Tag Archives: new testament

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….

Advertisements

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

Reordering the Trinity

If you were to ask a systematic theologian “Is the Trinity in the Bible?” there would be various answers that she could give you. If she says “yes” she will have to nuance her answer quite a bit – the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible, the words we use to describe the Trinity never appear in the Bible, etc. If she says “no” she will have to tell you why she isn’t actually a heretic, but she will likely be able to show the scriptural basis for Trinitarianism.

Fred Sanders says that,

One of the chief obligations laid upon Trinitarian theology in our times is that it render the doctrine of the Trinity with unprecedented clarity as a biblical doctrine, or, to speak more precisely, as a doctrine that is in the Bible.

In order to do this, in the past, some theologians resorted to a41aka-4obzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_ proof text approach to this doctrine. Show that Jesus is divine, show the Holy Spirit is divine, throw it all together into a bowl and bam! Trinity. Yet these sort of hermeneutical moves no longer are very persuasive in the eyes of many. Thankfully people like Wesley Hill have taken a different approach for showing how the Trinity is indeed Biblical. But the proof text approach is not completely gone. Rodrick Durst’s new book, Reordering the Trinity, is one of those “proof text” type of Trinity books. But lets just call it a concordance approach. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What is innovative about Durst’s book is not the fact that he lays out 75 (yes seventy-five) occurrences of the Trinity in the New Testament. What is innovative about this book is that Durst show that in these 75 occurrences there are 6 different patterns.

  1. Father, Son, Holy Spirit
  2. Father, Holy Spirit, Son
  3. Son, Father, Holy Spirit
  4. Son, Holy Spirit, Father
  5. Holy Spirit, Son, Father
  6. Holy Spirit, Father Son

He then goes on to give percentages for how many times each of these combinations occur. (Father, Son, Spirit takes the lead with 28 occurrences and Spirit, Son, Father comes in last with only 8 occurrences.) What is most interesting about this book is that he shows that each of the 6 patterns have different thematic significance!

  1. Father, Son, Holy Spirit – Missional
  2. Father, Holy Spirit, Son – Formational
  3. Son, Father, Holy Spirit – Christological
  4. Son, Holy Spirit, Father – Regenerative
  5. Holy Spirit, Son, Father – Ecclesial
  6. Holy Spirit, Father, Son – Sanctifying

What’s really groundbreaking about this is that it leaves us with various options for thinking through and praying through different ways when we are focusing on different things. For instance if we are focusing on praying about sanctification we may start with the Spirit, move on to the Father, and end with the Son. Or if we are praying about mission we may begin by asking the Father to be glorified as we go out and proclaim the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, etc.

What’s great about this book is that Durst has this devotional aspect in mind when he is writing. He even includes an appendix for incorporating this Trinitarian Ordering into your own prayer life.

Overall I found this book to be very stimulating for my personal devotional life. It opened up to me the mind blowing idea, or to put it a better way it gave me a theological basis, for prayer that is focused on different persons of the Trinity. So, if you take this book as a series of proof texts that the Trinity is Biblical you will be disappointed. But if you read it as a sort of concordance showing how Trinitarian ordering makes a difference in your own walk with God then you have stumbled upon an amazing resource.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

 

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.

Who are Paul’s Opponents in Galatians?

Paul Writing a Letter

When Paul first came to the churches in Galatia the gospel he preached was received with much enthusiasm. However, after Paul left Galatia other itinerant missionaries arrived and began to advocate a different message. Although it is obvious that this message was not in line with Paul’s message, the nature of this message as well as the identity of these messengers is not very clear.

The Options:

Longenecker believes that the messengers were Christian Jews who came from Jerusalem stressing the fact that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and to keep the cultic calendar, for full acceptance by God and as a proper Christian lifestyle.[2] “These Christian Jews might have been associated with the ‘circumcision party’ of the Jerusalem Church whose activities are illustrated in Acts 15:1, 24.”[3] Other options as to who these messengers were include: Jewish Christians of Gnostic persuasion, Jewish Christians with no specific support from Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, and Gentile Christians.[4]

The Method:

Commentators have attempted to work backwards by trying to piece together their message by reading Paul’s reactions and defenses. By coming to understand Paul’s defense commentators have pieced together Paul’s gospel and this other party’s gospel. However there are several flaws with this approach.

The Flaws in the Method:

Cousar helpfully points out that “the Bible is always interpreted in one set of historical circumstances or another.”[5] Thus in our current interpretation of Galatians we are conditioned to hear Paul’s words in Galatians by our post-reformation understanding of Christianity. Along with this post-reformation understanding of Christianity of Paul’s message is a particular understanding of the gospel. Since we are shaped with a post-reformation understanding of the gospel, it is easy to understand Paul’s opponents as being opposed to this gospel. So we begin with our understanding of the gospel and read these opponents as being opposed to our gospel. Because we do this I believe that it is more helpful to begin with the question “what is Paul’s gospel?” and then try to figure out “who are Paul’s opponents?” rather than the other way around.

