Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peder J. Borgen Reflects on Raymond Brown

Peder J. Borgen
Last year, I was very fortunate to attend the John, Jesus, and History Conference in Baltimore.  Held at St. Mary's Seminary, the conference took time to honor two giants in Johannine interpretation, C.H. Dodd and Raymond E. Brown.

While there, I met the eminent NT scholar, Peder Borgen, known for both his work in Philonic as well as Johannine studies, especially, his famous, Bread from Heaven. An Exegetical Study of the Concept of Manna in the Gospel of John and the Writings of Philo.


Dr. Borgen delivered some memories on the final night of the conference about Raymond Brown in which he has made available to the website which can be read here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Raymond Brown's Interpretation Articles Now Free for Download!

One of the perils of creating a website for a figure of Raymond E. Brown's immense stature is learning the ropes of copyright law. Some time back, (last fall, actually) I contacted Debra Reagan, Managing Editor of Interpretation Journal, to inquire if I may make available Ray's articles that he wrote for said journal. After months of inquiries with both Debra and Sage Journals, the aforementioned parties have made Ray's articles free in perpetuity for users of my site! Many thanks goes to both Debra and Sage for their consideration and generosity. You can find the articles here.

With that being said, I have pulled some other articles available for download I had posted on that page. Even though I found them in Google searches, I have decided that in good conscience I could no longer make those available without expressed permissions. I hope one day to make most of Ray's articles, reviews, and the like available on the site, but it is a long, laborious process to do so.

In the meantime, enjoy!



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rudolf Schnackenburg and the Quote of the Day

No one who approaches the figure of Jesus with the cool distance of the historian can answer the question about the mystery of the person of Jesus, the radiant energy that emanates from him, the living power of his words and deeds, the magnetic force of his suffering and dying.
(Rudolf Schnackenburg, Jesus in the Gospels: A Biblical Christology [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995]), 4.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Must Have IVP Forthcoming Releases

I noticed the other day that IVP Academic has a couple of forthcoming releases that I will indeed be adding to my library. These volumes cover my two greatest scholarly interests, the Gospels of Mark and John.
Robert H. Stein
The first volume, Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13, is authored by Robert H. Stein, senior professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 
Stein also happens to be the author of the excellent Mark commentary in the BECNT series. I am so looking forward to this offering as Mark 13 is one of the most challenging chapters of any Gospel. Stein's book is due out in October, is 160 pages in length and retails for a modest $18.00.

Here are the particulars:

The Gospels contain many hard sayings of Jesus, but perhaps none have puzzled and intrigued readers as much as Jesus’ discourse on the coming of the Son of Man in Mark 13. Is Jesus speaking entirely of an event in the near future, a coming destruction of the temple? Or is he referring to a distant, end-of-the-world event? Or might he even be speaking of both near and distant events? But in that case, which words apply to which event, and how can we be sure? Seasoned Gospels scholar Robert Stein follows up his major commentary on Mark with this even closer reading of Mark 13. In this macro-lens commentary he walks us step by step through the text and its questions, leading us to a compelling interpretive solution.

Contents:

Preface 1 Determining Our Goal 2 Key Issues Involved in Interpreting Mark 13 3 Jesus’ Prediction of the Destruction of the Temple (and Jerusalem): Mark 13:1-4 4 The Coming Destruction of the Temple and the Sign Preceding It: Mark 13:5-23 5 The Coming of the Son of Man: Mark 13:24-27 6 The Parable of the Fig Tree and the Coming Destruction of the Temple (and Jerusalem): Mark 13:28-31 7 The Parable of the Watchman and the Exhortation to Be Alert for the Coming of the Son of Man: Mark 13:32-37 8 An Interpretative Translation of Mark 13 Bibliography Index of Subjects Index of Scripture and Other Ancient Literature

Endorsements:
"The interpretation of Mark 13 is controversial and sometimes a bit baffling. Robert Stein—with his characteristic clarity, common sense and exegetical skill—unpacks the meaning of the passage for readers. Even those who disagree will profit from Stein's lucid exegesis and will have to wrestle seriously with the arguments he presents for his reading. All readers will recognize the hand of a veteran and wise interpreter at work. We stand in debt to Stein for an outstanding exposition." —Thomas R. Schreiner, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary



The other must-have volume is Paul Rainbow's Johannine Theology: The Gospel, The Epistles and the Apocalypse.  


