Tuesday, December 15, 2015

F.F. Bruce Video

I was notified this morning that a video of F.F. Bruce's Annual Moore College Lecture from 1977 is now posted online thanks to the folks at Moore Theological College. These lectures, originally entitled "Promised Beforehand by the Prophets," were later produced in a volume by Eerdmans entitled The Time is Fulfilled (1978).

As far as I know, this is the first video of Bruce produced online.


Lecture 1: "The Time is Fulfilled"; Sept. 6, 1977:

There are four more lectures in this series, all in audio format. I will update this post should the video become available.

HT: Timothy Knowlton and the F.F. Bruce Facebook Page

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brief Reminiscences of I. Howard Marshall

My first SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) annual meeting in 2004 (San Antonio, TX) was memorable for a multitude of reasons. I learned more from that meeting about what not to do-- Spending money you don't have, bring home way too many books, try to book the entirety of my days and nights with sessions, meetings, and parties, leaving no time for reflection and rest. In all, I was an exhausted mess by the time the meeting ended.

I. Howard Marshall (1934-2015)
Despite my overzealous scheduling, there was one event in particular that I am grateful I attended. On the evening of Sunday, November 21, 2004, InterVarsity Press held a symposium to celebrate the releases of I. Howard Marshall's New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel, along with Eckhard Schnabel's Early Christian Mission (2 volumes). A panel discussion featured both authors addressing the topic: "The Missionary Context of the New Testament and Early Christianity." Unfortunately, I do not recall much of the discussion, but I do recall bringing Marshall's New Testament Theology, which I had just purchased at the ever-tempting IVP book stalls. Once the symposium ended, I made my way up to the front, standing in line to have my book signed by Marshall. I remember his warm greeting, a smile, followed by a handshake, and him asking me after looking at my name tag, "What are you studying at Ashland Seminary, Matthew?" After a brief discussion, he signed the volume, closed the book, and wished me well.

Despite this brief exchange, which for him had to have happened thousands of times over his long, illustrious career, many of them forgotten about on his end, I am certain, his kindness to a stranger, a young, seminary student, was something I shall never forget.  I was brought back to that particular moment yesterday when I heard the sad news that Ian Howard Marshall passed away one month short of his 82nd birthday after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. For many, Marshall's influence was felt through his voluminous writings, whether they be from his magisterial Luke commentary (NIGTC), his Pastoral Epistles commentary (ICC), his aforementioned New Testament Theology, or his monographs, which included such gems as Luke: Historian and Theologian, The Origins of New Testament Christology, Aspects of the Atonement, among many, many others. For others, those who had the wonderful privilege of studying under him (Craig Blomberg, Ray Van Neste, Joel B. Green, Darrell Bock, to name a few), Marshall's generosity and humility were hallmarks that his students have emulated.

Over the several other SBL meetings I attended in the intervening years, I would see Marshall at some of the sessions, occasionally browsing the book stalls, but never again did I approach him and speak with him. What I observed during those fleeting moments though was a genuine humility and graciousness in dealing with others. I'll give but one example. I was at a session and I believe one of the speakers was Stephen Finlan, a fine NT scholar in his own right, and I remember looking a mere two rows ahead of me, and the great I. Howard Marshall was jotting down notes, like a young student! I thought to myself, "What a wonderful example!" This wasn't just a one-off, either. Marshall took notes for every other paper in the session! I observed him doing this at other sessions over the years, so I believe this was a regular practice for him. He never stopped being a student despite his immense stature in the evangelical scholarly community.

As for what he wrote in my book that fateful night? "Howard Marshall- 2 Tim 2:15".  The passage in full reads thusly:

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

If any scholar lived those words, it was I. Howard Marshall (1931-2015). Rest in Peace and Arise in Glory!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

An Interview with Johnson Thomaskutty on Dialogue in the Book of Signs: Part II

Here is the second part of my interview with Johnson Thomaskutty, Dialogue in the Book of Signs. To see part I, click here.

Without further ado, on to the interview!

