Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Johannine Monograph Series: An Interview with Paul Anderson

Paul N. Anderson
Paul N. Anderson, Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University, along with R. Alan Culpepper, Dean of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, have spearheaded a unique and important series for students of Johannine literature, The Johannine Monograph Series, Wipf & Stock.

I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Paul Anderson about this important series. Without further ado, on to the interview.





1. How did the Johannine Monograph Series (JMS) come about?

 Thanks, Matthew, for asking. The field of Johannine studies is a broad and extensive field, and as we do our work using various methodologies in international settings, having access to “the classics of the field” is vital for first-rate scholarship to continue. And, even monographs of monumental significance go out of print or are sometimes hard to come by, so I asked Alan Culpepper if he would join me in championing a Johannine Monograph Series that would seek to get some of the most important Johannine works back into print. We also have chosen to introduce each book with a foreword, situating its place and impact within the larger field of study, so those essays not only serve the volume being introduced, but they also provide something of a Forschungsbericht (research report) as state-of-the-art updates on the field of Johannine studies. Formative in my thinking here was the superb “Lives of Jesus” Series edited by Leander Keck in the 1970s, published by Fortress. And, of course we’re delighted that Wipf & Stock has agreed to sponsor the series and to keep things in print! We could not have found a more serviceable and innovative publisher.


2. Discuss the purpose and vision of the series.

Right; here’s our vision statement, featured in the front matter of each of our volumes: The vision of The Johannine Monograph Series is to make available in printed, accessible form a selection of the most influential books on the Johannine writings in the modern era for the benefit of scholars and students alike. The volumes in this series include reprints of classic English-language texts, revised editions of significant books, and translations of important international works for English-speaking audiences. A succinct foreword by one of the editors situates each book in terms of its role within the history of Johannine scholarship, suggesting also its continuing value in the field. This series is founded upon the conviction that scholarship is diminished when it forgets its own history and loses touch with the scintillating analyses and proposals that have shaped the course of Johannine studies. It is our hope, therefore, that the continuing availability of these important works will help to keep the cutting-edge scholarship of this and coming generations of scholars engaged with the classic works of Johannine scholarship while they also chart new directions for the future of the discipline.


3. What are the criteria for a volume to be considered in the JMS?

Our criteria are fluid; we want to be sure that some of the most important Johannine works continue to be maintained in print, especially ones that continue to inform the best of Johannine studies. Such factors as whether a book is out of print and whether we can also secure the rights to publish the work also play roles in how things develop, of course. For non-English works, the capacity for translation is a factor, and for works deserving a revised edition, we’re happy to also consider such possibilities. Michael Theobald’s Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium is an example of the former, and David Wead’s Literary Devices in John’s Gospel is an example of the latter.

4. Was it a slam-dunk in choosing Rudolf Bultmann’s The Gospel of John: A Commentary, to be the first release in JMS?

Well, Bultmann’s monograph came onto the horizon after we’d already decided to try to get Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel back into print. After we began working on it, though, things came together with the German publisher, the American publisher, and the translators so that it made sense to feature it as Volume 1, with Smith’s analysis of Bultmann’s commentary on John being Volume 2 in our series. An amazing one-two punch! And, Käsemann’s A Testament of Jesus will be Volume 4, with Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective having come out just last month as Volume 3.


5. In the Foreword (i-xxviii), you state that Bultmann’s commentary “is arguably the most important New Testament monograph in the 20th century, perhaps second only to The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer” (i). What aspect(s) of Bultmann’s John remain influential in scholarship? 

Yes, that’s an audacious claim, but here’s my judgment. First of all, I think it is arguable that Rudolf Bultmann was the leading New Testament scholar of the 20th century; the exegetical, scientific, theological, and existential quality of his work really remains unsurpassed in terms of its mastery and its reach. And, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, especially when combined with his Theology of the New Testament (featuring a major section on John in the second volume—note the excellent volume on Bultmann’s NT theology just out by Longenecker and Parsons, eds.) and his related New Testament works, is clearly his most technical, exegetical, and interdisciplinarily innovative work. Just look at the footnotes! In my earlier analyses of John’s Christology, tradition, and potential contribution to Jesus studies, Bultmann’s role is undoubtedly central to scholarly approaches to all of those larger issues, and in that sense, it extends beyond Johannine studies to History-of-Religions Criticism, the history of early Christianity, Jesus studies (or the dearth thereof), biblical theology, gospel relations, and source and redaction criticism. Bultmann even contributed to new literary theories in seeing the Beloved Disciple as a rhetorical device connecting Hellenistic Christianity with its “mother,” Jewish Christianity. As Haenchen quipped, Bultmann’s work has been like a giant oak tree in Johannine studies, denying the growth of alternative approaches under its shade. Then again, in my own analysis of Bultmann’s theory (in addition to the 12 K-word forward to his commentary, see especially my new introduction and epilogue in the third printing of The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010), I have tested all of his source-critical criteria referenced throughout his entire volume using John 6 as a case study, and the evidence for alien sources underlying John 6 is completely lacking. It is even non-indicative, although we do indeed have a narrator. However, the contributions of the final editor seem (with Brown, here) to be augmentative and conservative rather than theologically intrusive. I do see that person (with Bultmann; I call him a “compiler”) as plausibly the author of the Johannine Epistles, and I concur with Bultmann that John’s narrative is not dependent on the Synoptics. It has its own story to tell, which in some ways sets the record straight over and against the Markan renderings. So, in considering the impact of Bultmann’s work on source-critical, redaction-critical, history-of-religions-critical, and theological-exegetical New Testament scholarship in recent decades, his commentary on John stands out as preeminent in the 20th century—among those who have agreed with him as well as among those who have not. I reside, of course, in both camps.