Here is a description:


Paul A. Rainbow
In this magisterial synthesis, Paul A. Rainbow presents the most complete account of the theology of the Johannine corpus available today. Both critical and comprehensive, this volume includes all the books of the New Testament ascribed to John: the Gospel, the three epistles and the book of Revelation. While not proclaiming a definitive position on the question of authorship, this work seeks to shed light on the theology common to all the New Testament authors. John’s root beliefs concerning God, humanity, sin, the world, and the significance of the Christ-event on eschatology unite the examined books with the rest of the New Testament canon. The Johannine corpus also highlights the important areas of christology, soteriology and ecclesiology in a manner that is worth exploration. Organizing John's ideas by the main characters around whom they revolve, the Johannine universe consists of persons divine and human, and their relationships with each other. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, faithful believers and the rest of the world are the main cast of characters that make up the rich set of writings considered in this exhaustive analysis.

Contents:

Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations 1. Introduction 2. The Revelation of God (The Father) 3. The World 4. God’s Self-Revelation in Christ’s Person 5. God’s Self-Revelation in Christ’s Work 6. The Revelation of the Father in the Son by the Spirit-Paraclete 7. The Believer and the True God: Coming to Christ 8. The Believer and the True God: Abiding in Christ 9. Disciples of Christ in Community 10. The Community of Christ’s Disciples in the World Bibliography Index of Authors Index of Subjects Index of Principal Scripture Passages


Rainbow's work is a hefty 464 pages, is due in October, and retails for $40.00

I cannot wait to the add these two to my library!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Leon Morris: Neil Bach's Leon Morris and the Cross of Christ Audio Lecture

In celebration of the Leon Morris Centenary, Ridley Melbourne hosted a lecture given by Rev. Neil Bach, who is writing a biography of Morris. His lecture, "Leon Morris and the Cross of Christ," is now available to download. You can listen to it here
Neil Bach

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chapter Review: Craig Blomberg's Can We Still Believe the Bible?




Blomberg, Craig. L. Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2014. 287 pages, pb. 


Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, Colorado, has long been one of the finest Evangelical New Testament scholars in the field. Personally, I have benefited from his well known, Interpreting the Parables, his survey on the Gospels, Jesus and the Gospels, and his Contagious Holiness: Jesus' meals with Sinners. This small sampling is just the tip of Blomberg's scholarly output, but it underscores the expectations with which this reader/reviewer brought to his latest effort, Can We Still Believe in the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.  I agreed to review chapter 5, "Aren't Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?" (147-178) Familiar with much of Blomberg's work, I was not disappointed, for this chapter was vintage Blomberg, careful, exacting, and charitable to multiple viewpoints.

Blomberg begins his chapter by noting that the book of Genesis, Jonah, Job, Isaiah, and Daniel all present historical conundrums to college students taking a one-semester introduction to the Old Testament (147-148). Turning to the New Testament, other problems arise when turning to New Testament Letters, as most scholars view vast majority of Epistles as pseudonymous. Revelation presents its own interpretive issues when John's visions are seen to be "snapshots of genuine future events" (148). After raising these issues, the author identifies the issue to be addressed here is one "of the literary form or genre of biblical books or their components" (148). Blomberg astutely observes that:
Virtually everyone in the history of the church has recognized that at least small parts of the Bible that are written in narrative form do not intend to recount things that actually happened... If there is good historical or exegetical support for identifying such texts as something other than ancient history writing, then not to interpret them as such would misrepresent the original intentions of their authors and violate the standard grammatical-historical hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture (148; emphasis original). 