5. Exchange units within a dialogue are discussed at three different levels in your work. Can you discuss how these function in your reading of a dialogue and perhaps give a brief example of each? (e.g. micro-, meso-, macro-levels) 

As you rightly said, Dialogue in the Book of Signs discusses the phenomena of dialogue at three levels. First, at the micro-level, it discusses the dynamics of the individual utterances of the interlocutors and their interconnection and role, alongside the narrative, within the exchange units. Here, the study looks at how the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic aspects integrally work together within the exchange units. ‘Exchange’ is a peculiar term I employ throughout the study in order to indicate the independent units of the episode(s). An ‘exchange’ can be identified as: (a) a self-contained unit within an episode; (b) a narrative unit that contains a dialogue either explicitly or implicitly; (c) a narrative unit that decides the plot structure; and (d) a unit of its own characteristics, i.e., setting, dramatic framework, literary unity, rhetorical features, and development. Second, at the meso-level, the current project analyzes how the exchange units work in relation to one another and how they together form the episodes. Third, at the macro-level, it describes the holistic features of the dialogue in John 1:19-12:50. At this level, the entire Book of Signs is considered as a ‘single literary whole’ communicated by the author/narrator to the reader. In all three levels, the narrator-and-reader dialogue is analyzed alongside the character dialogues. Thus, a triadic-layered structure is established in order to decipher the dialogue foundation. For example, our multidimensional analysis of John 4:1-42 enables us to classify the dialogues into different categories. An important feature of the narrative is its use of explicit and implicit dialogues. In 4:1-42, a five-tier exchange develops within the narrative framework (i.e., vv. 7-26, 27, 28-30, 31-38, and 39-42). At the outset, vv. 1–6 frames a narrative setting for the entire episode. There are two explicit dialogues within the episode: (a) between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (vv. 7–26); and (b) between Jesus and the disciples (vv. 31–38). While exchange one (vv. 7–26) and exchange four (vv. 31–38) are mostly composed out of character utterances and dialogues, exchanges two (the disciples’ dialogue at the background, v. 27), three (the rear-of-stage dialogue, vv. 28–30), and five (vv. 39–42; cf. Dodd, 1960: 315) show narrator’s abbreviating tendencies. By incorporating both the explicit and implicit dialogues, the episode as a whole is dynamically coordinated and aligned by the narrator. In sum, the exchanges together form the episode (4:1-42) and the episodes together form the Book of Signs as a macro-level dialogue.

6. John 9 is rich with dialogue occurring at various levels. What is the payoff in your approach in analyzing this chapter?

Yes, John 9 is rich with dialogue occurring at various levels. If we consider 9:1-10:21 as a single unit, 9:1-41 has to be considered as a dialogue-driven section. The first exchange (9:1–7) has a sign- and work-centered dialogue progression. On the one hand, it shows features of a question-and-answer interaction, and yet again it keeps the form of a challenge-and-riposte. Within the overall framework of the exchange, the dialogue leads to a sign performance of Jesus. In the second exchange (9:8–12) the dialogue progresses from the sphere of a community to the level of a group and an individual. Other aspects such as dual-layered development, question-and-answer format, and forensic aspects are also features of the exchange. The third exchange (9:13–17) maintains elements of a false assertion and a subsequent question of perplexity and a question-and-answer dialogue. In this exchange, a reader can observe the way a dialogue functions within another dialogue. In the fourth exchange (9:18–23) the narrator uses elements of a question-and-answer dialogue and that contains a sequence of a forensic question, a knowing-and-unknowing contrast and a response of escape. In the fifth exchange (9:24–34) a juridical and antithetical progression of dialogue is in the view. The sixth exchange (9:35–38) has a belief-invitation, belief-willingness, revelation, belief-confession, and belief-actualization sequence with tenets of a flashback-centric and revelatory dialogue. And the seventh exchange (9:39–41) shows antithetical and ironical natures of the characters through their very utterances. But the seven-tier dialogue of 9:1-41 is incomplete without the succeeding monologue (10:1-18) and the community dialogue (10:19-21). The episode (9:1-10:21) maintains all the features of a U-shaped plot. While Jesus’ sign performance (9:1–7) and its declaration by a minority group (10:21) are at the heightened positions, the trial of the man (and also of Jesus) and the discourse of Jesus are at the lowered position. This sequence helps the story to maintain a beginning-middle-ending order. At the extended level, John 9:1-10:21 has to be considered as a dramatic dialogue leading to a monologue and a community dialogue.

