions in conversation with the great commentators from the past, including some from the early church.  I tried to find a balance between respecting the way the debate over each major exegetical problem has been framed in the past and not being bound by the standard interpretive options.  I did not want to be novel but to interpret the text faithfully.  So, I tried to keep in mind at each exegetical turn that somewhere in the seventeen centuries of extant commentary on the letter, a number of commentators had probably already hit upon the right interpretation of any given text.  At the same time, advances have been made in recent years in lexicography, linguistics, and the understanding of ancient Greco-Roman culture, and it seemed important to allow this new information to correct the interpretive traditions where necessary.
2) Ephesians has had some wonderful commentaries written over the years (e.g. Best, Lincoln, O'Brien, and Hoehner). How did  you avoid writing a commentary on these and other commentaries?
I tried to do my own work on the text by staying in constant touch with the standard Greek lexica, the ancient primary sources, and secondary literature from the field of ancient Greco-Roman history and culture.  I then tried to bring what I had learned from this sort of work into conversation with other commentaries.  The great commentators you mentioned were certainly helpful, but I was surprised to discover how useful the late nineteenth and early twentieth century commentators on the Greek text turned out to be.  Ellicott, Eadie, Abbott, and Robinson were often insightful both on matters of Greek syntax and on theological issues.
3) One of the approaches I appreciated about your commentary was the use of the Thesaurus Linguae Gracae (TLG). Talk about some of the rewards and challenges of using this resource for  your work on Ephesians.
The TLG was helpful in two ways.  First, it made looking up references in the primary sources very easy.  A reference in Liddell, Scott, Jones, for example, to the use of a word in the fragmentary writings of an obscure first century B.C. Stoic author could be checked quickly in context.  Second, the TLG allowed me to investigate the use of words beyond the information that the standard lexica provided.  I could do my own lexicographical work on a rare form like the word ἐλαχιστότερος (in 3:8) and sometimes discover important uses of the term that the standard lexica did not mention.
4. The theme of ‘new creation’ is a prominent one in the Pauline Letters (e.g. Galatians 6.15; Romans 8.18-22; 2 Corinthians 5.14-21) but perhaps nowhere more than Ephesians. Could you discuss how this theme functions in this particular letter and what role it plays in defining Jew-Gentile relations?
The theme of a new creation is important in Ephesians, but it is expressed in subtle ways, and the emphasis falls on a particular element of the new creation---the unity of the universe under the headship of Christ. The phrase “new creation” never appears, but the idea is present in places such as 2:10 where God is pictured as an artisan, much as he is in Genesis 2:7 where he fashions the first human being from the earth. In 2:10 Paul tells us that one of the purposes for which we were “created” was to do the good works that God had already prepared for us. Similarly, in 4:24 (also in an ethical context) Paul tells his readers to put on “the new human being created after the pattern of God,” a phrase that sounds like Genesis 1:27, where God creates humankind in his own image. Paul is interested in Ephesians in a particular aspect of the new creation, the unity of all God’s creation under the headship of Christ. “The God who created all things” intends for the church to show his “beautifully complex wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in heavenly places” (3:9–10) by means of its unity, particularly the unity in Christ of Gentiles and Jews who have believed the gospel (2:14–18).

Eventually all things will take their proper place in this renewed universe (1:9–10). The demonic powers will be conquered and beneath Christ’s feet (1:20–23). These demonic powers will also be underneath the feet of believers, who are seated together with Christ in the heavenly dimension (2:6). The church will be a united “temple” where God’s Spirit will dwell (2:22). God will show the overwhelming abundance of his grace and kindness to his people as age gives way to age (2:7). The ethical teaching in the letter focuses on the practical measures that Christians can take to demonstrate this unity with one another in the present and so, in the present, be an illustration of what the world will one day look like when God is finished uniting all things in Christ (1:9–10).

