Category Archives: Biblical Studies

Thoughts About 2017’s Jewish Philosophical Theology Workshop in Jerusalem

As I mentioned before on this blog, I recently spent some time in Jerusalem for a Jewish philosophical theology workshop. In light of my time there, I decided to write a few blog posts for Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.  Below you will find the links to various blogs, including a blog where I interact with Billy Abraham and a blog where I try to draw some connections between Yoram Hazony’s account of “Truth” and Wolfhart Pannenberg’s account. ENJOY!YSS

 

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE HEBREW BIBLE

WHAT IS “THE PHILOSOPHY OF HEBREW SCRIPTURE?”

FATHER ABRAHAM AND THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF EXODUS

HEBRAIC AND PANNENBERGIAN ACCOUNTS OF TRUTH

Books Read in 2016

At the end of each the year I put out the list of books I have read that year. Usually they consist of a lot of theology books, followed up by a good chunk of philosophy books, and a few fiction books thrown in. In 2013 I read 106 books. In 2014 I read 87 books. In 2015 I read  88 books. This year, my numbers went down drastically. However, that was mainly because I was in school again, reading lots of journals and book chapters, and writing a whole bunch. The numbers also dropped because I stopped reading at the gym. My workouts sort of changed (became more intense) so I no longer read while doing cardio. Anyway, this year’s total is 52 book. That’s one per week!

book-piles

Books Read in 2016 = 52!

January

  1. Systematic Theology Volume 1 – Wolfhart Pannenberg
  2. Experiences in Theology – Jurgen Moltmann
  3. The Nature of Doctrine – George Lindbeck
  4. The Nature of Confession – Phillips & Okholm

February

  1. Beyond Foundationalism – Grenz & Francke
  2. The Drama of Doctrine – Kevin Vanhoozer
  3. Black Theology of Liberation – James Cone
  4. Models of God – Sally McFague
  5. Introducing Radical Orthodoxy – James K.A. Smith

March

  1. Analytic Theology – Crisp & Rae
  2. An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology – Thomas McCall
  3. Four Views on Hell – Preston Sprinkle
  4. Strong and Weak – Andy Crouch
  5. The Problem of Hell – Jonathan Kvanvig
  6. Hell: The Logic of Damnation – Jerry Walls

April

  1. Gaining by Losing – J.D. Greear
  2. The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund Clowney
  3. Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians – Oliver Crisp
  4. Sacrifice and Atonement – Stephen Finlan

May

  1. Knowledge and Christian Belief – Alvin Plantinga
  2. Living on the Devil’s Doorstep – Floyd McClung
  3. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution – Stump and Applegate
  4. The Trinity Among the Nations: The Doctrine of God in the Majority World – Gene Green, Stephen Pardue, K.K. Yeo

June

  1. Prodigal God – Tim Keller
  2. The Father Heart of God – Floyd McClung
  3. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous – W. Jay Wood
  4. The Pastor Theologian – Gerald Heistand & Todd Wilson
  5. Reading Romans in Context – Ben Blackwell, John Goodrich, and Jason Matson
  6. You are What You Love – James K.A. Smith

July

  1. The Claim of Humanity in Christ – Alexandra Radcliff
  2. The Lost Letters of Pergamum – Bruce Longenecker

Lost Track of Dates

  1. Writings on Pastoral Piety – John Calvin (ed. McKee)
  2. Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation – William Naphy
  3. Infant Baptism in Reformation Genega – Karen Spierling
  4. Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension – Julie Canlis
  5. America at the Crossroads – George Barna
  6. The Uncontrolling Love of God – Thomas Oord
  7. Pentecostal Outpourings – ed. Robert Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary
  8. Crossing Cultures in Scripture – Marvin Newell
  9. Rational Faith – Stephen Evans
  10. What is Reformed Theology – R.C. Sproul
  11. Judaism Before Jesus – Anthony Tomasino
  12. Reordering the Trinity – Rodrick Durst
  13. Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves

November

  1. A Little Handbook for Preachers – Mary Hulst
  2. Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life – Henri Nouwen
  3. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective – Marc Cortez

December

  1. The Vulnerable Pastor – Mandy Smith
  2. Serving a Movement – Timothy Keller
  3. Saving Calvinism – Oliver Crisp
  4. Paul’s New Perspective – Garwood Anderson
  5. Soul Keeping – John Ortberg

Paul’s New Perspective

Paul’s New Perspective is Paul’s old perspective.

