Friday, July 26, 2013

Craig Koester and the Quote of the Day

Theological reflection on John's Gospel is like this. Perspectives are shaped by a continued encounter with the text. The Gospel is written in a way that invites readers into the story. Its rich images of light and darkness, living water, and the fruit-bearing vine appeal to the imagination. Conversations between Jesus and other people careen between utter confusion and surprising insights. A straightforward statement often has a trap door that swings open to reveal depths of meaning that were only hinted at on the surface. John calls Jesus the Lamb of God. That seems pretty clear. At least until one asks what it means. Then theological reflection begins (Craig R. Koester, The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel; 2).

Chris Keith's Latest: Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Awhile back, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Keith about his book, Jesus' Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee. You can read that interview here.

Keith is following up Jesus' Literacy with Jesus Against the Scribal Elite (Baker Academic; publishing date: April, 2014). Here are the particulars:

How did the controversy between Jesus and the scribal elite begin? We know that it ended on the cross, but what put Jesus on the radar of established religious and political leaders in the first place? Chris Keith argues that, in addition to concerns over what Jesus taught and perhaps even how he taught, a crucial aspect of the rising conflict concerned his very status as a teacher. Addressing an overlooked aspect in Jesus studies, this fresh and provocative work is the first book-length treatment of the origins of the controversy between Jesus and the scribal authorities. It exposes the broader significance of Keith's highly regarded technical work on the literacy of Jesus.

For more on Chris Keith, check out his blog with Anthony LeDonne, The Jesus Blog.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rudolf Bultmann on John 1:14

Found this quoteworthy from Rudolf Bultmann's treatment of John 1:14a- "The Word became flesh..."

Thus the offence of the gospel is brought out as strongly as possible by ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο. For however much man may await and long for the eve of the revelation in the human sphere, he also quite clearly expects--and this shows the peculiar self-contradiction of man's existence- that the Revelation will somehow have to give proof of itself, that it will in some way be recognisable. The Revealer--although of course he must appear in human form--must also in some way appear as a shining, mysterious, fascinating figure, as a hero or θεοῖς ἄνθρωπος, as a miracle worker or mystagogue. His humanity must be no more than a disguise; it must be transparent. Men want to look away from the humanity to be no more than a visualisation or the 'form' of the divine.
 All such desires are cut short by the statement: the Word became flesh. It is in his sheer humanity that he is the Revealer. True, his own also see his δόξα (v.14b); indeed if it were not to be seen, there would be no grounds for speaking of revelation. But this is the paradox which runs through the whole gospel: the δόξα is not to be seen alongside the σάρξ as through a window; it is to be seen in the σάρξ and nowhere else. If man wishes to see the δόξα, then it is on the σάρξ that he must concentrate his attention, without allowing himself to fall victim to appearances. The revelation is present in a peculiar hiddenness. (Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971]), 63.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Raymond Brown and the Resurrection of the Messiah

The other day I posted on Francis Moloney's forthcoming, The Resurrection of the Messiah, and mentioned that the title is a tribute to Raymond Brown's monumental series, The Birth of the Messiah and The Death of the Messiah. I also quoted from Ronald Faley's tribute to Brown, when the latter was asked for his plans regarding writing the capstone to his series, which of course, would deal with the resurrection. Brown was famous for his response of desiring not to write a magisterial study on this topic, but rather, to experience it instead. 

Posing with the book that changed my life.
Just last night, I was re-reading the one book that I credit with starting me on the path to Biblical scholarship some fifteen years ago, The Death of the Messiah (vol.1), when I read this quote on Brown's stance on writing a volume on the resurrection:

A surprising number of people have asked if I plan a trilogy to conclude with The Resurrection of the Messiah. Responding with mock indignation that I have written two books on the resurrection (a response that conveniently ignores the fact that neither is truly a commentary), I tell them emphatically that I have no such plans. I would rather explore that 'face to face'(xii).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Raymond Brown's Work Ethic

In her moving tribute to her friend and former colleague at Union Theological Seminary, Raymond Brown, Phyllis Trible writes this colorful description of Brown's legendary work ethic:

Much has also been made of Ray's work habits. They excluded breaks for lunch, extended around the clock, and so accounted for those ubiquitous catnaps that could rattle his company. When teased about nodding off, he would smile and resume the conversation as though sleep had not intervened. It may be accurate to say that he knew he was brilliant, but it would be inaccurate to say that he claimed the brilliance. He understood that it came from neither his genes nor his own relentless pursuits, not even when, as a young seminarian in Rome, he would sit in a tub of cold water to stay awake for study. No, he knew that brilliance came from God. His responsibility was to nurture and use it in discipleship. For that reason he worked diligently (Phyllis Trible, "Raymond E. Brown, 1928-1998: Scholar for the Church," Christian Century, 115/26, [1998]: 892-893, here 893; italics mine).

Francis Moloney's Nod to Raymond Brown

Another forthcoming book by Francis Moloney will be out in time for SBL and the title is evocative for whom Moloney is paying tribute. Raymond E. Brown was asked on more than one occasion after having written both on the birth and death of Jesus if he would also write on his resurrection. Brown's reply was memorable: "I think I'll save that for the personal experience." (Roland J. Faley, T.O.R., "Raymond E. Brown: A Reflection," Union Seminary Quarterly Review,52/3-4 [1998]: 27-28, here 28).