6. What other volumes can readers expect to see from JMS?

 As mentioned, Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel is in process, and it should be out in a couple of months or so; Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective just came out last month, and it includes a new essay on slavery in the Roman era as well as my analysis of six or seven crises in the Johannine situation, of which the Roman-Johannine dialectic is a highly significant one. Other works that are “on deck” include: The Prophet-King by Wayne Meeks, Bread from Heaven by Peder Borgen, and several other books, including the two books mentioned above by Wead and Theobald and the controversial monograph by Käsemann. If anyone has a suggestion of other books to include in the series, do let me know. Our purpose is to make available on a continuing basis some of the best and most significant of Johannine monographs in service to scholars and students alike, and we are greatly appreciative of the high place of prominence that Wipf & Stock has given this new, innovative series. And, thanks, Matthew, for the interest and for the ways you are furthering the good work of biblical studies through your website and other endeavors! It’s a high privilege indeed to be working together in furthering the good work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

David deSilva's Recent Revelation Lecture in Lebanon



Last February 26th, David deSilva gave a lecture entitled "A Political Reading of the Book of Revelation" at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. His lecture is followed by two responses from local theologians. Watch the video above and enjoy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Richard Longenecker's Paul, Apostle of Liberty Reissued?

Richard Longenecker, one of the eminent New Testament and Pauline specialists of the past fifty- plus years, has a busy fall ahead. Not only does Longenecker's long-awaited Romans commentary await the eager hands of scholars and students alike, but it appears that his Paul, Apostle of Liberty is getting another run. Originally, (so far as I can tell) Paul, Apostle of Liberty was published in 1964 by Harper and Row. Baker picked it up in a reprint in 1980, while Regent College Publishing did the same in 2003. Now it appears that it is Eerdmans turn (October, 2015). This volume includes a foreword by former student and top Pauline scholar in his own right, Douglas Campbell, Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School.

I cannot think of a scholar I admire more than Richard Longenecker. His work his always top shelf (I love his Galatians commentary), so this volume will be a must have for those who have yet to purchase previous editions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Last Supper

Brant Pitre, Professor of Sacred Scripture, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, and author of one of the best historical Jesus books I have read in some time, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Mohr Siebeck; Baker Academic; 2005),is getting ready to release his latest offering, Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, Nov 2015).

Details are scarce but the book will be 560 pages long and retail for $55.00.

Brant is a first-rate scholar and this book will set a high mark for all future work and research on the Last Supper.

Friday, March 20, 2015

James Dunn and Volume III of Christianity in the Making

One of the most remarkable series on the origins of Early Christianity, Christianity in the Making, authored by one of the most remarkable New Testament scholars in the world today, James D.G. Dunn, is set for a third volume by the end of this calendar year, Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity.

Although details are sparse at the moment, I did discover that the volume will retail for $60.00 and weigh in at a robust 816 pages.

James and Meta Dunn with me at the Johannine Literature Conference












I  remember Professor Dunn speaking to me  about this volume   back in November 2013 at the Johannine Literature conference in Baltimore, MD. At that time, he was still in the writing and revision stages. I am extremely excited to see this volume is about to see the light of day.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part V

Today's edition of "Fridays with Fee" will be a bit different. In this post I want to highlight a few quotables of a single verse, 1 Cor 4:7:"For what makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"

1 Cor 4:7 is part of a larger unit, 4:6-13, in which Fee labels "The Marks of True Apostleship".  Here are some of Fee's incisive comments regarding this verse:

"Their (the Corinthians) pride in persons reflects a lack of proper perspective, a lack of gratitude. The Fall has given us all too high a view of ourselves, with a correspondingly low view of others." (186)

If the first question marks the Corinthian conceit as presumptuous, the second marks it as ungrateful--and is singularly devastating: 'What do you have that you did not receive?' This is an invitation to experience one of those rare, unguarded moments of total honesty, where in the presence of the eternal God one recognizes that everything--absolutely everything--that one 'has' is a gift. All is of grace; nothing is deserved, nothing earned. Those who so experience grace also live from a posture of unbounded gratitude. (186; italics original)

"Grace leads to gratitude; 'wisdom' and self-sufficiency lead to boasting and judging. Grace has a leveling effect; self-esteem has a self-exalting effect. Grace means humility; boasting means that one has arrived." (186)



Saturday, March 7, 2015

C.E.B. Cranfield and the Quote of the Day

In an brief note, "Reflection 3: Revisiting ‘the works of the law’ in Romans 3:20" written in 2010 for Theology in Scotland (vol. XVII, no.1: 71-82), C.E.B. Cranfield notes that despite the fact that Galatians is undoubtedly Pauline and also the shortest of the Hauptbriefe, it should not be used for a gateway into Paul's theology due to the emotional nature of the epistle. His quip on why interpreters should look elsewhere for a better understanding of Paul's theology is worth quoting:



"If a friend or colleague shows signs of being under special stress, the courteous and generous reaction is to allow that person space. It can scarcely be said that Paul has received this sympathetic courtesy." (79)

Duane Liftin's Paul's Theology of Preaching

One forthcoming title I have had my eye on is Duane Liftin's Paul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostles Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth (InterVarsity Press; July 2015). Liftin, professor emeritus of Wheaton College, examines 1 Cor 1-4 in light of ancient rhetorical conventions, demonstrating Paul's unique approach, namely, a persuasion based upon the Holy Spirit in eliciting a proper response to his preaching in Ancient Corinth.

Here are some of the particulars:

Retail: $40.00
Pages: 400

Contents:


List of Excurses
 Preface
 Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
 Introduction Part I: Greco-Roman Rhetoric
 1. The Beginnings
 2. The Goal of Rhetoric
 3. The Power of Rhetoric
 4. The Reach of Rhetoric 
 5. The Genius of Rhetoric
 6. The Appraisal of Rhetoric 
 7. The Hazards of Rhetoric
 8. The Rewards of Rhetoric
 9. The Grand Equation of Rhetoric Part II: 1 Corinthians 1—4 
10. Paul and Rhetoric in Corinth 
11. The Setting of 1 Corinthians 1—4 
12. Paul's Argument Introduced: 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 
13. Paul's Argument Begun: 1 Corinthians 1:17-20 
14. Paul's Argument Encapsulated: 1 Corinthians 1:21 
15. Paul's Argument Continued: 1 Corinthians 1:22—2:5 
16. Paul's Argument Completed: 1 Corinthians 2:6—4:21
 Part III: Summary and Analysis 
17. Paul's Ministry Model
18. Final Questions 
19. Appropriate Strategies 
20. Conclusion: The Pauline Model 
 Appendix One: Paul, Apollos and Philo
 Appendix Two: The Book of Acts Appendix
 Three: Paul's Epistemology 
Appendix Four: Implications for Preaching Appendix
 Five: Broader Implications
 Works Cited
 Author Index 
Scripture Index 

Endorsements:


In Paul's Theology of Preaching, Duane Litfin sets forth the Greco-Roman context of ancient Corinth, where the citizens of the city regarded themselves as 'connoisseurs of eloquence.' . . . It was a context where the Apostle Paul's preaching simply did not measure up—and came under withering criticism from some in the Corinthian church. The apostle's resulting defense set it down once and for all that those who preach the gospel are called to proclamation, not rhetorical persuasion. As such, it provides a needed corrective to preachers who uncritically assume that their calling is to persuade their hearers of the gospel. This important, beautifully written book deserves careful reading and wide discussion in the church and the academy." —R. Kent Hughes, senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, IL

 "In this wise—and provocative—study of Paul, Duane Litfin demonstrates that the apostle's intended meaning has often been seriously obscured by seeing him as engaged in various 'rhetorical ploys.' Making his case with a thorough grasp of ancient rhetoric, as well as with a profound commitment to the church's call to proclaim the gospel with clarity, Litfin exposes the confusion in the kind of preaching that aims at 'results' rather than being founded in an uncompromising desire to be obedient to the biblical text." —Richard J. Mouw, president emeritus and professor of faith and public life, Fuller Theological Seminary