7. What impact do you hope your monograph makes upon Johannine studies? 

That is indeed another significant question. The current monograph may contribute in the ongoing study of the Gospel of John the following way. First, in the field of dialogue studies: the work reveals that John’s Gospel exemplifies dialogue as a literary genre not simply in the isolated pieces (as we usually look at, i.e., Nicodemus event in chapter 3 and the Samaritan woman event in chapter 4) but in the overall framework of the gospel. While the intradiegetic dialogue reveals the dialogue of the characters among themselves, the metadiegetic dialogue functions as a connecting link between the narrator and the reader. In that sense, John as a literary masterpiece is composed primarily out of the utterances (dialogues and monologues) and the narratives. Within the narrative framework, the intradiegetic dialogue functions both explicitly and implicitly. This understanding may help a Johannine reader to read and understand the entire gospel from an exchange/episode/narrative framework and from dramatic angles. Second, in the field of interdisciplinary approaches: the present study attempts to suggest a new way forward with the help of a polyvalent analysis. It makes use of different approaches (i.e., genre, narrative, rhetorical, dramatic, reader response, and the like), different layers (i.e., micro-, meso-, and macro-), and aspects (i.e., content, form, and function), that better qualify it to be called a multidimensional analysis. It further helps the reader/interpreter to look at the text from multivalent angles in order to see myriad possibilities of meanings. Third, the potentiality of the text and the involvement of the reader: the study reveals that the text itself is potential, powerful, and rhetorical to create a world of its own before the contemporary reader. The semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic layers of the Johannine text guide the contemporary reader to create meaning in a dynamic relationship with the internal textual constructs like the narrator, narratee, implied author, and implied reader. Moreover, the study guides the contemporary reader to be engaged in verbal exchanges with the characters of the story. In that sense, a contemporary reader can consider the text itself as a dialogue partner. Thus, the study encourages the readers and interpreters of John to expound the text with the help of polyvalent methods. It also informs them the contribution of the dialogue toward the narrative development of the gospel.

8. Can you discuss other projects with which you are currently engaged?

Right now I am engaged in writing a monograph entitled Didymus Judas Thomas: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions. Prof. James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary is the main motivation behind this work. In June 2013, I spent a profitable time with him to discuss the Thomas project at École Biblique Jerusalem. The whole trip was sponsored by Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins. I thank the GRI program of The Center for Missiological Research (CMR) at Fuller Theological Seminary, California, for providing a grant for the writing project right now. Upon the completion of the project, I may begin working on another monograph with a title A Polyvalent Analysis of Dialogue in John 13-21 for Brill. I would like to thank Prof. Paul N. Anderson of George Fox University for the encouragement toward this. He was one of the key figures who encouraged me to publish my doctoral dissertation under Brill. As the editor in chief of the Biblical Interpretation Series, Prof. Paul guided me all through the revision/editing processes. Also, I have another project in my list entitled Gospel according to John: A Commentary for India Commentary on the New Testament (ICNT) Series. Thank you, Matthew, for these significant questions.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vincent Taylor: Reflections on Commentary Writing

Vincent Taylor (1887-1968), was a preeminent New Testament scholar of his time, serving the bulk of his career as Ferens Professor of New Testament at Wesley College, Headingley, Leeds from 1930-1958. He wrote famous monographs such as Jesus and His Sacrifice: A Study of the Passion Sayings (1937) and The Atonement in New Testament Teaching (1940). As well known as these works were, however, Taylor was probably best known for his magnum opus The Gospel According to St. Mark (MacMillan) published in 1952. Taylor's commentary, although dated, is still considered one of the most valuable commentaries on the Second Gospel to this day, due to Taylor's handling of the Greek text. His approach is now widely used in many commentary series; one thinks of Eerdmans New International Greek Testament Commentary series as well as Harper Collins/Zondervan's World Biblical Commentary series.