Following on the heels of chapter 4, which highlights the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, Blomberg addresses what these observations mean. Citing Article 8 of the Chicago Statement, which states in the affirmative that God's work of inspiration "utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers," and Article 13 which states in part, "We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage and purpose," Blomberg is now in a position to bring the force of these observations in line with a proper view of inerrancy when he notes the role of the genre of Parable plays into this argument (149). The point of a parable is to illustrate a spiritual truth, not whether or not the details of the parable are speaking of a historical event. That is not to deny the truth of the parable, but to place the "standard of truth" in a different light.

Blomberg spends the rest of the chapter highlighting both Old Testament Examples (150-165), as well as New Testament examples (165-173), before finishing up with some big picture remarks on the issues at stake (174-178). The following will present a brief summary of Blomberg's arguments in the remainder of the review. First, he notes the hot-button topic of "Genesis 1 and Creation" (150-152). Blomberg notes that inerrantists have long held to the view of an older earth, while others hold a progressive view of creation, theistic evolution, some allow a gap of billions of years between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, others recognize the literary framework and the poetic nature of the days, and finally, the argument of John Walton, who argues that Genesis 1 as God taking up residence in his temple, should all have the benefit of having their arguments heard and interpreters of having the freedom to choose the best option.

In the next section (152-155), closely related to the one above, Blomberg discusses "Genesis 2-3 and the Fall of Humanity." Inerrancy does not prohibit from seeing "Adam" and "Eve" symbolically, as representative of all of humanity, who although created in God's image have fallen prey to Satan's lures. But this does beg the question, is how did Homo sapiens get to be this way? In other words, why are human beings the only ones who label certain behaviors as moral, immoral? Ultimately, we recognize the "astonishing capacity for both good and evil in our species" as well as ourselves (153). Ultimately, by rejecting a more literal reading of Genesis 2-3, we must ask what symbolic reading best captures the account of human nature as we know it. Blomberg then surveys the many attempts to answer such a question (153-154).

Turning to the Book of Job (155-157), Blomberg notes that there are almost no historical particulars to anchor Job in history. Further, the highly stylized speeches of Job and his friends, are not what most conversations look like, and the story itself, with the unimaginable suffering and loss, detailed in exacting sequence along with the regaining of all that was lost "is even less lifelike" (155). So how should we proceed? Blomberg writes: "The lesson of the book of Job is that our finitude and falleness frequently render us incapable of understanding God's ways in such contexts" (156). Even if the book is "parabolic rather than historical," Job's contribution to Scripture cannot and should not be minimized (156). The rest of the section discusses how Tremper Longman's commentary on Job, has sought a middle ground where Job is situated between literal history on one hand and complete fiction on the other (156-157).

Next on Blomberg's radar is the Book of Jonah (157-160). Cutting to the chase, Blomberg notes that Jonah 2 which highlights the fish story, is quite self-contained (Jonah 1:17-2:10). Remove this portion of the narrative, and you have the sailors' throwing Jonah overboard and the sea growing calm. One could move directly to 3:1, where the word of the Lord comes to Jonah again. Blomberg does spend some time citing various news reports where people have been swallowed by sharks and subsequently spit out. Much of these reports are at best spurious and none can be substantiated with anything like certainty (159). Even if one is to chart a middle ground between historicity and fiction, Blomberg quotes approvingly, James Bruckner, who warns against "the use of the 'whale' question as a litmus test for orthodoxy" (160). I particularly enjoyed this quote for I am reminded of a colleague who was asked as a final question during a job interview as to whether Jonah was historical. In that situation, Jonah was indeed used as a litmus test of orthodoxy.

When it comes to the book of Isaiah and the questions of authorial unity, or the possibility that the work is composed of two or more authors, Blomberg ultimately notes that each side of the debate has dismissed the other's arguments too hastily. On one hand, the name Isaiah appears sixteen times in chs. 1-39, while there is no mentions of the name in chs. 40-66. Blomberg notes that no matter one's viewpoint about the composition or formation of Isaiah, it has nothing to do with biblical inerrancy (163). After dealing with the book of Daniel and the problems it poses (163-165), Blomberg similarly concludes:

With each of these examples, the point here is not to defend one particular solution as better than all others but to highlight how the doctrine of inerrancy remains unaffected throughout. Once we determine, as best we can, what a passage affirms, according to the conventions of style, form, and genre, a commitment to inerrancy implies acceptance of the truth of those affirmations. But a commitment to inerrancy does not exclude a priori any given literary style, form, or genre that is not inherently deceptive (164).