 "This book does something too little seen in biblical studies today: it brings together deep learning and contemporary pastoral wisdom. A fresh look at Paul's theology of preaching and what it means for our proclamation of the gospel today." —Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

 "Duane Litfin has identified in Paul and 1 Corinthians 1–4 the kind of rhetoric that I can wholeheartedly endorse. This is not a rhetoric of persuasion that is cozying up to those in Corinth, but Paul is demonstrating a rhetoric of proclamation that relies upon the Holy Spirit for response. This book provides an important introduction to preaching and rhetoric that makes crystal clear that Paul was doing something very different from the rhetoricians around him. Litfin also provides numerous important practical implications and observations. I think that both scholars and pastors will benefit greatly from reading this book." —Stanley E. Porter, president, dean and professor of New Testament, Roy A. Hope Chair in Christian Worldview, McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, March 5, 2015

C.E.B. Cranfield (1915-2015)

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Charles Cranfield (1915-2015), former professor emeritus of Theology at Durham University (1950-1980). Cranfield is best known for his classic Romans commentaries in the ICC, and his excellent Mark commentary in The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary series. Cranfield's service extended well beyond scholarship and the classroom however, as he also served as an Army chaplain in WWII and as a pastor to POW's.

I leave you with two quotes from his most famous of works:

Commenting on Mark 1:1:

We take it therefore that the basic idea in εὐαγγέλιον here is that of the announcement of good news by Jesus (Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ subjective genitive). But Jesus was not only the herald of good tidings; he was also himself the content of the good tidings he announced, as every section of Mark is eloquent to proclaim (The Gospel According to St. Mark; The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary; 36.)

Commenting on the history of scholarship on the Epistle to the Romans:

The student of the epistle who consults but a single commentary is perforce involved to some extent in a conversation with St Paul but also with this long exegetical tradition; for every reputable commentary carries a great deal of this tradition-- even if the commentator is himself largely ignorant of the more distant sources of the things which he says. But to gain something more than an altogether superficial knowledge of the course of tradition is to learn a deep respect and affection for, and gratitude to, those who have laboured in the field before one, irrespective of the barriers between different confessions, theological and critical viewpoints, nations and epochs; to learn to admire the engagement with Paul's thought of some of the greatest minds from the third to the twentieth century, but also to be humbled by the discovery that even the earnest and least perceptive have from time to time something worth to contribute; to learn that it is naive to imagine that old commentaries are simply superseded by new ones, since, even the good commentator, while he will have some new insights of his own and will be able to correct some errors and make good some deficiencies of the past, will also have his own particular blind spots and will see less clearly, or even miss altogether, some things which some one before him has seen clearly; and, above all, to learn that all commentators (including those who in the next few pages will be most highly praised and also--and this is perhaps the most difficult lesson for any commentator to grasp--oneself) have feet of clay, and that therefore both slavish deference to any of them and also presumptuous self-confidence must alike be eschewed. (Romans I:I-VIII; 31-32)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marianne Meye Thompson's Forthcoming John Commentary

To the writing of commentaries there is no end. For some, this is problematic. For me, however, I enjoy the cacophony of voices that contribute to our understanding of any biblical book. That is not to say that all commentaries are equal. Like any other form of writing each contribution has its plusses and minuses, as no commentary can possibly cover every interpretive dilemma.

With that caveat aside, one such contribution that I have been looking forward to is Marianne Meye Thompson's on the Gospel of John. She is the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, and her  John: A Commentary in  the New Testament Library Series (Westminster John Knox Press) is certain to join the ranks of some recent great commentaries on John's Gospel such as Michaels' in the NICNT.


Here are some of the particulars:

Price: $60.00

Hardcover: 568 pages 

Publisher: Westminister John Knox Press 

(November 6, 2015)

 Language: English ISBN-10: 0664221114







Description: 
Almost from the earliest days of the church, John's distinctive presentation of Jesus has provoked discussion about its place among the other Gospels. One cannot help but see the differences from the Synoptics and wonder about the origins and character of John. In this new volume in the New Testament Library series, Marianne Meye Thompson explores the ministry and significance of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the Gospel of John, paying special attention to the social, cultural, and historical contexts that produced it. John's Gospel, Thompson posits, is the product of a social-cultural world whose language, commitments, and contours must be investigated in order to read John's narrative well. In doing so, Thompson studies the narrative, structure, central themes, and theological and rhetorical arguments found in the Fourth Gospel. Thompson's expert commentary unpacks and illuminates John's unique witness to Jesus--who he was, what he did, and what that means. The New Testament Library series offers authoritative commentary on every book and major aspect of the New Testament, providing fresh translations based on the best available ancient manuscripts, critical portrayals of the historical world in which the books were created, careful attention to their literary design, and a theologically perceptive exposition of the biblical text. The contributors are scholars of international standing. The editorial board consists of C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary; M. Eugene Boring, Brite Divinity School; and John T. Carroll, Union Presbyterian Seminary.