5. Talk a bit about the vertical and horizontal relationships that inform Ephesians 2, and how these relationships inform both the soteriological and ecclesiological aspects of the believing community.

Ephesians 2 is one of the most powerful passages in the letter.  I think Paul intends for the chapter to illustrate how God has made “the surpassing greatness of his power” effective “for us who believe” (1:19).  It does this, as Harold Hoehner brought out in his commentary, by showing how God’s power affects people at both the individual and the social level.  In 2:1–10 Paul describes how the individual believer moves from rebellion against God (2:1–2a) and from domination by the heavenly powers that are in rebellion against God (2:2b–3) to someone who has been released from the power of the devil by the overwhelmingly generous mercy and grace of God (2:4–10).  In 2:11–22 Paul then starts over, but now from the perspective of the people of God, the church.  The plight of his readers is now described in corporate terms---they were alienated from God’s people and from all the blessings that come to those who belong to God’s people, and now they have been united to God’s people in Christ.  Here in 2:11–22 the horizontal dimension of salvation (we are saved to live in community with others, especially those from whom we were formerly alienated) and the vertical dimension (we are saved into a relationship with God) receives special emphasis.
6. Could you discuss the varied ways in which prayer plays an important part in Ephesians and the practical approaches that can be implemented within the life of a believer and his/hers faith community?

Ephesians is steeped in prayer and urges its readers to pray. Paul begins the letter with three kinds of prayers. In 1:3–14, he utters a long benedictory prayer in which he praises God for all that he has done for those who are in Christ. It is one of the longest sentences in the New Testament, and its “run-on” character I think reveals its spontaneity. It is certainly structured, but it has the feel less of a carefully pondered literary composition than of something delivered orally in the presence of Paul’s secretary, perhaps writing furiously! This gives way in 1:15–23 to thanksgiving and intercessory prayer reports, again uttered in a “run-on” style that may mean they are less “reports” on how Paul prays than actual prayers. Paul also seems to begin to pray for his readers in 3:1 but then digresses on the nature of his ministry and does not complete his prayer until 3:14–21. Here again, we find lengthy sentences that seem to arise from genuine prayer uttered in the presence of the secretary taking down the letter. I think we can imagine Paul literally dropping to his knees in prayer (3:14) at this point in the dictation.

Throughout this first part of the letter, then, Paul has demonstrated how important prayer is to him, and this gives a certain weight to the admonition to his readers at the end of the letter to pray all sorts of prayers, in every season (6:18–20). These prayers are Spirit enabled (cf. Romans 8:26), and should be both general (for all the saints) and specific (in this case, for Paul as he faces legal proceedings).

There is much here from which believers today can learn: prayer is of critical importance; we should pray frequently; we should not worry too much about the precise wording of our prayers; our prayers should not be confined to ourselves or our own group of believers; they should, nevertheless, not be too general. Also, just as Paul asked for prayer in his own difficult situation, we should remember in prayer believers who are persecuted in various ways for their commitment to Christ and their determination to proclaim the gospel.

7. In a day and age where many commentaries exist on Ephesians, what is your hope concerning your contribution to this particular genre?

My hope is that this commentary will function something like a bus that brings a group of backpackers to the foot of a majestic mountain.  I hope that I can just swing the bus doors open so that my passengers can disembark and experience the mountain’s beauty, quickly forgetting about the bus itself as it disappears in the distance.  Ephesians is a beautiful text, but, more importantly, it is God’s word, and its message has the power to transform the lives of those who read it so that they believe and live out the gospel.  If in any way my commentary can bring readers to Ephesians and drop them off there to experience the transforming power of this part of God’s word, I will be profoundly grateful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Caligula's Tomb Found...Not So Fast

There are reports circulating that Italian police caught a man loading a statue of Caligula into the back of his truck, near Lake Nemi, 19 miles south of Rome. When the thief was questioned by police, he led them back to where he had found the statue, now believed to be Caligula's tomb, where excavations have begun.

