Tag Archives: New Testament Studies

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
Advertisements

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.

Top Ten Books of 2014

Christmas is the best time of the year to make lists!

  • Santa Claus is checking his list of kids who were naughty and nice, deciding which kids are going to get presents and which kids are going to get coal.
  • The nice kids are making lists of toys they want. (God bless the greedy little children, every one!)
  • Grown ups are creating Amazon wish lists hoping that somebody will get them something. (Mine is up on Amazon, just in case you want to get me something…)
  • Mom is making a grocery list, outlining all the stuff she needs to buy in order to pull off the perfect Christmas dinner. (I’m okay with just Tamales.)

But maybe most importantly, bloggers are making their “Best Of….” Lists for 2014. So I present to you the most important list you will see this holiday Season….

Chris Woznicki’s Best Books of 2014!!!

Best of 2014

Here are my qualifications to make it on to this list:

  1. Published in 2014
  2. I would give that book to somebody else
  3. I would re-read the book
  4. It is not a crappy book

With that I give you my favorite books of the year across 10 different categories: Biblical Studies, Theology, Mission, Ministry, Biography, Reformed, Charismatic, Devotional, Most Important, and of course Book of the Year.

Biblical Studies – Reading Backwards by Richard Hays

Reading Backwards

There were a lot of good biblical studies books that came out this year, including From Jesus to the Church by Craig Evans & How God Became Jesus by Michael Bird. However, the book that takes the top honor is Richard Hays’ Reading Backwards. In this series of printed lectures, Hays makes a most convincing case that the Gospel writers portraits of Jesus depend on a typological reading of the Old Testament. We have been waiting for this book for years!

Theology – Christ Crucified by Donald Macleod

Christ Crucified

Originally the winner was supposed to be Atonement, Law, and Justice by Adonis Vidu – probably the most important book on atonement theory published in the last 5 years. However another book on the doctrine of atonement snuck its way into my list of books to read in 2014. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m halfway through), but the top honor goes to Donald McLeod’s Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement. Rarely does an academic theology book make me cry because of how it glorifies Christ. This book had me in tears (the good kind) because it helps me see the glorious wonder of the cross and of penal substitution.

Mission – Primal Fire by Neil Cole

Primal Fire

Primal Fire is one of the clearest, most encouraging, and most biblically-theologically based APEST book out there right now. Not to mention, it will also ignite a fire up under you to discover how you can best serve the church to reach the maturity that God has intended for it. You can find my review here. (Honorable mention goes to Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keese – this book will get you pumped on what God is doing in unreached areas.)

Ministry – Slow Church by Christopher Smith & John Pattison

Slow Church

I loved this book! Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus explores what it would look like for the church to embrace the “slow” way of life. Humans can’t thrive and flourish on a fast food diet – neither can the church thrive and flourish with a “fast church” mentality. Change is needed – the church needs to slough off its industrialized and Macdonald-ized approach to church. It needs to embrace a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of life grounded in a grand gospel. Slow Church helps us imagine what it would look like if the church were to do that. You can read my review here. (Also, my review of this book will be published in the next issue of Themlios.)

Biography – Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

Strange Glory

This is an excellent and highly entertaining biography. It is very well written; at times it felt as though I were reading a novel, not a historical biography. But more importantly than that it is comprehensive, it goes beyond merely reporting the standard story, but instead strives to get into Bonhoeffer’s mind.  Marsh understands Bonhoeffer’s theology, and he seems to understand some of the things that really acted as driving forces in Bonhoeffer’s life. I recommended that you read this biography alongside of Eric Metaxas’ biography so that you will be able to form your own picture of who Bonhoeffer really was. You can read a full review here. (Honorable mention goes to Wesley on the Christian Life by Fred Sanders. Sanders’ book helped me to appreciate Wesley as a theologian of love.)