HT: Nijay Gupta

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part IV



I was also concerned that Paul's own theological urgencies get their proper hearing. From my perspective, it has been a blight on the landscape of much New Testament scholarship—probably related to our twin concerns to affirm pluralism and not to offend others—that we have been good technicians of the text, but have avoided theology like the plague. It is hard to imagine anything less fair to Paul himself who was an intensely theological person. So for good or ill, I wanted Paul's theological emphases, as I perceived them, to get their full hearing. Whether I have understood the Apostle adequately remains for others to judge, but surely one fails to comment adequately on Paul who does not try to "hear" him, to come to grips with what drives him, what motivates the words and the rhetoric -

Gordon Fee; "Reflections on Commentary Writing;" (Theology 
Today; 46.4; 1990; 387-392; here 389)

One of the hallmarks of Gordon Fee's classic 1 Corinthians commentary and much of his subsequent work for that matter, is his ability to tease out the theological emphases of the texts he examines. Not only is Fee a master exegete with all the requisite skills in which that entails, but he never loses perspective; he is able to discern the forest for the trees, answering the big picture questions on which theological analyses are dependent.

Today's "Fridays with Fee" looks at a small unit of  1 Corinthians, 4:1-5, and will illustrate that Fee does indeed give Paul's theological emphases a "full hearing."

In his introduction to the larger unit 1 Cor 4:1-21, Fee writes:


...The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a matter of creed for him; it was the singular reality that conditioned his entire existence. But not his alone. By way of the resurrection the eternal God had set the future inexorably in motion; the 'coming' of Christ and subsequent 'judgement' are inevitable corollaries, as sure as life itself. For Paul, therefore, those sure events radicalize present Christian existence. All merely human judgements are nothing in light of the final judgement; all merely human values, which weigh things heavily toward what might appear to be the favorable end of the scale, have already been judged and are now reversed by Christ himself.
Paul's problem is that in their own way the corinthians were also eschatological people, for they too had received the Spirit. But for them this meant not so much that the future determined one's present life as that one had entered into a new realm of being altogether. They had already arrived, as it were, but in all the wrong ways (4:8). What Paul is trying to do above all else is to get the Corinthians to enter his orbit, to see things from his eschatological perspective. There fore, it is not simply a matter of his being right and their being wrong on certain specific issues. It has to do with one's whole existence, one's whole way of looking at life, since 'you are of Christ, and Christ is of God' (3:23), meaning that 'you belong to Christ, and through him you thereby belong to God as well.' Without this perspective ourselves much of what is said here can be enigma; but it need not be, once someone has been drawn into Paul's orbit by one's own encounter with the living Christ (170).

1 Cor 4:1-5: This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Fee on 4:2:

Not eloquence, nor wisdom (nor 'initiative,' nor 'success'--the more standard contemporary requirements), but faithfulness to the trust, is what God requires of his servants. For Paul this means absolute fidelity to the gospel as he received it and preached it (cf. 15:1-11). His intent, of course, is not to provide a general maxim for Christian ministry--although it is still the only valid criterion--but to set up the singular criterion by which God alone could be his judge and which would therefore rule out the Corinthian 'examination' of him and his ministry (175).

Fee on 4:3:

Therefore, for Paul all merely human judgements against him, whether by the Corinthians or by others who would so judge him, are of little or no consequence whatsoever. The only judgement that counts is the final eschatological judgment administered by Christ himself. So much is this so that Paul includes any personal 'judgments' he might make of himself as equally inconsequential. He does not 'even judge himself,' not because he is irresponsible, or intends to be so, but because he is in the service of another. His personal evaluations of his own performance are irrelevant; what is master thinks is what counts. Besides, any such judgments also belong to this age. In his own worldview Paul stands too close to the consummation to be exercised by self-examination (176).

Conclusion regarding 4:5:

The application of this paragraph to the contemporary church seems self-evident. On the one hand, it is a word to those in the church who are forever 'examining' their ministers, and who in any case tend to do so on the wrong grounds. Corinth is not the only church that ever became disillusioned with its minister because he or she lacked enough 'charismatic' qualities. But God's Word to us is faithfulness, not success, is what is required of God's servants. On the other hand, although not intended so by Paul, by implication it is also a word to those who preach and teach, that they recognize themselves as 'under trust.' Their 'trustworthiness' is finally going to be judged by the Lord himself, on the grounds of their being faithful to the trust itself, the gospel. In that hour none of one's self-evaluations as to one's worth in the kingdom is going to count for a thing, only our faithfulness to the gospel itself (179).