Mary Beard, a classicist from Cambridge University, questions much of the information that is coming out about this report.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Romans: Little Gleanings from the Greek

Disclaimer: These are observations, not 'polished' thoughts. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts to sharpen the discussion below.

One of the things that I mention to those who wonder about the importance of studying the Greek text as opposed to just relying on whatever English version(s) of the text they happen to read and study is the fact that they will often miss the little things, namely, the author's style, use of alliteration, and other nuances that make their composition a thing of beauty.

I began keeping a notebook yesterday of Romans, and I am following the outline that the NA-27 provides. So, in Romans 1.1-7, Paul's salutation, to the church at Rome, a church he had yet to meet, Paul claims that he was "set apart" (ἀφορίζω) for the gospel, which is ultimately centered on Jesus who is Messiah (1.1). The term ἀφορίζω is used in the context of holiness, much like Leviticus 20.26 (LXX) where God speaks to Israel, saying: "And you shall be holy to me; because I the Lord your God am holy, who separated (ὁ ἀφορίσας) you from all nations, to be mine."  This term may also be related to what Paul says in Gal 1.15-16: "But when God, who had set me apart (ὁ ἀφορίσας) before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being..." (NRSV). Paul's reference of his call in Galatians is an echo of God's address to Jeremiah where the prophet is told in part (along with the reference to the mother's womb) that"...I appointed (ἡγίακά) you a prophet to the nations" (Jer 1.5 LXX). The idea in either case is to be set apart by God for his special purposes.

Moving on to what Paul says concerning Jesus in Rom 1.3, Jesus is first, from the line of David, fulfilling his messianic requirements, and second he was "appointed" (ὁρισθέντος) the Son of God due to his resurrection from the dead. As Jewett states the verb means "install" here and should be viewed in light of the royal decree language of Ps 2.7 (Romans, 104). What I am interested in here, and the reason for the post itself, is the similarity in the language Paul uses to characterize his function as apostle, namely being set apart (ἀφωρισμένος) and Jesus' having been appointed or installed (ὁρισθέντος) as Son of God. In the few commentaries I have looked at thus far (Moo, Dunn, Jewett), no one has mentioned the similarity of these participles describing both Paul's call and Jesus' status. I'm wondering then, especially, phonetically, is Paul connecting his status with Jesus' and in what way?

If nothing else, Paul seems very purposeful in choosing these two participles, and reading this in the Greek gives us a glimpse of his genius that English translations simply miss.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Good News: SBL Postpones Student Paper Requirements!

Here is some good news for students who wish to submit paper proposals for the SBL annual meetings:

Dear Student Member:

The Executive Committee of Council met on 12 January 2011 to discuss concerns over the recent policies regarding student participation in the Society’s Annual Meeting. The policies that were announced in November 2010 required all students without a doctoral degree to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they intended to read and limited the number of sessions student can participate in (as panelist, presenter, and respondent) to one.

The action taken by the Executive Committee of Council, effective immediately, is to postpone the implementation of these policies and to undertake additional discussion of these matters at the Spring 2011 Council meeting. This action thereby sets aside these requirements and restrictions until 2012, pending further review.

I want personally to thank the members of the Student Advisory Board and the network of OSRs for the conversations we have had concerning these matters. They are active advocates for student interests. Please do continue these conversations with me or with representatives on SAB. SAB will provide a report directly to Council in April.

On behalf of Council, we look forward to receiving your suggestions and proposals for discussion and review, and we are especially grateful for your active participation.


John F. Kutsko

Executive Director

Society of Biblical Literature

Why the Intellectual Life Matters

I remember several years ago, when I was attempting to go to seminary, I belonged to a church that was less than supportive. I got the 'cemetery' comments, the 'warnings' that 'I would be so full of head-knowledge that I would be no earthly good,' that seminary would 'kill your faith,' and 'you don't need Hebrew and Greek because the Holy Spirit will be your guide when you read Scripture.' The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the pastors of the church would not sign off on their blessing to send me to seminary, which left both myself and the seminary I planned on attending, scratching our heads for answers. Eventually, a well-placed call by someone at the seminary got the ball rolling and the required paperwork was turned in.

