Sunday, August 13, 2006

SBL reviews

Some new reviews have been posted at SBL though I've note received an email update. There are several in the NT category but there are two substantive reviews of Dale C. Allison's Resurrecting Jesus that might be worth a look.

And congrats to Eddie and Sean on joining forces. Great move.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Francis Watson online

Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, outline/intro/conclusion available at Prof. Watson's home page: Watson is not well-known in the states, in my experience at least. But his work is certainly worth a look, though it has to be said that it is almost always rather dense. This particular work picks up on Richard Hays's Echoes and runs with it.

As we shall see, Paul cites individual texts not in an ad hoc manner but on the basis of a radical construal of the narrative shape of the Pentateuch as a whole, highlighting and exploiting tensions between Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Many of the apparent contradictions within Paul’s “view of the law” in fact originate within the pentateuchal texts themselves, at least as Paul reads them. Precisely in their canonical form, these texts are not at all the homogeneous and monolithic entity they are often taken to be.

Watson is particularly interesting and cautious on method, e.g., it is "inappropriate to try to reconstruct from divergent sources a single “contemporary Jewish” reading of a particular part or aspect of scripture, which would then serve as a foil for the Pauline reading."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Great Online Articles: Caird's "Jesus and the Jewish Nation"

I'm starting a list of great online articles. (Drop nominations via comments or email.)

First up is G. B. Caird's Jesus and the Jewish Nation (available in PDF). A must read for beginners, and important for others given Caird's stature as an important point of departure for a major wing of Jesus studies; the man profoundly influenced his student N. T. Wright, to name but one. Already in Caird's writings are the sorts of ideas which argue against the Jesus Seminar on the one hand and American dispensational theology on the other; he takes a different track (more "political") than Ladd and Ridderbos (who were perhaps more theologians than historians) but with similar anti-dispensationalism, anti-liberalist results. Caird is also marvelously readable, with clear arguments and startling originality.

HT: Sean at Primal Subversion, and thanks to Rob Bradshaw (again) for his work getting things like this online. Buy books at Amazon from that man's website (simply go to the relevant area of the website--NT, Gospels, Paul, etc to find links to many books), and peruse his growing collection of online articles.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rob Bradshaw is Superman

Loads of great new stuff listed at, including articles by Dodd, Chadwick, Caird, Muilenberg, Joyce Baldwin, and C. F. Evans; books by F F Bruce and F Kenyon. This calls for a post on the top ten NT studies articles available freely online. Anyone care to make nominations?

A Book Meme (Annotated)

Since The Bible (Protestant) would be the answer to most of these, we'll assume it's the first answer to all but 6, 7, and 12.

1) Two books that changed your life:
Malcolm X (Alex Haley), Autobiography of Malcom X. Extraordinarily well-written apology for anger. Blew up the usual romantic ideas of idyllic American ("Christian") life in the first half of the 20th century.
N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God (a series), particularly The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God. Completely changed the way I view my task as a reader of the Bible.

2) One book that you've read more than once:
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. Arguably the best 'story' written.

3) One book you'd want on a desert island:
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings ( that cheating?). Perhaps the smoke ring instruction could help me send signals for help...

4) One book that made you laugh:
Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

5) One book that made you cry:
Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

6) Books that you wish had been written:
Jesus at 30: an Autobiography
Flannery O'Connor, How to Read my Stories
Saul of Tarsus, How to Read my Letters

7) Books that you wish had never been written:
Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth
and the LeHay/Jenkins illiterary masterpiece, the Left Behind series. On the other hand, good things happen when people read crap and learn from mistakes. There's more critical thinking, more careful reading of the Bible, and less face-value acceptance of the judgments of one's authorities. And believers will never see the end of speculation, so learning how to deal with it is a healthy thing I think. Perhaps in the long run these are valuable as a cautionary tale?

8) Books that you're currently reading:
Summer means getting up to speed, reading things I should have read before embarking on a NT PhD, such as
Neill and Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986. Absolutely a brilliant book--sometimes a bit surprising at who gets included/excluded, and a little chummy, but loads of interesting facts and quotes, and a good 'narrative' flow that keeps the reader engaged. Good review and a glance at the big picture; helps one see how one's own academic work is part of a narrative.
Charlesworth and co., OT Pseudepigrapha vol. 1.
David deSilva, Introduction to the Apocrypha. Good read and a helpful/healthy approach for Protestants.