Moving ahead to New Testament examples, Blomberg begins with the question of whether or not Matthew is best viewed as Midrash. This argument was  put forward by Robert Gundry, whose commentary on Matthew in the early 1980's, led to controversy and ultimately, his being voted out of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Midrash often takes the form of rewritten Bible, something like the book of Jubilees does with Genesis, by recounting much of the narrative while also adding details not in the original story. Gundry argued that Matthew used both Mark and and expanded version of Q along these lines. Matthew's audience, being familiar with both Mark and Q, would have been able to determine the unhistorical elaboration of Matthew's narrative, Gundry reasoned. This was an acceptable form of Jewish interpretation and Matthew's audience would in no ways would be deceived by these elaborations, compared to the truth claims from the core material of both Mark and Q. Blomberg  narrates the subsequent  fallout at ETS that occurred once Gundry's views went public. Blomberg is to be commended for his frankness in narrating the parties at fault (i.e. Norman Geisler) for turning the "event into a political campaign..." (167). He notes that no less a conservative stalwart than D.A. Carson, stood in support of Gundry, despite vigorously disagreeing with his interpretive conclusions. Blomberg notes: "To this day, thirty years later, not a single critic of Gundry who believed his view was inherently contradicting inerrancy has offered what Carson defines above as 'intelligent response'--wrestling in detail with the exegetical and historical methods and their applications that Gundry utilized" (167; italics original).

Blomberg's treatment of Pseudonymous Epistles is to be commended (168-173). Many NT scholars believe that Colossians, Ephesians, The Pastoral Epistles, 2 Thessalonians, James, 1 Peter, and Jude were not written by the authors to which they have been ascribed. The main point that Blomberg hammers home in this section is not to defend either those who hold to  traditional authorship or to those who deny it, but to simply say that we simply do not know enough about ancient attitudes to pseudonymous authorship, in order to rule this practice out of bounds, and thus rejecting their potential truth claims (171). Any claims where this is ruled as a deceptive practice is to project anachronistically our cultural values back on the ancients. Blomberg comments:
To say we know what first-century Christian attitudes to pseudonymity were outstrips the actual evidence, because no comparative material from the first century has yet come to light addressing the question one way or another (171).
After outlining the work of David Aune ("Reconceptualizing the Phenomenon of Ancient Pseudepigraphy: An Epilogue," in Frey et al., Pseudepigraphie und Verfasserfiktion, 794, citing Marco Frenschkowski, Wolfgang Speyer, and Joseph A. Sint) who summarizes several foreign language works that analyze six different kinds of pseudepigraphy, with only one kind falling into the category of genuine forgeries intended to deceive, Blomberg helpfully notes: "With only one of these six categories involving any intent to deceive, scholars on both the far left and the far right are simply wrong to claim that there is some inherently immoral quality to the practice" (172-173).

Finally, Blomberg discusses Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature (173). Despite the recent spate of quality commentaries on the Apocalypse they are still ignored by the large majority of the populace, who would rather spend their money on prophecy guides, end-time fictional novels and the like, all with the intent of attempting to line up the details of Revelation with current events. In my favorite quote of the chapter, Blomberg remarks on this phenomena:
The Christian world seems to suffer regularly from collective amnesia, as each successive interpretation turns out to be wrong, but we nevertheless jump on the bandwagon of the next similar proposal just as readily as we did the last. Perhaps we desperately want the world to be near its end so that we don't need to wrestle with the complex problems that plague our planet today. Unfortunately, we generally hold no one accountable for their past failed prophecies and with renewed fervor latch on to each, new exciting proposal that Christ's coming is imminent (173; italics original).
Another potentially apocalyptic passage, Matthew 27:51-53,  gets special treatment from Blomberg as he notes that it is "one of the strangest of all NT passages" due to its mention of resurrected bodies going into Jerusalem and appearing to many people (174). In similar fashion to his section that discussed Gundry's dismissal from ETS, Blomberg also springs to the defense of Michael Licona who, in his brilliant work on the Resurrection initially categorized this passage as apocalyptic in nature mentioning that Matthew is doing symbolically what Paul mentions prosaically in 1 Cor 15:20. For questioning the historical merit of this event, Licona was unjustly dismissed from Southern Evangelical Seminary and from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Individuals like Albert Mohler and Danny Akin censured Licona and his view (175). Many who are leaving the Christian faith are doing so because it is this form of Christianity that does not encourage the hard questions of faith to be raised in a safe, nurturing environment. Those who buy into the all-or-nothing approach of their teachers and their definitions of inerrancy often find it better to "become atheists or, at best agnostics" (175).

