November 2011


As with most things this semester I’m about one step behind on getting things done, so here is a later-than-planned account of my SBL experience this year.

The greatest highlight for me was the publication of my thesis with Mohr Siebeck: Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria.  I got the proof-ready copy in right at the deadline, and there were reportedly some printing issues that might have delayed its arrival, but to Mohr’s credit they had several copies available at the display.  I was even asked to sign a couple of copies, which was unexpected to say the least.  Now the waiting game for reviews.

I also experienced the academic highs and lows associated with writing.  As a high, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Edith Humphrey’s paper on 2 Cor 5.21 (Manifest in the Body: Deeds, Sin, Righteousness and Glory), which interacted with the pdf copy of my thesis on Durham’s website.  (By the way, the printed edition fills in a few gaps and adds additional material in a few places.)  Her interest in my work is not surprising, but it is always nice to have someone interact with it.  After the session  I went to have coffee my good friend Nijay Gupta, who is the Associate Editor of the new Journal of Paul and His Letters.  He showed me a copy of the most recent issue, which has an article about Romans 3:23.  Since one of my only publications to date is an article about glory in Romans 3:23 in JSNT, I thought this article might interact with my arguments.  After a quick perusal through it, I didn’t see my name.  Through this I learned a lesson that disagreement is not the worst thing for an author to face; the worst thing is being ignored.  This is not to cast aspersions on the JSPL article since my article came out just last year, but it was a lesson in the lows that come with the highs from participation in the academic game.

I gave a paper this year in the Paul and Politics section: ‘Paul and Empire in Light of the Acts of Paul‘.  I don’t frequent that section, but I had some new evidence for them to consider.  Using Wright and Barclay’s debate as a proxy for larger discussions, I tried to situate the Acts of Paul, and particularly the Martyrdom of Paul which is the final section of the Acts, within this dispute.  While I started more on the Barclay side of things, I found myself working towards the middle since there are aspects of this second century reception of Paul (and possibly his letters) that supports both sides of the argument.  I didn’t add much new to the debate, but I think I won novelty points, which is often difficult to do in NT studies.

Of course, the best part of SBL is meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and this conference was as successful in that area as any other.  Now I just need to think of a paper for next year…

Every Thursday morning on BBC Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg hosts an endlessly fascinating discussion on a scholarly topic between three researchers in the field, called ‘In our Time‘. I always think it is worth the license fee for this programme alone. Right now (0930 GMT), Judas Maccabeus is getting the treatment by Philip Alexander, Helen Bond, and Tessa Rajak. Listening to the discussion, I hadn’t realised that the historical value of 1 and 2 Maccabees goes so relatively unquestioned. Since this is hardly advance notice (sorry), it will be available via iPlayer from the ‘In our Time’ homepage in due course.

Today was a long but great day having N. T. Wright at Moody Bible Institute. His talks were vintage Wright: very engaging and always with the big picture in view. I don’t think he said anything brand new. His talk on How God Become King seemed, as expected, to be a popularization of his IBR talk last year on the kingdom and the cross, while his talk on Simply Jesus was a summary of the book and a popularization of his Jesus and the Victory of God. As I said before, I will try to obtain the audio recordings of both and upload them soon. 

Since Moody is dispensational, the auditor won’t be surprised to find that several questions were asked about how Wright’s Christology and end of exile motif inform his eschatology, especially concerning the millennium. Wright, of course, respectfully dismissed the possibility of a literal, future millennial reign of Christ (can Wright be labeled amillennial? I think so, but a colleague of mine didn’t think so). So, no surprises there. But did you know that Wright’s father-in-law was dispensational, and his mother-in-law (I think that is who he mentioned) applied to Moody (though never enrolled)? Very interesting.

Never underestimate the initiative of undergraduate students.

Last week one of our students here at MBI noticed that N. T. Wright was scheduled on Monday, Nov. 7th, to give an evening lecture at Chicago’s 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Ave., presumably one of many stops on an American book tour promoting his Simply Jesus and The Kingdom New Testament. Desiring to take advantage of Wright’s timely stop in Chicago, the student contacted Wright directly and invited him also to come to MBI to give not one, but two lectures on his forthcoming books. To my surprise, Wright has graciously accepted and will speak to our students in both the morning and afternoon on Nov. 7th, before lecturing in the evening down the road at 4th Pres. Church. So, my heartfelt thanks go out to Wright in advance for including us on his tour, and to Parker H., a mere student who took the initiative (and indeed had the cojones) to invite such an important thinker as Wright to our campus. The plan is to record both talks, so if possible I will try to obtain and upload them in due course.

Update: Since the event has been moved into Torrey-Grey Auditorium, there should be plenty of seating for both lectures. However, if non-MBI students and staff are planning to attend, I would suggest calling the institute beforehand to ensure you will be permitted to park on campus; sometimes campus security can be rather strict.

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