Monday, February 16, 2015

John Barclay's Paul and Gift

John Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University, is simply put, one of the greatest living New Testament scholars in the world today. For many years, students and scholars alike have been awaiting his work on the Apostle Paul's theology. Apparently, the wait will end just in time for the 2015 annual SBL meeting when Barclay's Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans) will be released. The release date is October 16th, the book retails for $70.00 and the page count is a hefty 688 pages.


Here is the description:

A fresh scholarly reading of grace in Paul's theology
 In this book esteemed scholar John Barclay explores Pauline theology anew from the perspective of grace. Arguing that Paul's theology of grace is best approached in light of ancient notions of "gift," Barclay describes Paul's relationship to Judaism in a fresh way. Barclay focuses on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, he says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He both offers a new appraisal of Paul's theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans and presents a nuanced and detailed consideration of the history of reception of Paul, including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Barth. This exegetically responsible, theologically informed, hermeneutically useful book shows that a respectful, though not uncritical, reading of Paul contains resources that remain important for Christians today.
If folks are interested in learning more about Barclay's work on Paul's theology of grace as gift, one could also explore his audio lectures on this very topic at Regent Audio here .

Also, see his lecture,"Paul and the Gift" as he delivered the first lecture for the St. Mary's Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible (2013; St. Mary's University College Twickenham) here:


Friday, February 13, 2015

Albert Vanhoye's Forthcoming Commentary on Hebrews

One of the most famous interpreters of Hebrews, Albert Vanhoye, S.J.,ironically, has yet to release a commentary on Hebrews until now.  is releasing another commentary on Hebrews. (Brian Small has informed me that this will mark VanHoye's second commentary on Hebrews. The first, A Different Priest: The Epistle to Hebrews, was published by Convivum Press in 2011. Brian has a review of it here).

Vanhoye, now also a Cardinal and 91 years of age, has dedicated most of his academic energies to the letter of Hebrews, highlighted by such works as La structure littéraire de l'Epître aux Hébreux, Desclée de Brouwer, Tournai, 1963; Situation du Christ. Epître aux hébreux 1 et 2, Paris, 1969; and La lettre aux Hébreux: Jésus-Christ, médiateur d'une nouvelle alliance, Paris, 2002.

There are not many details as of yet regarding the commentary to be published by Paulist Press. However, it will be released in July 2015, weigh in at a concise 256 pages, and retail at $34.95.
No doubt, both students and scholars of Hebrews will be eager to read Vanhoye's contribution, no doubt peppered with insight from someone who has spent a lifetime studying this letter.

Fridays with Fee: Part III

Another week with little reading progress, but thankfully, Fee's keen observations are so abundant that a lack of quantitative engagement with his commentary (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed.) does not prohibit the series from moving forward.

Onward to more of Fee's pearls of wisdom:


1 Cor 3:10-15: 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.


All to often those 'in charge,' be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as 'theirs.' They pay lip-service to its being 'Christ's church, after all,' then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures, an regularly speak of 'my' or 'our' church. Nor does the church belong to the people, especially those who have 'attended all their lives,' or who have 'supported it with great sums of money,' as though that game them special privileges. The church belongs to Christ, and all other things--structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything--should flow out of that singular realization. Moreover, those 'in charge' must be ever mindful of who is really in charge. To be a servant does not mean the abdication of leadership, nor, on the other hand, does it mean to become everyone's 'errand boy or girl.' It has to do with attitude, perspective, not with one's place on the organizational chart. And as Paul will make clear a bit later (4:8-17), it must be 'like priest, like people.' Servant leadership is required precisely because servanthood is the basic stance of all truly Christian behavior, modeled as it was by the 'Servant King' himself (145).

 1 Cor 3:18-23: 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 


The opening salvo is irony once again: 'If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age.' Of course they do; that is quite the point. This same formula will appear three more times in the letter, two of which (8:2; 14:37), along with this one, speak to the heart of the attitudinal issues that plague the church. They think of themselves as wise, as having arrived at knowledge (8:2), and as being spiritual (14:37). That is precisely their problem. And in each case Paul must disabuse them of such opinions; otherwise the church is up for grabs (164).
3: 21b-22: All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. 