Blomberg concludes his chapter with a summary of the contents and finally states his own views on the above topics (176-178).

In my view, Blomberg has done a remarkable service to the Evangelical community. His arguments are not the typical knee-jerk reactions that one often encounters either in scholarship, or now, in the latest trend, universities and seminaries tightening the reins on what their faculty can teach, research and write about-- usually according to their strict definitions of inerrancy and the like. Blomberg is surely right that interpretive disagreements need to be handled in the scholarly forum, allowing "the most convincing position win--through scholarship and not through campaigns to oust people from various positions" (178). Although I would not buy wholesale into some of the interpretive proposals Blomberg settles on in his conclusions, I for one, think Licona's initial suggestion of Matthew 27:51-53 is persuasive as he does not, however, the author is at least open to further research undertaken on the topic (177). Blomberg is to be commended for modeling a balanced scholarly disposition for which we should all strive. One, he models a gracious attitude towards the views of others, presenting their ideas in an accurate, responsible manner. Second, he reminds us that our interpretations should be held with humility and tentatively. We should be open to changing our minds if the evidence should lead to do a different interpretive conclusion. Third, he is able to cut a swath through the scholarly morass, allowing readers to see clearly what the issues are and are not. This is simply a masterful guide through some very thorn topics that bedevil anyone from the student in the classroom to the person in the pew. I recommend this volume for Bible Study classes and the like who want to address the big-picture interpretative issues of our day.


NB: Many thanks to Baker Academic and Brazos Press for inviting me to the book tour and providing an advance review copy of the book. This gesture did not influence my impression of the book or my review of its contents.





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cor Bennema's New Book On Character in the NT

I am very pleased and excited that my good friend, Cornelis Bennema, Senior Lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, is producing the first full-scale treatment of character study in the New Testament. Cor notified me in an email that his A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative is now out!

I look forward to reading this sure to be valuable work and interviewing Cor about it in the near future.

Here is a description of the work:

"In this study in three-dimensional character reconstruction, Cornelis Bennema presents a new theory of character in the New Testament literature. Although character has been the subject of focused literary-critical study of the New Testament since the 1970s, Bennema observes that there is still no consensus regarding how character should be understood in contemporary literary theory or in biblical studies. Many New Testament scholars seem to presume that characters in Greco-Roman literature are two-dimensional, “Aristotelian” figures, unlike the well-rounded, psychologized individuals who appear in modern fiction. They continue nevertheless to apply contemporary literary theory to characters in ancient writings. Bennema here offers a full, comprehensive, and non-reductionist theory for the analysis, classification, and evaluation of characters in the New Testament."

On can access samples of this work here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Pastor Reflects on a Letter from Leon Morris


An act of serendipity happened on Facebook  last week, when  a friend remarked on a Leon Morris post I wrote on my blog. That friend, Rev. Clay Knick, Pastor of Kernstown United Methodist Church in VA, shared with me that he once corresponded with Morris many years ago. I have asked Clay to share his
Clay Knick
recollections of that correspondence. He writes:
Years ago when I was in theological school, I started writing scholars and teachers about the books they had written. Like all theological students I was drawn to book lists and even during summer break I’d find something to read. Some books shaped me or impressed me and when they did I’d write the author a letter. Remember those? One such book was Testaments of Love by Leon Morris. I have no idea at all how I got his address, but I wrote him expressing my thanks for the book and some of the other things he’d written, especially his commentary on John. I also asked a few questions. The letter you see is the one he sent me many years ago. I saved it along with others from Howard Marshall, John Stott, and Donald Bloesch, just to name a few. Bloesch and I became friends through letters and phone calls and personal time together. I so appreciate the time Morris took to write me back. How did scholars find the time to do such gracious things before email? In this the 100th anniversary of his birth, we give thanks for his scholarship and Christian character. Thanks be to God!