Into my second year at seminary, I started to realize that what was being preached from the pulpit, taught in Sunday school, church membership, and new believers classes, was at odds with the education I was receiving at seminary. As my education progressed, my suspicions were confirmed as I was always a bit skeptical of the 'health and wealth' and 'name it claim it' gospel that treated God like a glorified Santa Claus, and was being taught every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday during the weekly church services. Looking back, the issue the church had with my pursuit of knowledge, I believe, was the fear that I would leave, which is what I did. It seemed to me that they were very protective of their teaching and were afraid that someone from the inside might get wind of what was being taught, and stir up a mini-revolution amongst the church members, taking these folks with them. I chose to leave quietly.

These recollections were sparked by a video I saw this morning. I think it addresses, creatively, what the pursuit of God is all about. Enjoy: from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃

(Deut 6.5)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

John Byron's New Book

My good friend, mentor, and fellow blogger, John Byron, has a new monograph coming out from Brill Publishers in February. The title is Cain and Abel in Text and Tradition: Jewish and Christian Interpretations of the First Sibling Rivalry .  

Here is a description of the book:

The story of Cain and Abel narrates the primeval events associated with the beginnings of the world and humanity. But the presence of linguistic and grammatical ambiguities coupled with narrative gaps provided translators and interpreters with a number of points of departure for expanding the story. The result is a number of well established and interpretive traditions shared between Jewish and Christian literature. This book focuses on how the interpretive traditions derived from Genesis 4 exerted significant influence on Jewish and Christian authors who knew rewritten versions of the story. The goal is to help readers appreciate these traditions within the broader interpretive context rather than within the narrow confines of the canon.

Unfortunately for John, this 266 page book is retailing for $146!  I do, however, recommend that you check it out at your theological library, and then buy it when it becomes available on paperback. John is one of the most astute scholars of the Second Temple era, so it would be well worth a read.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading Plans

I have seen quite a bit about reading plans for the New Year across the blogosphere. May plan on reading throught the entire NT in Greek, some the entire OT in Hebrew over a two-year span, and some even through the Pseudepigrapha over the course of this year.

My goal was to do the first. I made it successfully through the first 3 days with my plan, but now find myself hopelessly behind. I am now making a more realistic goal and that is to read through the Pauline corpus over the year. I figure this will give me a better chance to set a goal and to actually achieve it. I also thought about mixing in some OT readings, both in the MT and the LXX. Does anyone have any recommendations here? My first inclination was to work my way through the Pentateuch, but I was wondering if I should read the major prophets instead?

Well, it's on to Romans...

Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Take on Paul's Damascus Road Encounter

Much has been written regarding the subject of Paul's encounter with the risen Jesus. Regarding what Paul actually experienced has usually been referred to as a Merkabah, a chariot-throne vision, associated mainly with Ezekiel 1.4-26. Cutting against the grain of this consensus is Timothy W.R. Churchill. Churchill, in a revision of his doctoral dissertation at the London School of Theology under the supervision of Steven Walton, argues in his forthcoming monograph, Divine Initiative and the Christology of the Damascus Road Encounter, that what Paul experiences is a "Divine Initiative epiphany."

Here is the blurb, to be published in April from Wipf and Stock:

 The Damascus road encounter between Jesus and Paul is foundational to understanding the early development of Christology, and, indeed, Christianity, since it is the first appearance of the post-ascension Jesus contained in the earliest Christian literature. This study examines the encounter as it is described in Paul's epistles and the book of Acts.