————————————————————————————–

[1] Cousar, Galatians: Interpretation Commentary, 3.

[2] Richard Longnecker, Word Biblical Commentary: Galatians, (Waco: Word Books, 1990), xcv.

[3] Ronald Fung, NICNT: The Epistle to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 9.

[4] Cousar, Galatians: Interpretation Commentary, 5.

[5] Cousar, Galatians: Interpretation Commentary, 2.

The Challenge of Jesus

N.T. Wright has written a plethora of books that span the spectrum between devotional and intense academic tomes. The Challenge of Jesus seeks to place itself somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

The Challenge of Jesus

In the preface to this book Wright last out three goals that he has in writing this book. The first goal is to maintain historical integrity when talking about Jesus. The second goal is to help Christian disciples to follow the Jesus of Scriptures. The third goal is to help the next generation of Christ followers to love on mission in this postmodern world we find ourselves in. The majority of this book focuses on the first goal, and ends with two chapters that address the last two goals. This makes a lot of sense because if we are going to be able to live as disciples of Christ we need to now who Christ really was.

Wright accomplishes these goals by asking five important questions (p. 33):

1-Where does Jesus belong within the Jewish world of his day?

2-What, in particular, was his preaching of the Kingdom all about? i.e. what was he aiming to do?

3-Why did Jesus die? In particular what was his own intention in going to Jerusalem that last fateful time?

4-Why did the early church begin, and why did it take the shape it did?

5-How does all this relate to the Christian task and vocation today?

He answers each one of those questions in a separate chapter. Regarding question 1 Wright argues that Jesus was leading a messianic movement, not completely unlike other messianic movements of his time (yet also with a radically different twist.) In other words Jesus was announcing the Kingdom of God. Regarding the 2nd question, Jesus was creating new symbols of the Kingdom, the cross and the temple. By doing this he was reconstituting the people of God around himself. All of this pointed to an end of exile which was being accomplished by God in Christ. Why did Jesus die (question 3)? He died because it he believed it was his vocation to for Israel what Israel could not do and he believed that he would undergo the sufferings that Israel deserved for its unfaithfulness in other words, Jesus himself would go into exile and suffer at the hands of the enemy. This answer is related to the 4th question. The early church began because Christ was bodily resurrected, this meant that God was vindicating all that Christ has done. The exile is over and a new creation has begun. Finally the 5th question, how does all this relate to the Christian task and vocation today? Quite simply, Christians are to live as a part of new creation, as a part of this story that has climaxed in Jesus, and they are to live out the truth that Jesus really is the King and Messiah not only of Israel but of the whole world.

Like most books written by N.T. Wright this book excels in its historical portrayal of the facts. Wright certainly has done his research (this book is essentially a condensed version of Jesus and the Victory of God) and his research almost always leads him to surprising, yet orthodox, conclusions. There is no doubt in my mind that Wright gets the historical picture of Jesus right in this book. However what Wright gets wrong, in this book and may other books where he addresses the church in out postmodern setting is in the application of those historical realities. That isn’t to say he doesn’t get the overall contours right – he says “our task is to implement his unique achievement.” (182). That is absolutely right, however the ways he calls the church to implement Christ’s achievement is a little bit off. This has been said of Wright before so I won’t belabor it. Even though he warns against those who emphasize the discontinuity between the present world and the next and throw up their hands in resignation and those who emphasize the continuity between the present world and the next and imagine we can build the kingdom of God by our own hard work he definitely tends to fall a little too much on the continuity side of things. At times he sounds like he has an overemphasized eschatology. Of course he denies this, but its clearly in his writings. However if it comes down to it, I would rather someone work hard for the Kingdom of God than throw up their hands and wait for heaven to come one day. Despite this one small downside in this book I highly recommend it.

In my opinion this short book is the best introduction to Wright’s thought on who Jesus is.

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

The Shape of Paul’s Theology

Apocalyptic or redemptive-historical? That is the main question most people are debating nowadays when it comes to the shape of Paul’s theology. Certain places – like Galatians (especially the opening chapter) have a sort of apocalyptic feel. But other places like Romans – certainly has a redemptive-historical feel. So what is the primary motif undergirding Paul’s understanding of what God is doing in the world? Is it something that develops over time (redemptive-historical) or is it something that suddenly breaks in (apocalyptic)? I don’t think we have to choose & neither does Michael Bird:

The shape of Paul’s theology depends on whether we understand it as consisting of either apocalyptic themes and patters that focus on the relationship between this age and the new ager or whether it consists principally of the redemptive historical progress of salvation from Israel to the church through the coming of Christ. There is no need to make an either/or decision here, though, since Paul’s apocalyptic eschatology and redemptive historical motifs are linked in the narrative nature of Paul’s theology. In Paul’s letters the implied stories of creation, Adam, Abraham, and Israel find their definitive resolution in Christ. The story of Christ is really a story about the invasion of the future age into the present. This heavenly invasion brings with it a climax to these various substories, which result in the vindication of the covenant God and his new-covenant people. (IP, 21)