9) One book you've been meaning to read:
Anything in German. It's hard to get past articles, though.

10) Books you hope to read:
Mike Bird's published dissertation, Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission.

11) Another book you love:
Richard Bauckham, God Crucified

12) Books you loved but left unfinished:
Richard Wright, Native Son. I stopped at the end of book 1--simply too intense, like watching 8 consecutive episodes of 24. Very good psychological read of Afr-Amer mind, however, esp in relation to 'white America.'
Numerous commentaries on Matthew, including Davies-Allison and Keener.
Joel B. Green, Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching. Great first two chapters, but then...
Green's Gospel of Luke Commentary (NICNT). My favorite, I think--on any book; yet I haven't read it cover-to-cover.
Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity and Apostle of the Crucified Lord. Both great, both regrettably still incomplete.

13) Best book turned into a movie. Tops is To Kill a Mockingbird. Includes some of the best 'movie moments' as well as arguably some of the best child acting in cinema history. The film version of To End All Wars is quite powerful and deserves more pub in my opinion. Not a great film, but a great story.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Conrad Gempf

I'm very much on to other things of late, thus no blogging. I tried to blog and post a comment at Deinde, again to no avail. (Ouch!) Good to see Danny and co. blogging though, as many others are on a summer hiatus. How I wish Tilling and Crossley would focus more on biblical studies than current events and theology (yawn).

I wanted to post on current MidEast events but I've done enough of that with my segment on Land in NT theology. One hopes and prays that Israel's actions (while incredibly unhealthy to say the bare minimum, and yes I do think much much more could be said in that direction) will give moderates reason to challenge extremists/terrorists in their respective nations--at least with those like Hezbollah, whose actions led to escalation that the majority do not want. That is not an endorsemnt of Israel's actions, mind you.

One of the relatively unknown biblioblogs (I think) is Not Quite Art, Not Quite Living. Conrad Gempf is NT lecturer at London School of Theology and runs an interesting blog with a fair bit of diverse material. (Good link to a "Brazilian footballer name manufacturer" for instance.) Here's an excerpt, a post on Mark 6:14ff:

The Gospel reading for this coming Sunday is Mark 6:14-29. The story about how Herod was tricked into beheading John the Baptist should frighten the daylights out of anyone who thinks of themselves as good and honourable and religious.

Take verse 20. Herod (this is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, by the way) had a great respect for God and his prophet and enjoyed listening to the word of God through John. Sure, he kept him in prison -- today we might call it protective custody: he kept him safe. That way, he could listen to the word of God at his leisure and convenience. Hearing the messages, he was perplexed: what could it mean? He pondered and never acted. Know anybody like that? Aren't you and I a bit like that?

Or take the whole party thing in vv. 21-26. Here is a generous man who gives banquets, who, when pleased, wants to reward others -- who, in other words, places quality of experience above quantity of possessions. And, moreover, a man of his word. He's offered a blank check to his wife's daughter and will not refuse to honour his word when the request is not to his liking.

Simply listening to word, holding it captive and being generous and having integrity toward your family and friends isn't going to cut it. We need to hear and obey God and rearrange our priorities around him. Herod Antipas was a good guy who tried his best to be good and religious given his circumstances. That meant his circumstances were his god. Too often today Christians think along those same lines. God in my circumstances -- kept safe in the prison of my palace to listen to when time and circumstances permit.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Matthew's MySpace?

Apparently the apostle/evangelist has made it onto MySpace (thanks to GreekGeek for pointing this out. Based on the look of it, there's probably some room for a 'redactor' Matthew on MySpace as well...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

NTW on the curse in Galatians 3

Introduction: NTW argues that, in Galatians 3:10-14, the "curse" referred to is not the universal curse, which comes from original sin, but the more specific curse on Israel for vocational failure which led to Exile. Is he right?

