John Frederick has a lenghty review of my thesis (Paul as an Administrator of God in 1 Corinthians, Cambridge, 2012) in the most recent issue of JETS (56.4, pp. 877-80). I appreciate that he read the entire monograph and that he has some very kinds things to say of the work. If ever we meet at SBL, drinks are on me!
Friday, 17 January 2014
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Monday, 16 December 2013
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Like so many SBL returnees, I’ve been in recent weeks reading through select portions of N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress, 2013). Everything, so far as I can tell, seems to be fairly straightforwardly Wrightian, both in viewpoint and style. In fact, I’ve just been reading his treatment on Romans 9-11 and have enjoyed (though respectfully disagreed with) his exegesis of 11:25-27, where he defends the view that “all Israel” refers to the multi-ethnic church. One particularly witty statement that made me laugh out loud, however, concerns his comparison of himself to Paul quoting Elijah (Rom 11:3-4):
That, I propose, is how we should read 11.26a; kai houtōs pas Israēl sōthēsetai, ‘and in this way “all Israel shall be saved”‘. At this point an exegete arguing my present case may well feel like Paul as he quotes Elijah; ‘I’m the only one left!’ It is not true, of course. There may not be seven thousand, but there might be seven or more out there who have not . . . well, perhaps we had better not complete that sentence. (p. 1239)
Glad you stopped where you did, Tom! But a well-played rhetorical move nevertheless I suppose therein lies definitive proof that one need not provide a full quotation in order to evoke a source’s entire context.
On another note, it is interesting how may chiasms Wright both detects in Paul and employs throughout this book. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of his back-and-forth, chiastic treatment of Romans 9-11. Even if Paul returns to numerous themes at various parts of the argument, I haven’t found Wright’s unique presentation of that material to be in anyway more effective than a generally linear, passage-by-passage commentary through the text. But maybe that’s due to my typically western way of thinking.
Wednesday, 9 October 2013
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Guest Post by Matthew Bates:
“I accept [Bates’] thrust that the Christ-event gives the present a hermeneutical priority, but I wonder what a more sustained interaction with Irenaeus (in addition to Barnabas and Justin) on this topic would have produced? …. I find Bates’ exegesis [of Ps 17:50 LXX in Rom 15:9] enlightening, but I don’t see the need to make David such a flat character and therefore I identify more fully with Hays: Christ has the precedence but his role as the Messiah makes sense in light of David’s substantive role as King. Irenaeus has a robust perspective on typological connections (e.g. AH 3.21-3.22), which would offer mixed support and critique of Bates…”
If the reader has followed my clarifying remarks regarding typology above, then perhaps the reader can already anticipate my response to Ben’s query. I don’t think Paul had a significantly different use of “types” with respect to the relationship between past and present than Irenaeus.
Now I move on to discuss whether or not Richard Hays’ model (see The Conversion of the Imagination, pp. 101-18) might be preferable to the one that I have proposed. It is important to recognize that I am primarily questioning Hays’ typological explanation for texts in which Paul (and others) found Christ to be the one truly praying a psalm. Hays argues for a double typology inasmuch as David was an anointed one (messiah, Christ) and also a representative that embodied Israel’s national hopes and tragedies. As such, for Hays, as best as I understand him, the Christ can be made the speaker of, for instance, a psalmic lament because David embodies corporate Israel’s sorrows.
Admittedly this is possible, but in my judgment Hays’ typological suggestion is improbable. I believe Paul’s use of the type metaphor demands that Paul has found “iconic mimesis,” that is, participation in a common image. So when we seek to explain Paul’s identification of Christ as the speaker of a psalm of lament through David, the question becomes, If this is “typology,” then what is the common image between the OT text and the Christ that allows Paul to assert that the Christ is the speaker? Is the both-are-messiahs generality enough? I don’t think so. Ben, following Hays, might not find a need “to make David such a flat character.” Yet in an attempt to persuade Ben (and you, O dear reader), I would push back by asking, What specific evidence exists that David was a robust character for Paul in the ways necessary to sustain concrete image linkage in the specific passages in question? For example, if David, as Hays claims, was to be regarded as the symbol of Israel’s national suffering, and this image provides the link, then where is there any specific evidence that Paul held such a view?