Reformed – Deviant Calvinism by Oliver Crisp

Deviant Calvinism - Crisp

I could not put this book down. I was so enthralled by it and the possibility moving past funadamentlistic neo-Puritianism (i.e. Johnny Mac and his cronies) that I read through it in a day and a half. Not only was it interesting though, it was very well argued. As is well known, Oliver Crisp is at the forefront of Analytic Theology – the theological method which applies the rigor and clarity of analytic philosophy to systematic theology. You can read the full review here.

Charismatic – Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear

Jesus Continued

Should I have categorized this book as being Charismatic? Probably not – but it is about the Holy Spirit! I loved this book so much. In fact I loved it so much that I have given away 15 copies of this book. I gave it to my Life Group leaders and to a few students who really needed it. Honestly this book could not have come at a better time for me. The Lord used it to speak so much truth into my life, truths that I have neglected or forgotten. It also stirred my heart for the possibility of revival. You can read the full review here.

Devotional – Prayer by Tim Keller

Prayer Tim Keller

Anything written by Keller is pure gold. Do you struggle with praying as consistently as you would like to? Would you like to experience God more personally in your quiet time? Do you want to have your heart awakened to the gospel? Are you tired of searching for the latest greatest spiritual discipline? If you answered yes to any of these questions – this book is for you. It grounds the discipline of prayer in the gospel and gives us practical ways to infuse our prayer habits with new life.

Most Important – Reformed Dogmatics Volume 1 by Geerhardus Vos

reformed-dogmatics1

Technically this isn’t a new book. It was published nearly 100 years ago. However this is the first time its been translated into English. Vos is an important figure in Neo-Calvinist theology, right behind Kuyper and Bavinck. I’m so grateful to have his Dogmatic Theology. Also, volume two has come out this year and the rest of the set will come out in the next year or so.

Book of the Year – Visions of Vocation by Steve Garber

Visions of Vocation

What the heck am I supposed to be doing with my life? Weaving together personal stories, literature, film, music, and scripture Garber helps us answer this question. He shows us what vocations are all about. He has written a book that will certainly inspire you to see your place in the world a bit differently. He not only aims at our heads, he aims at our hearts, drawing us into the story of what God is doing in this world. He invites us into the critical task of coming alongside of God as God himself give grace to a world that is broken and falling apart. Answering that invitation is what vocations are all about.

Earlier this year, when I wrote a review (here) I said:

I know its early in the year, but this book is so well written, so theologically powerful, and packs such a powerful devotional punch that it is definitely a frontrunner for my book of the year award.

It turns out that I stuck to my guns. This year was my favorite book of the year. If you buy only one book to read in 2015, buy this book!

A Theological Commentary on Colossians

A while ago I wrote about how excited I was to at some point get my hands on the Brazos Theological Commentary on Colossians. Now I finally have made my way through it – and I’m still excited about the book!

The Brazos Theological Commentary series exists for the sake of interpreting scripture in light of the Church’s creeds. The books in the series do not shy away from moving back and forth between exegesis and theological interpretation. In fact many of the books in this series are designed to demonstrate the intellectual viability of the ongoing project many have termed “theological interpretation.”

As a part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series, Seitz commentary on Colossians shows the reader not only what it looks like to do theological interpretation, he also shows the reader how to read scripture in light of the entire canon. Most commentaries shy away from reading scripture in this way.

Features of the Commentary

The First unique aspect of this commentary is Seitz’ refusal to read Colossians apart from the rest of scripture. This commentary really is an exercise in canonical interpretation, i.e. “interpretation of one of Paul’s letters in the context of them all, of the New Testament more generally, and of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture.” (27) This sort of reading certainly has its benefits – it is holistic, it refuses to get stuck in matters of historical background, it respects the text for what it says in its final form, and encourages a reader-response sort of reading. However it also has its drawbacks, specially that this sort of reading can wash out the distinctive message of the book one is focused upon, in this case Colossians.