The list of 'all things' begins with the three men (Paul, Apollos, Cephas) mentioned early on (1:12), around whose names the Corinthians are clustering in some form of jealousy and strife (3:3). This of course is the point of everything. One is therefore not quite prepared for the sudden expansion of the list, which really does include all things. One wonders whether Paul himself had all this in mind when the sentence began. Nonetheless it is altogether true to his theology. These five items, 'the world, life, death, the present, and the future,' are the ultimate tyrannies of human existence, to which people are in lifelong bondage as slaves. For Paul the death and resurrection of Jesus marked the turning of the ages in such a way that nothing lies outside of Christ's jurisdiction. In the form of the cross God has planted his flag on planet Earth and marked it off as his own possession; hence the 'world' is his. So also with the whole of existence ('life' and 'death'), which are immediately placed into eschatological perspective ('the present and the future'). Because in Christ Jesus both 'life' itself and therefore 'the future' are ours, 'death' is ours as well, as is 'the present.' We die, but 'life' cannot be taken from us; we live the life of the future in the present age, and therefore the present has become our own possession. For those in Christ Jesus, what things were formerly tyrannies are now their birthright. This is the glorious freedom of the children of God. They are free lords of all things, not bound to the whims of chance or the exigencies of life and death. The future is no cause for panic; it is already theirs. In light of such expansive realities, how can the Corinthians say, 'I am of Paul, or Apollos'? That is too narrow, too constricted a view. Apollos--and Paul, and Peter, and the whole universe--is/are yours. You do not belong to them; they belong to you, as your servants, because 'you--and they--are Christ's, and Christ is God's' (167).

...The Corinthian error is an easy one to repeat. Not only do most of us have normal tendencies to turn natural preferences into exclusive ones, but in our fallenness we also tend to consider ourselves 'wise' enough to inform God through whom he may minister to his people. Our slogans take the form of 'I am of the Presbyterians,' or 'of the Pentecostals,' or 'of the Roman Catholics.' Or they might take ideological forms: 'I am of the liberals,' or 'of the evangelicals,' or 'of the fundamentalists.' And these are also used as weapons: 'Oh, he's a fundamentalist, you know.' Which means that we no longer need to listen to him, since his ideology has determined his overall value as one who speaks in God's behalf. It is hardly possible in a day like ours that one will not have denominational, theological, or ideological preferences. The difficulty lies in our allowing that it might really be true that 'all things are ours,' including those whom we think God would do better to be without. But God is full of surprises; and the Eternal One may choose to minister to us from the least expected of sources, if we were but more truly 'in Christ' and therefore free in him to learn and love.
This does not mean that one should not be discriminating; after all, Paul has no patience for that teaching in Corinth which had abandoned the pure gospel of Christ. But to be 'of Christ' is also to be free from the tyrannies of one's own narrowness, free to learn even from those with whom one may disagree (168-169).







Friday, February 6, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part II

I would think myself to be the least likely person to have ever written a commentary.
So opens Gordon Fee's article, "Reflections on Commentary Writing" (Theology Today; 46.4; 1990; 387-392; here 387). This ironic self-reflection may be the key to Fee's standing as a biblical commentator, one that is marked by the best of those who take on the task of commentary writing, namely, humility before the text, careful attention to detail and the ability to exposit the texts continuing relevance.

This brings me to the second installment of "Fridays with Fee." Although I did not cover as much ground in the past week as I would have liked, I have nevertheless found a few Fee gems in reading through his The First Epistle to the Corinthians (rev. ed.).

Without further ado:


1 Cor 2:14: The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.


People are revealed for who they are by their response to the cross; to see it as foolishness means to stand over against God and God's ways--and to stand under divine judgment as without God's Spirit and therefore apart from 'what God has freely given us' (125). 


1 Cor 2:6-16:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 

16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.


Paul's concern needs to be resurrected throughout the church. The gift of the Spirit does not lead to special status among believers; rather, it leads to special status vis-à-vis the world. But it should do so always in terms of the centrality of the message of our crucified/risen Savior. The Spirit should identify God's people in such a way that their values and worldview are radically different from the wisdom of this age. They do know what God is about in Christ; they do live out the life of the future in the present age that is passing away; they are marked by the cross forever. As such they are the people of the Spirit, who stand in bold contrast to those who are merely human and do not understand the scandal of the cross. Being 'S/spiritual' does not lead to elitism; it leads to a deeper understanding of God's profound mystery--redemption through a crucified Messiah (129).


1 Cor 3:3:  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 


The Corinthians have the Spirit, but are behaving precisely like people who do not, like 'mere human beings.' Being human, of course, in itself is not a bad thing, any more than being sarkinoi is (v.1). What is intolerable is to have received the Spirit , which makes one more than merely human, and to continue to live as though one were nothing more. Receiving the Spirit begins one's life in the age to come, wherein life is to be lived according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh ('sinful nature'). The verb translated 'acting' (lit. 'walking') is used regularly in Paul for 'the walk of life,' that is, one's way of living (cf. 7:17). For him the basic imperative of the Christian life is 'Walk [live] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature' (Gal. 5:16). He simply has no patience for belief that does not issue in proper behavior; and this not 'perfectionism,' is is rather a matter of growing up (136).