I think a much simpler and better-evidenced solution lies ready to hand. David was consistently regarded as a prophet by the earliest Christians, and as such it was believed that David could speak in the person of someone else—he could take on an alternative prosopon, and speak from the person of this new character. For example, see Peter’s “he was a prophet” explanation of how it is that David can be speaking words appropriate only to the Christ in Psalm 16:8-11 in Acts 2:25-31. That is, I would argue, Paul is doing something similar, engaging in what I call “prosopological exegesis.” The reader will have to look at my book (ch. 4 and 5) to see the details for how and why I argue this, but this argument is grounded historically in early Christian exegesis both internal and external to Paul’s letters.
“If the Spirit as an equal member of the Trinity plays a central role [in 2 Cor 3], should there not be more emphasis on or more of [a] place given to the Spirit’s role in Paul’s hermeneutics and not just the content of his message?”
I can only say that I suppose I wish there could be more of an emphasis on Spirit’s hermeneutical function here. In constructive theology we can perhaps move beyond Paul’s words, draw on philosophical or traditional resources, and speculate about plausible Trinitarian dimensions beyond what Paul says, but since in my judgment Paul himself doesn’t give the Spirit a definite hermeneutical function in 2 Corinthians 3 or elsewhere, we are simply historically constrained. Paul does affirm the Spirit’s generally providential role in aiding us in all spiritual matters (1 Cor 2:6-16), and the work of the Spirit in making the confession that’s indicative of conversion (1 Cor 12:3), but the idea that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17) is a hermeneutical statement is, in my judgment, problematic since freedom here almost certainly means freedom from the performance-demanding legislation of the Old Covenant, not interpretative freedom (contra Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, p. 149). When you buy your copy The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (which I trust all readers will do cheerfully and with alacrity), then see my fuller discussion in ch. 3 and ch. 6.
“I was surprised but not bothered by the fact that [Bates] returns unapologetically to the specifically Trinitarian implications of Paul’s hermeneutic. (We’re fortunate that he’s got a forthcoming volume tentatively titled The Birth of the Trinity….)”
I am glad, Ben, that you found my chapters that focused on prosopological exegesis particularly compelling, as these are what I regard as my most novel contribution, and that you also were intrigued by the Trinitarian implications. My second book, tentatively The Birth of Trinity (the manuscript is complete), will look at the phenomenon of prosopological exegesis in first- and second-century Christianity more broadly and how this method of reading contributed to Christology and the growth of Trinitarian doctrine. Some of my main conversation partners in this forthcoming book are Larry Hurtado (One God, One Lord and Lord Jesus Christ), Richard Bauckham, (God Crucified and Jesus and the God of Israel), Simon Gathercole (The Pre-Existent Son), James Dunn (Christology in the Making), and John Collins and Adela Yarbro Collins (King and Messiah as Son of God). I think this new prosopological angle produces some stimulating results. I hope you and your readers are sufficiently piqued, so that you will dip into The Birth of the Trinity once it is released.
All the best,
~Matthew W. Bates
Friday, 4 October 2013
When I started doing book reviews as a PhD student, someone recommended to send my reviews to the author directly. It helps you keep in mind they will read it more closely than anyone else, and it will remind you to keep your comments civil since they are directed at a person and not a faceless journal audience. I did that with my review of Matt Bates’ The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (part 1 and part 2), and offered for him to do a response to clarify any misunderstandings I had and further the conversation. Thus, the following is the first part of his response. (He sent this several weeks ago, and due to some email snafus I am just now posting it. My apologies, Matt!) I know you’ll be enriched by his discussion.
Guest Post by Matthew Bates:
Greetings to all of you. First of all, I want to thank Ben Blackwell and the other contributors at Dunelm Road for extending me an invitation to supply a guest post—an unexpected pleasure. This is my first foray as a writer into the blogosphere, so psychologically this is a big step for me. Indeed, I haven’t exactly embraced this new social-media laced world with open arms. My face is not booked. I don’t tweet. And although I finally got around to creating an academia.edu profile a couple months ago, I still wouldn’t consider myself truly linked in. But I am working on it. So, today as a guest writer for Dunelm Road, I appreciate the opportunity to reap all of the undeniable benefits of biblioblogging—the lustrous fame, the plush advertising revenues, the posh book deals, the billions of adoring fans—while also avoiding its dark underbelly—the inevitable posting of a check-out-this-weird-thing-my-cat-just-did youtube video in order to stave off the mounting pressure to write something intelligent and coherent for the blog every couple days! No, seriously, I appreciate the biblioblogging community for keeping all of us non-regular bloggers up to date on various happenings in the biblical studies world.
