On May 3rd, John Barclay gave the inaugural lecture of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible, of St. Mary’s University College, UK. Barclay’s lecture, “Paul and the Gift: Gift-Theory, Grace and Critical Issues in the Interpretation of Paul,” summarized much of what will undoubtedly appear at length in his forthcoming book on Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans). Thankfully, St. Mary’s has made the video lecture available on YouTube.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
John Barclay, “Paul and the Gift: Gift-Theory, Grace and Critical Issues in the Interpretation of Paul”Posted by JGoodrich under Paul and His Interpreters, Durham, Conferences, Ancient History, Academia, Paul
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Saturday, 11 May 2013
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Thanks to Nijay Gupta for notifying us of the release, or near release, of two volumes in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series: Dale Allison on the epistle of James (just released), and Karl Donfried on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (to-be released in October). Nijay notes that the Amazon (USA) prices are rather steep. I checked; Amazon offers 14% off Allison and 10% off Donfried. For the bargain shopper, BookDepository.com is selling each for a bit more of a reduction–19% off Allison and 25% off Donfried, with free shipping worldwide. Allison is available for even cheaper through private vendors on Amazon and other sites.
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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I’ve just learned that John Webster is leaving the University of Aberdeen for the University of St. Andrews. What a huge move!
Saturday, 6 April 2013
I hadn’t noticed this until today, so perhaps this is old news, but several soon-to-be-released titles by major players in NT studies can be pre-ordered at Amazon (USA) for 46-48% off. That’s better than the SBL discount! Go see for yourself. There are probably numerous others, but notable titles I saw include:
- Francis Watson, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans);
- James Dunn, The Oral Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans);
- Thomas Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker);
- Brian Rosner, Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology; IVP)
- D. A. Carson (ed.), The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament (Crossway)
- Joel Green, Jeannine Brown, and Nicholas Perrin (eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2nd ed.; IVP)
Sunday, 10 February 2013
I presented a paper yesterday at the SBL Midwest Regional Meeting hosted by Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Despite the rather small presentation screens, it was a fine venue and in all a successful event–though, sadly, I could not stay for the entire conference. I presented in the Paul Section and my paper was titled “Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7.14-25.” Essentially, I argue that just as Paul alludes to both Eden and Sinai (though mainly the latter) in Rom 7.7-13, so he alludes to the Babylonian captivity in 7.14-25, echoing Isa 49.24-50.2 in Rom 7.14 and 23-25. In short, I try to do for Romans 7-8 what Rodrigo Morales does for Galatians 3-4 (cf. The Spirit and the Restoration of Israel: New Exodus & New Creation Motifs in Galatians [Mohr Siebeck, 2010]). There were about a dozen other people in the room (neither the best nor the worst turn out I’ve had), and I even recognized one quite respected scholar in the back. What struck me, though, was the fact that, at the end of what I felt was a fairly well-executed paper, nobody asked any questions.
Now, this has happened to me before, and I’ve seen it happen to others as well. And while it is somewhat of a relief not to be raked over the coals in front of your peers, it is also quite anti-climactic for there to be total silence at the end of a 25-minute talk–given the time, effort, and nervous energy that goes into the entire process. I mean, you wrack your brain for a paper idea, craft the abstract, submit it, wait for its acceptance, get funding, write the paper, travel to the event, and finally after months of anticipation courageously share some of the most creative thoughts you’ve had in your life, only for nobody to make a single comment or ask a single question. What is one to think about such an empty reaction? Have my ideas simply been accepted uncritically, or was my thesis so uninspiring and unambitious to be undeserving of constructive feedback?
Well, after a period of pondering the implications of my silent audience, I reached the following conclusions:
- If, in the future, I truly desire feedback and it doesn’t seem to be immediately forthcoming, I should break the ice myself by asking the audience a question about one or more elements of my argument. Changing roles like this can be awkward, but I’ve done it before and have found it beneficial for getting things going.
- If I truly desire feedback, my paper should intend to provoke, pushing my evidences to their limits. Sometimes scholars require intellectual bait. That’s what it takes for my students to be interactive in class; it shouldn’t surprise that many professionals require the same. Indeed, unpublished conference papers should be bold, and mine can be quite a bit bolder. Conferences, after all, exist for scholars to take risks, to test drive ideas without the fear of having to commit to them forever. The feedback won’t always be positive, but it will probably be helpful and stimulating.
- If, in the future, I don’t get any feedback, silence is an acceptable response. At the end of the day, worse things can happen in a presentation than receiving no questions. After all, if I were to hear from a journal editor that no corrections were required for an article I had submitted, that would be good news; the same can be true with presentations.
- Still, this and other experiences have encouraged me as an auditor to be more interactive with conference presenters, especially those like me in the beginning stages of their career. Without a two-way exchange, the entire experience can feel like a bit of a waste of time.
Monday, 19 November 2012
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.
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
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I have an article in the latest volume of JBL (131.3 , 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.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
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).
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
In my Romans course today I lectured on Rom 7:1-25 and had a great a discussion with my students about the spiritual status of the speaker (“I”) in verses 14-25. Not surprisingly, prior to the reading and coursework they did in preparation for today, many of my students had never seriously grappled with the issue of whether the speaker in this passage represents a regenerate or unregenerate person; most had simply assumed that Paul was narrating his post-conversion struggle with “Sin”. Again, such is not surprising considering that this is the view taught in many churches and in some scholarly commentaries (e.g., Cranfield and Dunn). But this got me to wondering if this is the assumption shared by most readers of this blog. So, I thought I would post a poll so readers can vote on which position they find the strongest, also providing a third option (“both”) for those who do not believe the regenerate and unregenerate positions adequately cover the interpretive possibilities. Please do share your opinion.
Btw, for interested readers, I recommend Jason Maston’s recently published thesis on Romans 7-8, Divine and Human Agency in Second Temple Judaism and Paul: A Comparative Approach (WUNT 2/297; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010).
Monday, 22 October 2012
Let me take the opportunity to let you know of the new blog of the School of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University: christianthought.hbu.edu. It’s a great place to hear about Theology, Philosophy and Cultural Apologetics.
I did my inaugural post on there just this morning about America’s Christian Roots as I interacted with an interview of Mark Noll and George Marsden at Calvin College.
Go check it out.