That’s the Garwood Anderson’s thesis in Paul’s New Perspective. In this long (+400 page) but very readable book Anderson argues against those advocates of The New Perspective on Paul and those of the Traditional Protestant Perspective (sometimes called the Lutheran view) showing that neither camp really gets Paul right. Paul cannot be understood simply from the NPP nor can he be understood simply from the TPP, rather what we see in Paul is development. Paul begins with the concerns brought up by NPP advocates and by the end of his career ends with concerns of the TPP.41c7cyia4ll-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Summary

Paul’s developing soteriology is supposedly seen in his development from concentration on “works of the law” to works more generally. Anderson argues that Romans, is a sort of transitional letter marking the shift between Paul’s old perspective and Paul’s new perspective.  In Romans we see the transition between “the largely horizontal crisis of Gentile covenant membership independent of the law to a more vertically oriented reconciliation to God gained by faith apart from works, works of any kind.” (13)

Never disparaging either the NPP or the TPP, Anderson argues that both positions get a lot about Paul right, and that both sides have helped the church understand something important about its relation to God and the world. Some figures, like Wright, get it more right than others. For instance Wright in PFG rightly describes Paul’s logic as going vertical to horizontal, however the emphasis in Wright’s work is horizontal to vertical. Similarly, Dunn has helped reveal the horizontal problems Paul was dealing with when it came to the law’s role in acting as a dividing role between Jews and Gentiles.

In order to establish the case that Paul’s “new perspective” is actually his “old perspective” and that the traditional perspective is actually Paul’s “new perspective” Anderson has to establish this chronologically from his letters. Anderson notes that this is a bit problematic, as the position he argues for is not the majority view of critical scholarship (its not idiosyncratic either).

  • Galatians is the Earliest Letter, dated around 49AD
  • Romans is dated around 56-58AD
  • The Thessalonian and Corinthian Correspondence fall between Galatians and Romans
  • Philippians was composed in Rome
  • Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon are authentic and written from Rome
  • Paul survived his Roman imprisonment, turned his attention east and wrote the Pastoral Letters.

Having established the provenance of these letters Anderson turns his attention to two topics Works/Grace and Justification/Salvation in light of his reestablished order of letters. From this new order he shows that with regards to works, his early topic of “works of the law” shifts to “works” (full stop) with Romans acting as a transition between these two positions. Grace also follows this pattern. Beginning with Romans, grace is opposed to and excludes works. Concerning justification/salvation, in his later letters Paul recedes from the language of justification and prefers to use language of salvation and reconciliation. These two sections are made up of indepth exegetical and lexical work.

Assessment
So how convincing is Anderson’s argument that the New Perspective is Paul’s is actually Paul’s old perspective? I guess that comes down to one important factor, how convincing do you think Anderson’s assessment of Paul’s literary itinerary is? Do you find it plausible that Galatians is Paul’s first letter? If you think Galatians & Romans are fairly closely dated that his argument doesn’t really work. Do you buy a Roman (as opposed to Ephesian) provenance of the Prison letters? If you don’t then that throws a wrench in his entire reading of Pauline development as well. The problem with Anderson’s propsal is that you have to hold to a lot of minority positions regarding the composition of these letters. Neither the NPP or the TPP hangs upon one’s acceptance of a particular dating andersonof Paul’s letters, but Andersons’ thesis certainly does. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Anderson’s explanation is wrong. In fact, I would argue that it has a lot going for it! It breaks down some of the false dichotomies of the NPP/TPP debate, allows the church to incorporate the best of both perspectives, and has a lot of explanatory power. (His thesis even helps explain some of the concerns brought up by Apocalyptic readings of Paul!) But the fact that his whole argument is built upon the foundation of dates makes his foundation rather feeble. If one can decisively show his dating of Paul’s letters are wrong, his argument (in my opinion) falls apart.

All in all I would say that Paul’s New Perspective is a well written and well researched book, offering a via media in a rather creative way. Students of Pauline theology would do well to pick up this book, he does a fine job charging the various debates between NPP & TPP camps. His chapter on Post-NPP authors is fine as well. I can see myself assigning these chapters to students in a Pauline theology book, helping them get acquainted with contemporary debates in the Pauline literature. On top of all this, the summary of his position is rhetorically powerful,  much like EP Sanders’ was: “covenantal nomism,” “getting in vs. staying in,” “solution to plight,” and “in short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity.” Anderson’s position is quite memorable as well: “Paul’s New Perspective is Paul’s old perspective.” This catchy statement alone ensures the ideas in this book will be remembered, regardless of their staying power.

While I’m still not sure that Anderson’s proposal is convincing, it certainly is thought provoking. For that reason, I recommend you pick up this book. Its an position that deserves more thought and attention.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review)

The Christ Hymn as a Pattern for Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that the Christ hymn in Philippians 2 is the pattern for Christian life. Obviously Michael Gorman has much to say about this, but I came cross Morna Hooker’s analysis of this poem, and I was struck by how programatic it is for Paul.