Another interesting feature of this commentary is Seitz’ view on the Colossian heresy. Seitz decides to push the historical matter into the background of his commentary. That is, he refuses to focus upon it. He does this for several reasons, according to Seitz: 1)The heresy is not the point of the book (more on this below), 2) Paul does not know the details of the heresy, 3) Paul is being intentionally vague about the issue and recommendations for how to address the issue. I definitely have to disagree with Seitz on this point, Paul might have other purposes in writing the letter, but the nature of the heresy really is important, and we shouldn’t simply relegate it to being a non-issue.

A third interesting feature of this commentary is how Seitz allows the Old Testament to inform his interpretation of Colossians, specifically, he allows Genesis to do a lot of the heavy lifting in his interpretation. At the same time he notes that Colossians does not directly quote any OT scripture. The reasons Paul does not do this is because the Colossian church is primarily gentile, and they would have been unaware of much of the OT. Thus Paul is attempting to draw them into a OT worldview before he begins to instruct them on the OT text.

A fourth unique feature of Seitz’ commentary is his belief that Paul is responsible for collecting his own letters, organizing them, editing them, and distributing them because he knew that they were akin to scripture. Seitz believes that Romans serves as an introductory letter, forming the basis for our interpretation of the rest of Paul’s letters. Seitz makes these claims in light of the affinities he sees between Paul’s corpus and the minor prophets.

Finally, the most significant feature of this commentary is Seitz view on the purpose of Colossians. As I mentioned above, he strays away from traditional interpretations which see the occasion of the letter lying in the problem of the Colossian heresy. Most commentaries spend a substantial amount of time trying to figure out the nature of this heresy, but Seitz almost entirely avoids doing this. He avoids it because he believes that Colossians is transitional letter which explains Paul’s transition between an apostle who travels and preaches to an apostle who fulfills his apostolic calling in letter writing. As Seitz says on pg. 37, “Paul has become aware that his letter writing is a form of apostolic ministry with its own integrity and afterlife, especially in the form of letters in emerging collective association.” Because of his awareness of his changing role, Paul writes a more general letter. Seitz notes the seemingly intentional vagueness/imprecision/generality Paul uses when addressing the nature of the heresy. Seitz believes that Paul speaks in generalities because he now knows that this letter will make its away to other churches around the world (thus enabling him to fulfill his apostolic calling to the gentiles.) Thus Paul addresses general problems that many gentile churches will face in the future. However, despite the fact that the letter is meant to have a broader audience, Seitz does not ignore the fact that this letter is written specifically to the Colossian church. So Seitz tries to balance the global nature of the letter and the local nature of the letter. What shall we make of this? I really don’t know…. Seitz’ points about the vagueness & generality of Paul’s comments makes a lot of sense, however it seems to be quite a stretch to infer from Paul’s imprecise language that Paul has such global intentions. It might be better just to say that Paul was vaguely aware of the problems they were facing, so he speaks in generalities, much like a guest preacher might do at a church he is visiting (Seitz does use this example). We should probably leave it at that rather than infer from this that Paul has a global purpose in mind for this letter. The text simply does not lead us to believe that.

Nevertheless, I recommend this commentary. It is interesting, makes some unique claims, and helps the reader focus on what the text is actually trying to say. Instead of getting bogged down behind the text, this commentary encourages us to stay in the text. This is a welcomed feature, which is unusually absent in most academically rigorous commentaries.

Book Review – New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit and Kingdom by Robbie Fox Castleman

As the person who oversees college Life Groups at my church I know how hard it is to find, write, or develop good small group/bible study curriculum. Over the years I have perused tons of Bible studies and small group materials, only to be fairly disappointed every time. However, Robbie Castleman’s New Testament Essentials a collection of 12 weekly bible studies does not disappoint.