Here is a pic of that very letter:

 When asked by Clay what significant books have impacted his thought, Morris writes:

"...I can say that I have been helped more by commentaries than anything else. A good commentary on the Greek text of the New Testament has meant and still means more to me than anything else."

Many thanks to Clay for sharing this cool story, giving us a glimpse into the generous Christian character of the great Leon Morris.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leon Morris and the Quote of the Day: The Triumphant Christ


Leon Morris, in his important book, The Cross in the New Testament, discusses the important role of the cross in both Matthew and Mark (13-62). Towards the end of this discussion, Morris notes that as significant as the cross is to both Gospels, it is the resurrection that demonstrates the totality of Christ's victory over the powers of evil. He writes:

Jesus knew that He would die. But He was in perfect command of the situation. He knew that the death He was dying was the worst that the forces of evil could do to Him, and He knew that He would rise triumphant. He said that He would rise, and He made His words good. The last picture that the Gospels give us of Jesus is that of the Mighty Conqueror. Matthew tells us that He commissioned His followers to preach the gospel and to make disciples, adding, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world' (Mt. 28:20; cf. Mk. 16: 15ff.). His triumph does not cease. It continues in the mission of His followers. The eschatological discourse in Mark 13 envisages struggle and difficulty for Christian men until the end of time. But the dominant thought is not difficulty. It is the final triumph of Christ. 
(Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament [Grand Rapids: MI; Eerdmans; 1965; repr. 1999; italics mine]), 58.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

When Leon Morris became Principal of Ridley

To the left is a newspaper clipping excerpted from the Australian newspaper, The Age, dated April 1, 1963.

It is a bit difficult to read so here is the transcript:

Rev. L. Morris New Principal of Ridley
The Rev. Dr. Leon Morris has been appointed principal of Ridley College.
He replaces the Rev. Dr. S. Barton Babbage, who leaves next week for the United States.
 Dr. Morris, a former vice-principal of Ridley, is at present warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge.
He will return to Melboune to take up his new post at the opening of the academic year, 1964.
Born in New South Wales, Dr. Morris was originally a high school master, and graduated in science at the University of Sydney.

Bush Church

He trained for the ministry at Moore Theological College, Sydney, and was ordained in 1938.

After serving with Bush Church Aid Society at Minnipa, South Australia, he became vice-principal of Ridley College from 1945 to 1960.

Dr. Morris gained the degrees of PhD. at Cambridge University and Master of Theology at the University of London.

Dr. Morris is married, but has no children.



Leon Morris and the Quote of the Day: John 14:6


Today marks the centenary of Leon Lamb Morris' birthday. I have been posting regularly this week on Morris and his legacy. I continue in this vein today with another great quote from Morris in his commentary, The Gospel According to John (NICNT). Originally published in 1971, Morris lightly revised the commentary in 1995.

One of the best known passages from the Fourth Gospel comes during the Farewell Discourse as Jesus encourages, comforts, and instructs his disciples. Jesus makes the bold declaration in John 14:6a that "I am the way and the truth and the life." Morris comments on this declaration in part:

'Way,' 'truth,' and 'life' all have relevance, the triple expression emphasizing the many-sidedness of the saving work. 'Way' speaks of a connection between two persons or things, and here a link between God and sinners. 'Truth' reminds us of the complete reliability of Jesus in all that he does and is. And 'life' stresses the fact that mere physical existence matters little. The only life worth the name is that which Jesus brings, for he is life itself. ...We should not overlook the faith involved both in the utterance and in the acceptance of those words, spoken as they were on the eve of the crucifixion. 'I am the Way,' said one who would shortly hang impotent on the cross. 'I am the Truth,' when the lies of evil people were about to enjoy a spectacular triumph. 'I am the Life,' when within a matter of hours his corpse would be placed in a tomb.
(Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Rev. [NICNT; Grand Rapids: MI; Eerdmans; 1995; italics mine]), 569-570.