The pattern of Christ’s self-humiliation is the basis of the Christian’s life and his dealings with his fellow men. This is not simply a question of following a good example: he must think and behave like this, because the behavior of Christ is the ground of his redemption; if he denies the relevance of Christ’s actions to his own, then he is denying his very existence in Christ.

The “imitate this pattern because you are in Christ” paradigm came even more vividly alive for me when I read Philippians 3:17 this morning:

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take not of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

What is this pattern Paul gave us? its the Christy hymn pattern.

Just some stuff to ponder….

How the Canon Came to Be…

Last night in the NT Backgrounds class I am teaching we got into a discussion concerning the nature of authoritative and inspired texts, how “choose” the books of the Bible, why some Christian traditions recognize certain OT Apocryphal books as having some weight and authority. The discussion took us a bit away from what we were supposed to be covering in class, nevertheless I felt it was important enough to merit some time in discussion. But given our constraints I promised the class I would give them some resources for further reading. Below you will find what I sent to my students.

latin-bible

Last night I promised that I would post something about the reliability of the canon and how/why it is authoritative. Below you will find a quote from Michael Kruger, President of Reformed Theological Seminary & a NT Scholar, on the recognition of the the 27 NT texts as canon. Also, under the quote are some links to some web resources that address this question.

Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves. 

It may bother us to think that God trusted his church to simply “recognize” what was divinely inspired, after all isn’t that a bit risky? Doesn’t that make it possible that we would make some mistakes? But in another post Kruger makes a great point about this. He says:

Whenever someone shows angst over these early canonical disagreements, I often ask a simple question: “What did you expect the process would be like?” It is at this point, that people often realize they have an overly-pristine expectation about how God would deliver his books—an expectation that is entirely their own and not derived from Scripture or from history.

Anyway, here is a link to a series of posts by Kruger regarding the canon. He addresses topics like:

  1. Apocryphal Writings
  2. Canonical Lists which have 22 vs. 27 books
  3. Early Christian use of non-canonical writings
  4. Disagreement over certain canonical books
  5. The self-authenticating nature of Scripture

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions feel free to comment below.

 

Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf
Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf
Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is “an up-to-date commentary on all the significant manuscripts and textual variants of the New Testament.” It feels and looks very similar to Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the New Testament. One key difference between these two texts is that Metzger only comments on the variants which appear in the UBS version of the Greek New Testament but Comfort doesn’t limit himself to commenting only on those variants.

What also makes this commentary stand out is that he takes into account the Nomina Sacra in the manuscripts. In many manuscripts scribes present the divine names “with specially calligraphy to disntinguish these names as being sacred.” (8)

In his first introductory chapter he addresses the Nomina Sacra, like “Lord,” “Father,” “Son,” and Spirit. Sometimes these names are written in full. At other times they are contracted with an overbar. He discusses the “why” of the Nomina Sacra, and the variants between manuscripts.

The second introductory chapter is an annotated list of manuscripts of the New Testament. Each entry includes the designation of the manuscript, original publication and current location.

The text itself works provides a passage then various things:

  1. What comfort takes to be the original wording of the verse
  2. Variant readings
  3. Manuscript information

For instance His commentary on Mark 1:11 looks like this:

You are my beloved Son.

“Son” is written as a nomen sacrum (sacred name) in one early MS (Codex Sinaiticus) as well as L. God hereby indicated that Jesus was the divine Son of God, not just a son of God.

His commentary on Acts 5:32 looks like this:

The Holy Spirit whom God has given.

The divine “Spirit” is written as a nomen sacrum (sacred name) in four early MSS (P45, Codex Sinaiticus, A, D) as well as P74 33.

Overall this will be a very helpful book to those engaged in textual criticism (most others won’t find this very useful). However, as someone who is more engaged in systematic theology (exegesis is in fact a part of that!) having comments on the nomen sacra in particular passage is actually very helpful. Also very helpful is that this book looks an awful lot like your Greek NT. I highly recommend it for those who have are engaged in biblical/theological scholarship.

You can purchase this book through Kregel Academic or through Amazon.

Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an impartial review.

Justification is NOT the Gospel!

The doctrine of justification is itself not the gospel. The gospel is the message concerning what God has done through Christ to deal with the effects of human sin (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4) and to liberate humanity and the whole creation from the effects of sin (cf. [Rom] 8:19-24). Those who believe the gospel and give their allegiance to his son God justifies, that is declares them to be right. They enjoy the status of those for whom God has made a favorable adjudication. (200)

-Colin Kruse (Pillar NT Commentary on Romans)