I am always interested in the approach a scholar takes when writing a commentary. Many would opine that it is the least creative writing that there is, but to call it artless is a stretch too far. All of the tools that a scholar acquires in his training is challenged by the genre. I was excited therefore to see Taylor's comments in the Preface (v-ix), about what he hoped to achieve. Here are his thoughts on the monumental task of writing a commentary:

I hasten to say that in this work I have no thought of attempting to write a definitve commentary. I am content rather to report progress and perhaps to stimulate others to essay the task. It is not by one commentary, but by a series, that we are most  likely to make real progress. And, for the encouragement of others, I may say that there is no task so rewarding. When we write monographs on such questions as the Parables, the Kingdom of God, or the Son of Man, we read everything germane to such inquiries, but other subjects, which do not make the same appeal, have perforce to be passed by. In writing a commentary this method is not possible. Every theme that arises must be followed, and every line of inquiry into which it opens. The commentator is compelled to be cathollic in his sympathies, international in his outlook, hospitable in his interests (vi; italics mine).
Although the reflections may be more than 60 years old, the same holds true for the commentator today. To boil it down, the commentator, using every tool in their exegetical holster, must still follow the text, allowing it to dictate where the writer goes.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

J. Ramsey Michaels on Evangelicalism: Quote of the Day

One of the finest books I have been in the process of reading now for some time, I (Still )Believe, (Zondervan) coedited by a mentor and friend, John Byron, is full of wonderful stories of some of the most prominent Biblical scholars in the world today. One of the contributors, J. Ramsey Michaels, has over the years, also become a mentor and friend to me as well. It was with great anticipation that I read Ramsey's essay, "Four Cords and an Anchor" (173-185), where he describes in some detail his journey through the four cords of his faith, namely, Roman Catholicism, Fundamentalism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading Ramsey, whether it is his magisterial commentary on John (NICNT) or his works on Flannery O'Connor, knows of his unique ability to simultaneously wax poetic and pinpoint the issue at hand, with a beauty and clarity that few writers possess. In this regard, Ramsey resembles one of his heroes, Amos Niven Wilder.

A great example of these traits is on display when Ramsey recounts his 25 years at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and his status as an "evangelical." At this stage in the essay, Michaels reflects on the perplexing nature of that description:

In many ways evangelicals are a strange breed, exemplifying to an extreme the principle of 'no creed but the Bible.'  Whether the buzzword is infallibility or inerrancy, the Bible is all that unites them.  Their common belief in an infallible Scripture seems to produce no other beliefs in common, other than the basic elements of the gospel--Christ's death and resurrection--that define Christianity. It is as if the Bible teaches nothing in particular other than the gospel. They are low church--or else high church, Calvinistic--or Arminian. They practice believer's baptism--or infant baptism. They believe God created the world in six days--or millions of years. They ordain women--or not. They speak in tongues--or not. Self-styled evangelicals can be found on both sides of virtually every theological, ecclesiastical and ethical issue that matters. Moreover, they regard this as one of their strengths, a testimony to their 'diversity' or 'openess.'
How is this possible? By the magic of 'hermeneutics.' I may confess my faith in an inerrent Bible, but what really counts is how I read it and interpret it. Something is wrong when our common agreement that the Bible is 'infallible' or even 'without error' produces agreement on vitually nothing else. If that is the case, what good is it? If  'evangelical'  means simply Christian, or even just Protestant, is it not redundant? (177-78; italics mine).
As one can see in the above quote, Michaels expresses well what a slippery, inadequate label "evangelical" is while simultaneously exposing the ironic nature of the entire enterprise, wisely noting that our interpretive traditions often play the largest role in how we read the Bible.

As a side note, I am happily reading the reflections of some of my favorite scholars  (Fee, Lincoln, Michaels, Hagner, McKnight, etc...) in this wonderful book. This has been one of my favorite books of 2015 and I recommend purchasing a copy here.