No one is more qualified to tackle the resurrection in memory of Raymond Brown, after all, Moloney is the scholar responsible for bringing Brown's posthumous work on an update to the latter's classic John commentary in An Introduction to the Gospel of John . Here, Moloney will take his considerable skill as a narrative critic and exegete in his explorations of how the four Gospels portray Jesus' resurrection. Here is the description:

Francis J. Moloney

Francis Moloney's new book takes its inspiration from the critically acclaimed publications of the renowned biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown The Birth of the Messiah and The Death of the Messiah. In The Resurrection of the Messiah, Moloney provides a narrative reading of the resurrection stories in Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. His focus is almost entirely upon the text itself. Guided by current scholarship, he uncovers the perennial significance of the four resurrection narratives, accepted and read as Sacred Scripture in the Christian tradition. Without disregarding the historical background that must be understood for an appreciation of the story, a narrative commentary attempts to trace the intended impact of that story upon its readers. This reading and interpretative process uncovers the literary structure of a passage, and then follows the unfolding of the narrative itself, allowing it to speak for itself. The thrust of the book is to uncover the unique theological and pastoral message communicated by means of the narratives. Moloney concludes that we rejoice in what Jesus has done for us in and through the resurrection. This is especially true in our current era, when Christian institutions and practice are under threat from many sides, and also from the way Christianity is lived by many of us. The stories of the resurrection of the Messiah assure us that Jesus promises come true, that our fears, doubts, failures and sin are overcome, as we are sent out again and again on mission, accompanied by the never-failing presence of Jesus in the gift of his Spirit.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Francis Moloney's Love in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical, Theological, and Literary Study

One of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in my scholarly life was a message that I received from Francis (Frank) Moloney late last August on FaceBook. He asked if I would be willing to read over some of his manuscript for a book he was writing on John's Gospel that explored the theme of love for Paulist Press. He didn't have to wait for more than a few seconds for my reply! After he sent me a chapter, and then two or three, I suggested to him that Baker Academic would make a better fit, due to the fact that the volume for Paulist Press was for a popular audience, and I believed that Moloney's manuscript was better suited for an academic one.

I was delighted that Frank took me up on my suggestion as well as the comments I made in his manuscript, and the rest, as we say, is history. In November, in time for SBL, Frank's Love in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical, Theological, and Literary Study will be released by Baker Academic. I recommend it warmly to all students of John's Gospel, as it will set the standard for all subsequent work on the theme of love in the Fourth Gospel. Here are the particulars:


The command to love is central to the Gospel of John. Internationally respected scholar Francis Moloney offers a thorough exploration of this theme, focusing not only on Jesus's words but also on his actions. Instead of merely telling people that they must love one another, Jesus acts to make God's love known and calls all who follow him to do the same. This capstone work on John's Gospel uses a narrative approach to delve deeply into a theme at the heart of the Fourth Gospel and the life of the Christian church. Uniting rigorous exegesis with theological and pastoral insight, it makes a substantive contribution to contemporary Johannine scholarship.


"Francis J. Moloney is one of the most distinguished Catholic scholars of John's Gospel in the English-speaking world today. In his latest work on the Fourth Gospel, he displays his fine gifts as an able teacher. Having absorbed a vast amount of literature on the topic of love in John's Gospel, he presents his own argument in a clear, orderly form that even the uninitiated can grasp." John P. Meier, Warren Chair Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame 

"'Love in Action' could be the subtitle of this very fine study of John's Gospel. Frank Moloney focuses not only on the relational aspects of love--between Father and Son, God and the world, Jesus and disciples, disciples and one another--but also on the performative consequences of this love: what love looks like, particularly in the Johannine Passion. This book reads as the culmination of a lifetime of exegetical skill, research, and lived discipleship, enabling Moloney to express the heart of the Gospel's message in the one word love." Mary L. Coloe, associate professor, MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia

 "Francis J. Moloney is well known for his narrative commentaries on the Gospel of John. In Love in the Gospel of John, he uses his understanding of narrative to explore and interpret the theology of the Gospel. He sees that John tells the story of Jesus as the story of God, who, for love of the world, gave his Son to save the world, and argues that this reality is integral to the Gospel and the source of Jesus' command to 'love one another as I have loved you.' Readers interested in John will want to read this book." John Painter, professor of theology, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University

Monday, July 1, 2013

Endorsements for Moo's Galatians

Well, it looks like the endorsements are starting to come in for Douglas Moo's highly anticipated Galatians commentary (BECNT).

Here is a sampling:

"There is certainly a place for many commentaries on Galatians, but those who invest in only one would do well to make it Moo's. Careful in its exegesis, balanced in its judgments, fair in its treatment of others, and theologically sensitive, Moo's Galatians, like his commentary on Romans, is sure to become a standard work in the field." Stephen Westerholm, professor of early Christianity, McMaster University

 "Moo has proven himself in his other New Testament writings--as well as now in his Galatians commentary--to be too good a scholar, too perceptive an exegete, and too persuasive a writer to be ignored by either his scholarly peers or the Christian world at large. His Galatians commentary is a veritable gold mine of linguistic data, of various scholarly options, and of Moo's own informed responses to all sorts of critical issues of importance in the study of Paul's letter to his Christian converts in the Roman province of Galatia." Richard N. Longenecker, professor emeritus of New Testament, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

 "Douglas Moo's expertise as a commentator is well known, and his skill is on display in this outstanding commentary on Galatians. Moo is scrupulously fair to opposing viewpoints and nuanced and careful in his explication of the text. In addition to a line-by-line explanation of the letter, Moo also offers a substantive and satisfying explanation of Paul's theology in Galatians." Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

This makes me even more eager to get this volume as it has been on my radar for a few years now.

The next big Galatians commentary after this will be David deSilva's replacement of Ronald Y.K. Fung's in the NICNT series. This will be a ways off, however.