Since Paul interprets his experience within the Jewish tradition, this study begins with a survey of epiphany texts in the Old Testament and other ancient Jewish literature. This reveals two new categories for appearances of God, angels, and other heavenly beings: Divine Initiative and Divine Response. This survey also finds two distinct patterns of characterization for God and other heavenly beings.

These findings are then applied to Paul's accounts of his Damascus road encounter. Paul depicts the encounter as a Divine Initiative epiphany. This conclusion is significant, since it argues against the current view that the encounter was a merkabah vision. Paul's Christology in the Damascus road encounter is also significant, since Jesus is characterized as divine. Such divine characterization is not typical for heavenly beings in first-century CE epiphany texts. Thus, a high Pauline Christology appears to be present at a very early point.

The three accounts of the Damascus road encounter in Acts also fit the pattern of Divine Initiative—not merkabah—and exhibit the high Christology of Paul's accounts. In fact, the three accounts in Acts are shown to form an intentionally increasing sequence culminating in the revelation that Paul was called to be an apostle by Jesus himself on the Damascus road.

This looks like a really good read. With my project on theophanies right around the corner, this would have been an excellent source for the NT portion, unfortunately, this volume is not due out until late April, way past my deadline!
The webpage can be accessed here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Theophanies in Classical Literature

I am working on a smallish project where I am researching theophanies. I need some help locating some resources that deal with theophanies in the classical world. I know for instance, that the word itself derives from a festival (θεοφάνεια)that took place at Delphi in the spring to celebrate Apollo and his return from Hyperborea. I was looking for specific examples from Greco-Roman mythology.  For instance, would a good place to start be the Iliad?

Along with primary source materials, are there some good classical dictionaries or encyclopedias I should be looking into?

Monday, January 10, 2011

How Do You Budget Your Time?

I have a confession to make. I work well under pressure. Scratch that, I work well under pressure, because I often find myself in a position where I have to do so!

This often comes down to an issue of time management and ambition. I have always had some struggles with time management, but this problem has become magnified with my 6 month old daughter Olivia. I am finding that my time is really not my own (not that it really ever was!), and because of the unpredictability that an infant brings, I am attempting to adjust on a day-to-day basis. I want to make it clear-- I am not complaining! I love spending time with her and she is without a doubt my greatest daily joy!

Since my daughter has been born, I have been blessed with many opportunities that I have never had before. Writing projects proliferate at this least for me! Needless to say, I am enjoying these opportunities, but I have to be careful about what I take on, and at this point in my life, it is very difficult to say "no, thanks."

Coming to the end of this rambling post, I guess my question is this: How do you develop good-time management habits? I marvel at the output of some of my favorite scholars who have families and ministerial responsibilities at their church. I wonder how they get it all done. Do they sleep less? Do they budget how much time they spend on the Internet? Do they forsake family time on the weekends?

I realize that because of my full-time second shift job, unrelated to anything I do for biblical scholarship, that my dynamics might be different than some. But, it would be helpful to hear from others who either have struggled with juggling 'life' or are currently trying to process some of the same dilemmas that I have mentioned above.

Look forward to hearing from you...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Frank Matera: Romans Interview

One of my favorite commentators is Frank Matera, Ordinary Professor of New Testament, The Andrews-Kelly-Ryan Professor of Biblical Studies, at the Catholic University of America. His work on Galatians in the Sacra Pagina series and especially his work on 2 Corinthians in the New Testament Library (WJKP) series are two volumes that I have found very useful. With regard to the latter, during the time I was preparing my MA thesis, it was Frank's commentary that led me to shed my previous view of 2 Corinthians as a composite document. Frank writes with a clarity that only the best of commentators possess, so when I had the opportunity to read his latest offering, Romans (Paideia; Baker Academic), I jumped at the chance.
So without further ado, here is the interview:

1. In your 2 Corinthians commentary this is the process of writing a commentary as you described it:

The writing of a commentary is an intensely personal endeavor. It requires concentration, discipline, and most of all, long periods of uninterrupted time. Somewhere in the midst of such a project, one begins to feel as though he or she has become a monk or a hermit, cut off from the familiar social world of family and friends who are about the business of earning their daily bread. At such moments the noonday devil appears and interrogates the would-be author: 'Why are you composing yet another commentary when there are so many, most of which are better than what you will write?' But if the temptation to abandon the task is resisted, and if the work is completed, the commentator finally receives his or her answer: the privilege of studying the sacred page, of asking it questions and being questioned by it, is itself sufficient reason to write yet another commentary. Thus every commentator eventually learns that even if the work falls short of one's expectations, as inevitably it will, the effort has not been in vain (Frank J. Matera, 2 Corinthians: A Commentary [The New Testament Library; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003]italics mine), Preface ix.

Fast forwarding seven years, is this the same sentiment you had in writing your most recent commentary on Romans?

It has been a long time since I read those words. Thank you for bringing them to my attention. As I read them—as if for the first time—they continue to ring true, perhaps even more so with Romans. Since there are so many great commentaries on Romans, I often felt inadequate to the task, and I continually asked myself why I needed to add my voice to that of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Barth, etc. But the writing of a commentary is its own reward. After writing it, one feels a special kinship with the text that did not and could not have existed before.

2. I have always been fascinated with the actual process that a commentator undertakes when writing his/her commentary. What is your specific approach, and has it changed since writing your first, Galatians?

My commentary on Galatians was my first attempt at commentary writing. This meant that, apart from the structure of the Sacra Pagina Series, I had to find a commentary style. What I most remember about writing that commentary is the attention I gave to word studies through the use of a concordance. I wanted to see how every word in Galatians was used in the other Pauline letters. While I continued to use this approach, my commentary on Romans gives greater attention to the structure of the text. In a word, I have become more interested in how Paul structures his letters as a whole and in their individual parts.

3. Talk a bit about the Paideia series and what about it drew your interest in writing the volume on Romans?

Every commentary series asks its authors to follow a specific format. The distinctive approach of the Paideia series is its threefold format: (1) Introductory Issues in which the author discusses background issues, (2) Tracing the Train of Thought in which the author tries to clarify the logic of the text, and (3) Theological Issues in which the author tries to clarify the theological significance of the text. It was this third element that attracted me to this series. Romans is an unabashedly theological text, and it was a privilege for me to engage its profound theology.

4. In your Preface (xiii) to this particular volume, you mention two inspirations that have guided your journey in Romans, one an instructor, Jean Giblet, and the second, Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans. Can you speak of how these influences shaped your writing of this commentary?

Professor Jean Giblet, a Belgian Priest, was my Professor of New Testament for four years, when I was a student at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, 1964-68. His exegetical approach was philological and historical-critical, and it always paid attention to the pastoral dimension of the text: what the text means for the life of the church. This is the approach that he taught me. I read Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans about the same time; it was the most powerful book I have ever read. It was a sustained sermon that confronted with the awesome power of God’s Word. While commentaries are not usually written in this way, I tried to incorporate some of that passion into my own commentary.

5. Moving on to some interpretive issues, could you discuss how you interpreted the phrases δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, (3.21) and διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστου (3.22) and some of the main issues involved in dealing with these phrases?

These two phrases have traditionally been interpreted as “the righteousness of God,” the righteousness that comes from God and which God imputes to the justified, and “faith in Jesus Christ.” In more recent exegesis the first has been interpreted as referring to God’s own righteousness, God’s saving justice manifested in Christ’s death on the cross. The second has been interpreted as referring to the faith/faithfulness of Jesus Christ, which Christ manifested by his obedient death on the cross. Thus God’s own righteousness is manifested in Christ’s faithful obedience on the cross. I have chosen this interpretation—without excluding the other—because it coheres with the overall thrust of Romans, which is a letter about God as revealed in Christ.

