November 2012


In the spring I’m teaching NT Theology (undergraduate), and I want to have my students to consider the relationship of the OT to the NT.  In particular, I want an essay/article length assessment of Covenant, New Covenant, (Progressive) Dispensational and (possibly) Lutheran perspectives for my students to read.  I would prefer an essay that attempts to address each area objectively, but one by a proponent of one area or another would be okay if it adequately addresses the other areas.  Again, my preference would be for a journal article or essay from a book rather than a website.  Thoughts?

There was an interesting article at CT last week with three opinions about what changes seminaries need to make. The first view (Dan Kimball) argues that seminaries must be more missionally focused so that seminaries become ‘missionary-training centers’.

The second view (Cheryl Sanders) suggests three ways to change. First, theological training needs to be more ‘pracitical’. Sanders isn’t thinking simply of how one does ministry; rather,the piont is that students should be taught ‘to think about what these truths mean in specific and changing ministry contexts’. Second, Sanders also argues that there needs to be greater ethnic diversity in the seminaries. Third, seminaries need to diversify the teaching methods.

In the final view Winfield Bevins opines that seminaries should be producing more church planters and a part of the curriculum would be that students would do an internship with a church plant.

Two things in particular stood out to me. First, the idea that our seminaries should be turned into missionary training centres or church planting factories seems to leave out those of us who are not going into these forms of ministry. Where will the next generation of scholars go for training if the seminaries are so oriented toward missionaries or church planters? Surely our seminaries need to be more diverse and recognise that there are all sorts of ministries. Second, the emphasis on doing seems to have forgotten what education is about. Seminary should be a place where one goes in order to have his or her mind stretched, to encounter new ideas and to develop the skills to evaluate and assess the ideas. Seminaries should be producing thinkers. Some of these thinkers will go on to be scholars well others will become missionaries and church planters or indeed pastors of an already existing church.

What is needed from our seminaries is not a narrower vision focused on a few people and a few types of ministry but a stronger emphasis on the value and point of education itself.

Many of you will know that I helped in the editing process of the Voice, and so I wanted to let you know that Thomas Nelson, the publisher of the Voice, is giving away a trip for two to Africa (in association with World Vision). Head to hearthevoice.com and  follow the link in the upper right hand corner.  The contest is over 12/27/2012.

On a related note, if any of you are reading through the Voice and have comments for edits for future versions, please feel free to send your suggestions my way.

Looks like Tom Wright retired too early, since his successor Justin Welby, only in the position of Bishop of Durham for just over a year or so, has been selected to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury, as has been reported.  I know the crowd in Durham was pleased with his selection as bishop, so I imagine he will be liked as archbishop as well.  However, I’ve not heard word on what the dunelm crowd thinks of his actual work there.  I have high hopes that the Anglican Communion can stay together, and so I pray that +Welby, soon to be ++Welby, will be able to help the church navigate all its challenges.

I know the book money for SBL that people have is beginning to burn a hole in their pocket, so I thought I might mention a recent publication by a fellow Durham alum, Ben Dunson: Individual and Community in Paul’s Letter to the Romans in WUNT II.  The dust jacket reads:

Ben C. Dunson explores the relationship between individuals and community in the New Testament letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans. His main contention, going against much recent scholarship, is that the individual and community are tightly integrated concepts in Paul’s thought.

I have an article in the latest volume of JBL (131.3 [2012], 547-66) titled “Voluntary Debt Remission and the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13).” JBL doesn’t include abstracts, but here is a lengthy soundbite at the end of the survey/critique of existing interpretations that, more or less, explains what I try to do in the piece:

Numerous other interpretations could be presented here, each with its own shortcomings. The foregoing survey, however, has sufficiently demonstrated the common assumption underlying most of these inadequate explanations, namely, that unless the steward is deducting from his own profits, the reductions are to be viewed as hostile to his master, or in the words of Douglas E. Oakman, as “betrayal” and “an abrogation of the then-current social mores of fidelity.” Kloppenborg similarly remarks, “[T]he natural implication of the story is that the steward’s actions are injurious to the master’s interests.” Schellenberg concurs, explaining, “The expectation within the world of the parable [is] that loyal stewardship requires meticulous collection of the master’s debts.” But these assumptions rest on a limited understanding of the purpose and function of debt remission in the ancient economy. And since, as Klyne Snodgrass suggests, “[t]his is a parable where one must fill in the blanks,” in this essay I will offer a new explanation of the master’s praise based on the general custom of lease adjustment in the early empire. Through the testimony of Roman landowners such as Pliny the Younger, Cicero, and Columella, as well as those represented in leasing contracts from early Roman Egypt, I will demonstrate that the instability of land tenancy during the early imperial period quite often required wealthy proprietors to reduce debts (rents and arrears) in order to enable and encourage their repayment, as well as to secure the longevity of their tenants and their own long-term profitability. Debt remission in antiquity, then, was advantageous both to landlords and tenants, an insight that has significant implications for the interpretation of our parable (552-53).

If you interested in matters relating to the ancient economy and/or the interpretation of this confusing parable, I would encourage you to check out the article.

I picked up Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009) from the college library yesterday, intending to read through much/most of it. I have skimmed bits and pieces of it before — after all, who has time to work through all 1,200 + pages? Well, I’m sure some of you dedicated academics do! But as of this afternoon, after skimming through a few more chapters, I gave up again. I have decided (for now) to spare myself a month’s worth of free time and to settle for reading a couple of published review articles on it instead. So, I started with Barry Matlock’s and will shortly get to Grant Macaskill’s. Both are published in JSNT 34.2 (2011). I have to say, for a quite wordy 35-or-so-page book review, Matlock’s article is thoroughly entertaining. I found myself grinning repeatedly throughout, especially as he critiqued Campbell’s caricature of “Justification theory.” Here is how Matlock summarizes his comments on Campbell’s portrait of Justification theory:

It is the most elaborately constructed straw man I have ever witnessed, and to watch Campbell parry and thrust with it across hundreds of sprawling pages is a singular and uncanny spectacle (137).

Ouch!!!

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