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part I

Gordon Fee (image created by Matthew D. Montonini)
Last week, I introduced a series, "Fridays with Fee," in which I will be working through Gordon Fee's classic commentary, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, now in revised form (Eerdmans).

One of the sparkling features of this commentary is the sense in which the reader is captured by the drama unfolding in the letter known to us as First Corinthians. Fee is adept at walking the reader through step-by-step through each section, each verse, each significant Greek word (as well as the more technical footnotes on variants and the like), enabling a reading that sees the forest through the trees.

It is truly remarkable and fitting that Fee's wisdom is on full display in these 900 plus pages, due to the theme of wisdom that is the hallmark of this Pauline letter. Without further ado, I'd like to share some of Fee's quotables on various verses I was able to read up on this week.

1Cor 1:20d: "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"


...The cross is foolishness to the perishing(v.18), but by means of it God has himself thereby rendered as foolish the world's wisdom, wisdom that belongs merely to the sphere of human self-sufficiency. God has not simply made such wisdom appear foolish; by means of the cross God has actually turned the tables on such wisdom altogether, so that it has been made into its very opposite--foolishness (75).
1 Cor 1:21: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."


Paul asserts that is was within the province of God's own wisdom that things have been so arranged. He does not explain how so here, but the reason seems clear. A God discovered by human wisdom will be both a projection of human falleness and a source of human pride, and this constitutes the worship of the creature, not the Creator. The gods of the 'wise' are seldom gracious to the undeserving, and they tend to make considerable demands in the ability of people to understand them; hence they become gods only for the elite and 'deserving' (76).
1 Cor 1:25: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

In the cross God 'outsmarted' his human creatures and thereby nullified their wisdom. In the same cross God also 'overpowered' his enemies, with lavish grace and forgiveness, and thereby divested them of their strength.
Thus played out before human eyes is the scandalous and contradictory wisdom of God. Had God consulted us for wisdom we could have given him a more workable plan, something that would attract the sign-seeker and the lover of wisdom. As it is, in God's own wisdom we were left out of the consultation. We are thus also left with the awful risk: trust God and be saved by his wise folly, or keep up our pretensions and perish. Better the former, because this 'weakness of God is stronger than [human] strength'; it accomplishes that which all human pretensions cannot do. It brings one into 'fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.9; 81).
1Cor 1:26: "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth."

...sociology is not Paul's concern; his is theological, and he is capitalizing on the less-than-pretentious social standing of the majority--which at the same time may have had philosophical overtones--to make his point, What Celsus saw as the shame of Christianity, Paul saw as its greater glory. By bringing 'good news to the poor' through his Son, God has forever aligned himself with the disenfranchised; at the same time we have played out before our eyes God's own overthrow of the world's standards. Every middle-class or upper-class domestication of the gospel is therefore a betrayal of that gospel (86).
1 Cor 2:4: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power."
 ...the purpose of the Spirit's coming was not to transport one above the present age, but to empower one to live within it (101).




Friday, January 23, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Introduction



Gordon Fee's The First Epistle to the Corinthians, is one such work that deserves its pearl status. First published in 1987, Fee's work has become indispensable, enjoying the rare status of timelessness that few works enjoy. The only knock against older works that achieve this status are usually due to the fact that they are considered dated and are not abreast of the massive proliferation of secondary literature that has been produced since the publication of the work. To remedy this situation, Fee has provided a service to all students and scholars of 1 Corinthians by updating his classic. The content remains virtually the same, but Fee now interacts with 164 total works in the twenty-five-plus years since its initial publication.

What I aim to do over the intervening weeks is to write a series of posts entitled "Fridays with Fee," as I make way through Fee's commentary. I do not know exactly the exact form these posts will take, but they will probably reflect impressions that I had while reading through the various sections. For now, I will end this post with some Fee quotables:

Although they were the Christian church in Corinth, an inordinate amount of Corinth was yet in them, emerging in a number of attitudes and behaviors that required radical surgery without killing the patient. This is what this letter attempts to do -Gordon Fee;(The First Epistle to the Corinthians; rev.ed), 4.

 To delight in God for God's working in the lives of others, even in the lives of those whom one feels compelled to disagree, is sure evidence of one's own awareness of being the recipient of God's mercies. So it was with Paul. The self-sufficient are scarcely so disposed - Gordon Fee on 1 Cor 1:4; (The First Epistle to the Corinthians; rev.ed.), 35.