6. In Romans 4, Paul presents his own view of Abraham. What are some of the distinctive aspects of Paul’s portrayal that differ from Second Temple Jewish portrayals?

The most distinctive aspect of Paul’s portrayal of Abraham in Romans 4 is the way in which he presents Abraham as the father of Gentiles as well as Jews. Whereas second temple Judaism rightly saw Abraham as the father of the Jewish people and the first monotheist, Paul argues that the faith of Abraham enables him to be the father of all, Gentiles as well as Jews, provided they believe in God as he (Abraham) did.

7. Another portrayal, this of Adam in Romans 5, is also distinctive. Could you summarize Paul’s portrayal here as opposed to Second Temple portrayals?

In Romans 5, Paul argues that Adam’s transgression introduced the powers of sin and death into the world in such a way that all, without exception, find themselves in a predicament from which they cannot free themselves—what later theology calls original sin. While some writers in second temple Judaism pointed to Adam’s sin as the beginning of sin, none highlighted the result of Adam’s transgression in the way Paul did: namely, Adam’s transgression resulted in a situation of universal sinfulness that required an act of God to reverse.

8. What are some of the ways Romans 8 recaps chapters 5-7 and what role does the Spirit play in developing some of these themes?

Romans 8 recaps chapters 5–7 in two ways. First, Romans 8:14-38 completes the theme of eschatological hope and final salvation that Paul introduces in Romans 8:14-39. Second, in Romans 8:1-14, Paul shows how the Spirit enables the justified to overcome the power of sin that frustrates the law as described in Romans 5:12–7:25. Thus, the Spirit that the justified have already received is the assurance that they will be raised with Christ and enjoy final salvation. That same Spirit frees them from the powers of the sin and death and enables the law to be fulfilled in them in a way that it could not have been fulfilled previously.

9. Much has been made of the church as being the ‘new Israel’ based on a particular reading of Romans 9-11. What would your response be to those who hold that the church has superseded Israel in God’s plan of salvation?

Paul never calls the church the “new Israel,” nor does he say that God has rejected Israel. In Romans 9–11, his point is that God has not rejected Israel, even though a temporary hardening has come upon a part of Israel. In God’s way, in God’ time, all Israel will be saved because God’s promises to Israel are irrevocable. The church is the eschatological people—the people of the new age—made up of Gentiles and Jews. It grows out of Israel and does not replace Israel. It is not a new Israel but God’s eschatological people. Israel continues to have a role in God’s mysterious salvific plan. The Jewish people remain God’s chosen people.

10. Thanks for your time and for your contribution in writing this commentary. It is one of the clearest expressions I have ever read on Romans and would recommend it to seminary professors and church leaders as a must-have in any serious engagement with this great book.

In closing, I was wondering what other research and writing projects are you undertaking and will we see some more commentaries from your pen in the near future?

I am presently writing a Pauline theology entitled God’s Saving Grace: A Concise Pauline Theology. As the title indicates it will be a shorter theology of the Pauline letters intended for students and teachers. Thank you for allowing me to express my views on this wonderful letter

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Another year has gone by and I have so much to be thankful for...

2010 brought me my beautiful daughter, Olivia and the past year also helped  crystallize much of my future as well.

I do not want to list here some of my "resolutions" for 2011, but if I just concentrate on one thing, everything else will fall into place. That one thing, isn't a thing at all, it is God and his Son, Jesus. It is rather uncharacteristic of me to get on here and share anything of an intimate nature, but it is my one desire to live what my friend, Mike Gorman talks about often, that is, to live a cruciform life. I have failed often at this, but I really want to echo what the Apostle Paul speaks of in Philippians:

"...τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ, εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, ἐφ᾽ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ].

ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν οὐ λογίζομαι κατειληφέναι· ἓν δέ, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος,
 κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ."

" know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;  if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3.10-14).

So here's to 2011 and a cruciform lifestyle...cheers!