Castleman’s book focuses on two basic characteristics of the New Testament – first that it is Christocentric and second that it is thoroughly Trinitarian. These two themes get developed across three bigger sections: 1) the person and work of Christ, 2) the person and work of the Spirit in the church, and 3) the kingdom of God. Under each of these sections you will find a Bible study portion – 5 in the Christ section, 3 in the Spirit section, and 4 in the Kingdom section.

Each of these sections include:

1 – Bible Study: scripture to read, some texts to memorize, and some question to reflect on based on the reading.

2 – Reading: a section written by Castleman in which she offers background and insight into the passage.

3 – Connecting to the Old Testament: here she helps the reader understand how the New Testament draws upon the Old Testament.

4 – The Ancient Story and Our Story: a section on how the passage connects with our lives as Christians today.

Thoughts….

I was pretty impressed with the book. Rarely do I come across a bible study that actually challenges me to think deeply about Scripture and deeply about my life. Bible studies tend to go one-way or the other, but this one found a a great balance. Also I thoroughly enjoyed it – in fact I did one study each morning for 12 days. During those twelve days I was forced to ask myself deep questions about my life with God and I was challenged to really read Scripture instead of simply skimming it. All in all it was a valuable exercise.

However I can foresee some issues that people will have with this book. First, and maybe this was just my own issue, the book started falling apart in just a few days. Maybe it was created so you could rip out the pages for “study purposes” but I highly doubt that is the case. Second, I can foresee some people saying that the study questions are way too difficult. The author really leads the reader into some heavy exegetical work, meaning that most people will have a difficult time making it through the questions in a timely manner. I found the depth quite refreshing, but I know not everybody will feel the same way. This makes me wonder about its intended audience, who is this book really for? Is it for a new believer? I doubt it. Is it for the average adult? Probably not. I imagine that it is probably geared towards college students and/or seminarians.

Overall this study guide impressed me. I enjoyed working through each session. I was challenged and stretched and I believe that others will be too.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)

Baker’s Spring 2014 Academic Catalog

I visited my mom’s house recently and found that I had been sent Baker Academic’s Spring 2014 Catalog. I don’t know how long its been sitting there… days? weeks? years?!?! Either way, there are some upcoming titles that I am pretty excited about! Here they are, I hope you are as excited about them as I am!

Galatians and Christian Theology by Mark Elliott, Scott Hafemann, N.T. Wright, and John Frederick

This is a collection of essays on various interesting topics stemming from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In this volume some cut-rate scholars address issues related to Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics. You can look forward to reading essays by: N.T. Wright, Bruce McCormack, Beveryly Roberts Gaventa, Richard Hays, Scott R. Swain, Oliver O’Donovan, and John Barclay, among others. It comes out July 2014!

Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict by Chris Keith

This book has been endorsed by a diverse swath of scholars, ranging from Barth Herman to Craig Keener, to Larry Hurtado, to Richard Bauckham. In this is informed by the latest discussion of historical Jesus research, memory, orality, and literarcy within the 1st century. At the heart of the book is how and why Jesus found himself in conflict with the Jewish ruling authorities. Stuff is about to get political! It just came out this April!

From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story  by Mark Noll

Mark Noll is one of the most distinguished religious historian alive today. On top of that, he is an evangelical. In this book, Noll writes about the shift in Christianity towards the global South and the East. He has written about this before, but what is unique about this book is that he writes how studying this shift has changed and enriched his understanding of Christianity.  It comes out October 2014.

Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts by Adonis Vidu

Out of all the books in this Spring’s catalog, this is the one I am most excited about. Atonement theory is one of my favorite subjects, so when I saw this book was coming out I jumped at the possibility of getting my hands on it a bit early. In this book Vidu offers an in-depth analysis of the legal and political contexts within which the various atonement theories arose. According to Baker Academic, “this is the only book that explores the impact of theories of law and justice on major atonement theories.” Well… if you say so. I think that this book will be a valuable resource as a textbook for graduate level classes on soteriology or atonement theory. This book will be released in August 2014.