I've nearly finished Paul: Fresh Perspective. It's better than What Saint Paul Really Said--as always a fun read, highly recommended. Of course, it wouldn't be a book by Wright if it didn't mention the Exile about 400 times. Brace yourself. (For a good review, see Scot McKnight's webpage:

I was raised on traditional interpretations of "the curse" in Galatians 3, interps which inevitably connected it to the curse on humanity from Genesis 3 as a result of original human sin. But Wright offers something completely different:

"The point about the 'curse' and the Messiah's bearing it on behalf of others, is not that there is a general abstract curse hanging over the entire human race." He instead limits the 'curse' to Israel, tying it in to his reading of Romans 10, Deut 30, and exile.

Is this correct? Arguments for (without referencing commentaries!):
(1) There is not a lick of proof in the context that a universal curse is in mind, i.e., from Genesis 3.
(2) The pronouns seem to point to an "us" as Jews as Paul reflects on Law and its implications/limitations, all the way to 26, when Paul begins to address Galatians with their status as sons and heirs apart from Law. If this shift in pronouns is important, then it supports NTW's reading.
(3) Thematic coherence--that is, this makes sense. If we can set aside Exile and simply speak of failure to keep the law and (consequential) curse and lack of Abraham's blessings extending through Israel to the Gentiles, then this certainly makes good sense of the context. According to NTW, Gal 3:10-14, in context, is about the more specific curse on Israel for vocational failure which led to Exile; she failed to be the light to the world, and in order for God to bring the promises of Abraham, the chosen vehicle of his servant/son Israel had to be repaired. That is, for God to fix the world, he had to fix Israel--cursed under the Law. Israel herself needed redemption, because of the inability of the Law to provide the light to the nations and deliver the promises of Abraham to the nations (all the more reason not to have one's foreskin removed!!!).

Against? Without going to the commentaries,
(1) It is possible to suggest that the "curse" language picks up the theme of Genesis 3 intertextually, apart from any overt reference. But against this, the curse is "Israel-specific" as it references Deuteronomy, Promised Land, etc....not Genesis or all humanity.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Christianities and Judaisms (late to the game i know)

A post by the blogfather on whether "Christianities" and "Judaisms" were useful terms prompted widespread discussion on the web and quite a few comments on his post. It seems like posts were nearly unanimous in decrying the trend, which greatly surprised me. Anyway, if we're going to use the plural on anything perhaps N. T. Wright has it right: somewhere in Paul: In Fresh Perspective he uses the term "paganism(s)"; this is more appropriate.

Charlesworth, OT Pseudipigrapha volume 1, xxix, has some nice quotes about diversity and unity. In my mind I'd agree with him (though apply it at least as much to 1c Xianity more than to Judaism): there needs to be more discussion on what early Xianity had in common at present, as the 'diversity' angle has really exploded. It tends to mask what folks had in common, while a better model theologically (i.e., categorization) and sociologically (i.e., conflict, etc) is to chart out what, say, Matthew and Paul had in common, before getting into their differences.

I saw someone engaging with Ehrman's book (not Misquoting Jesus) recently, with some great quotes on this issue. Anyone know who/where this was?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hebrew Parallelism: synonymous or no?

Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.

What do we have in the second part of this verse? How should we describe the parallelism here? Someone asked me recently if there was a difference between breath/spirit. Without consulting commentaries (I'm OT poor) I'm thinking this is parallelism, with no real differentiation in concepts here. That is, breath/spirit are more or less synonyms.

But studying up on the possibility of an allusion to Gen 49:9ff in Matt, I noted this in David Instone-Brewer's article, "The Two Asses of Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21," TynBul 54.1 (2003), 90 n.31: "Alter...argues that the second line always contributes something which is not present in the first line, so no parallelism is truly synonymous. Alter says that the second line usually adds specificity or intensification." He cites Art of Biblical Poetry, 18-22. I was taught something like this in grad school with "A, what's more, B" being the rough equation expressing this, as opposed to contrasting parallelism: "A, but B" or equivalent parallelism, "A = B".

Not sure about this one. Can we really say that "the second line always contributes something"? Anyone know for sure? Seems to me that Is 42:5c/d are more or less equivalent.

Then there's the vexing question of how NT and contemporaneous interpreters would have read such lines.