Happy Birthday, Leon!  
  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Leon Morris and the Quote of the Day: John 1:21



Of all the commentaries Leon Morris wrote in his illustrious career, some thirteen by my unofficial count, perhaps he is best known for his commentary on the Gospel of John in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (NICNT; Eerdmans). Morris provides a  goldmine of quotable material for the preacher/teacher in this volume, and in this post I shall share one such example.

In John 1:19-28, John the Baptist undergoes a line of questioning brought forth by the Pharisees as to his identity. In John 1:21, they continue to press the Baptist on his identity, questioning him, "Then who are you?Are you Elijah?;" to which John responds, "I am not." They then ask the Baptist if he is the Prophet, to which he also responds in the negative. Morris discusses the tension of John the Baptist's fulfilling the role of Malachi 4:5, where Elijah would precede the coming of the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" and his denial that he is in fact Elijah in v.21. He writes:

The solution to the difficulty is probably that there was a sense in which John was Elijah and a sense in which he was not. He fulfilled all the preliminary ministry that Malachi had foretold (cf. Luke 1:17), and thus in a very real sense Jesus could say that he was Elijah. But the Jews remembered that Elijah had left the earth in a chariot of fire without passing through death (2 Kings 2:11), and that they expected that in due course the identical figure would reappear. John was not Elijah in this sense, and he had no option but to deny that he was. And, of course, we must bear in mind the possibility that John may not have known that he was Elijah.
Now for the kind of quote that Pastors and teachers love, Morris continues:

No man is what he is in his own eyes: he really is only as he is known to God. 

(Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Rev. [NICNT; Grand Rapids: MI; Eerdmans; 1995]), 118-119.

This is Morris at his theological best, drawing out profound truths from the text. Only one who is spent a lifetime in the texts of the NT can draw out these insights, something Morris did with stunning regularity.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Leon Morris Audio Lectures

Leon Morris (1914-2006)
As a visitor to this site might plainly see, a pattern is developing here. Posts this week have focused on the great scholar and theologian, Leon Lamb Morris. I make no apologies for this, as I believe it is my small way in honoring Morris' legacy. It is important for us as students and scholars of the NT to recognize the giants on whose shoulders we are privileged to stand, and Leon Morris is certainly one of those giants.

 I have made it my goal this week to provide visitors of this site some resources that will enable us to appreciate Morris' contributions to NT studies and one of the best ways to do this is to provide some audio links to lectures that he gave in the past. I have found this to be one of the best ways to understand a scholars work and thought processes. Not to mention to actually hear the voice of Morris adds a human dimension to the whole process of learning as one is able to put a voice with the face, as well as catch glimpses of his personality as one can hear his quips, stories, and dry sense of humor.

So, without further ado, I have been able to locate more audio resources on Morris, this time courtesy of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). The lectures can be found here, and appear to be topical in approach. The second page seems to be duplicates of those lectures on the Gospel of John that I posted about here. Along with yesterday's post, this should put the total lectures compiled at over twenty.

Enjoy!



Leon Morris and the Quote of the Day on Matthew 5:3


I was reading a bit of Leon Morris' Matthew commentary (Pillar) in which he has a challenge to those of us who have been guilty of misinterpreting or domesticating Matthew 5:3- "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." He writes:

 There are strong protests in modern times against “spiritualizing” and “psychologizing” interpretations of this beatitude, and it is insisted that it must be seen for what it is, a radical reversal of the world’s values. We are told that it is the poor and the distressed as such of whom Jesus speaks. But we must exercise care at this point. Jesus is not saying that poverty is a blessing in itself; to canonize a state of life in which people find themselves against their will (real poverty does not mean voluntarily choosing to live simply) and from which they would escape if they could is scarcely Christian. Now it is true that it is easy for the interpreter smugly to transform the meaning of what Jesus says into an understanding of which the interpreter approves and avoid any real contact with the poverty-stricken. A rediscovery of Jesus’ interest in the poor is long overdue. But I cannot rid myself of the feeling that much modern writing proceeds from the comfortable, people for whom poverty is an interesting subject for discussion but who have never themselves experienced what real poverty is. I have. And poverty is not a blessing, nor is powerlessness. Whatever Jesus meant, it was surely not that these states are blessed in themselves. He knew poverty, and he knew powerlessness in the face of a government that did not care. Any interpretation of his teaching that makes these things in themselves a blessing simply fails to take notice of reality. Jesus is pronouncing a blessing on those empty of any spiritual resource, poor as they often were in material things as well.  

Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B.  Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992; italics mine), 96.

P.S. Incidentally, Jonathan Pennington is the worthy successor to Morris in writing the next Matthew  commentary in the Pillar series (Eerdmans).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Leon Morris Audio Lecture on Love, Christian Style

As some of you may know,  Leon Morris' forthcoming one-hundredth birthday has touched off celebrations at Ridley College, Melbourne, where he served some sixteen years (1964-1979) as Principal.

Leon Morris (1914-2006)
I did a bit of digging around and found a lecture that Morris gave in 1979, the final year of his principalship of Ridley College. Here you will hear Morris' characteristic regard for "biblical words as fundamental building blocks of meaning and theology." (P.Adam, "Leon Lamb Morris" in the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2007; 752).

The lecture is entitled, "Love, Christian Style,"  and comes courtesy of the C.S. Lewis Institute. Incidentally, as I have posted in the past, there are other audio recordings of Morris that can be found here, dealing mostly with John's Gospel.



Leon Morris and the Quote of the Day

Everyone who is a student of the New Testament (NT), from novice to scholar, knows the importance of understanding the historical background of which these Gospels and Letters were written. However, to determine the meaning of the NT solely based on other ancient sources is a mistake. Consider these words of wisdom from the great scholar, Leon Morris:


It is a fallacy to hold that the New Testament must be explicable in terms of its background. There is a radical novelty in Christianity and it is always possible that the New Testament writers mean something different from others even when they adapt common matter. John, for example, makes use of the Logos concept but we cannot find his meaning in his literary predecessors. No great writer, biblical or non-biblical, ancient or modern, is completely explicable in terms of the context in which he writes. A great writer invariably outstrips his contemporaries and brings new meaning to light. It may be possible to discover the sources of a creative writer. But that does not dispose of his creativity. He goes beyond his source.

Leon Morris, “The Emergence of the Doctrine of the Incarnation: Review Article,” Themelios, No. 1, September 1982 8 (1982): 16.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leon Morris and the Cross of Christ Lecture


Leon Morris
Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College is hosting a public lecture delivered by Neil Bach, called "Leon Morris and the Cross of Christ: Celebrating the Centenary of Australia's Foremost Biblical Scholar," on March 24th. Morris, whose one-hundredth birthday would have been March 15th, leaves a legacy unmatched by most in NT scholarship, authoring over 50 books in his storied career.

Neil Bach, chairs the Leon and Mildred Morris foundation and is also authoring a biography on the great scholar and theologian.

More info on this event can be found here.























Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rudolf Schnackenburg and the Quote of the Day

Rudolf Schnackenburg
Reading a bit through Dale Bruner's The Gospel of John, I came across this interesting quote from Rudolf Schnackenburg on John 9:39-41:

"Because the Pharisees will not be shifted from their self-importance even by the great sign and the testimony of the man cured of blindness, their sin 'remains.' Through all specifically first-century polemic, this story exposes a fundamental feature of human behaviour: the person who is locked within himself and wants only his own advantage is closed to God's claim because it challenges him. As he hardens in his attitude the more brutally he is confronted with God's demand if he does not free himself from the straightjacket of his egoism." (The Gospel According to St. John, 2:256; quoted in Bruner, The Gospel of John, 602).