It is of course an honor to have had my first book, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation, blog-reviewed by Ben. I myself have had occasion to enjoy some of his research work as we share common interests. In previous posts Ben has already supplied a solid overview of my book (see part I) and an excellent critical evaluation (see part II). He also asked a couple questions.
So what’s on tap for my guest post? Well, of course, I am going to try my best to answer Ben’s questions and respond to issues raised. Also, as is inevitably the case, probably because I wasn’t sufficiently lucid in the book itself, there are a couple little things in Ben’s review that I want to clarify. Moreover, since this might be my one and only shot at extreme social-media self-promotion—I am thinking of those billions of Dunelm Road readers—I want to say a few words about how my work on prosopological exegesis in this first book bridges to my second book, tentatively titled The Birth of the Trinity.
I will use a dialogical format, giving Ben’s question/comment from the previous posts followed by my response:
“[Bates] argues that we should understand Paul’s hermeneutics as thoroughly Christian rather than Jewish”
Bates leans in an “either/or” direction on this issue.
In intention (if not in effect), I was trying to argue two things. (1) That Paul was a Jew and that he did use Jewish interpretative techniques, and that the study of such techniques generally continues to be helpful and fruitful (e.g., as in Francis Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith), but that we can’t stop there in comparative studies, because Paul was a special sort of Jew—one who had embraced Jesus as messiah. So if perchance I give off an “either/or” vibe, I would nonetheless consider myself very much “both/and.” (2) Yet because scholarship has already repeatedly and nearly exhaustively compared moments of Pauline exegesis of the OT to all the Jewish parallels, but has scarcely even begun to compare to Christian parallels, we are more likely to discover new insights through the latter. Thus, my specific focus on situating Paul amidst other early Christian exegetes in this book.
“Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation.”
For Bates, “[older texts] don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology). They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue.”
For Bates, “…a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.”
“Bates deconstructs Hays’ and others’ use of the language of typology, arguing that typology is focused on the (Christ-informed) present, rather than working from past to the present.”
I can certainly see, due to my tone and emphasis, why Ben might feel like my intention is to dismantle typology and to exclude the past referent, but I would like to think my point about typology is more subtle. (But then again, I always like to think that I am being clever and subtle when it is perhaps more likely that I am being obscure or inscrutable).
I want to deconstruct typology only in the sense that, unlike allegory (Greek: allegoria), typology is not an ancient term for an interpretative technique—in fact, it wasn’t an ancient term at all but is a modern neologism. So “type” (Greek: typos) language is a metaphor, a kind of trope, not a reified exegetical technique for Paul or his contemporaries. But this doesn’t mean that the “type” metaphor lacks hermeneutical significance for Paul when he uses it in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 and in Romans 5:14. So, the real question is what does Paul intend when he deploys the “type” metaphor? Drawing on my own lexical analysis and Frances Young’s Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture, I determine that “iconic mimesis” is at the heart of Paul’s “type” language—that is, imitation predicated on participation in a common image.
An author’s use of “type” language can be based on that author’s identification of an image in a past-tense narrative that is then found to reoccur in the present, but other configurations are also possible. For example, an author might first observe the image in the present, and then retrospectively look backwards and find the image prefigured in an earlier text. If indeed (as I argue) Paul tends toward the latter, that is he begins with the apostolic proclamation and mission, and then looks backward to the OT text to find the imitation, then Paul’s use of “type” isn’t thereby excluding the past or narrowly focused on the Christ-informed present, but rather Paul is drawing attention to the resonance between certain OT events and the his present, and this resonance gives both the past OT events and present events a heightened significance.
(Part 2 of the response will follow soon.)
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Matthew Bates (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame), currently Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University, has provided us with a fine discussion of Pauline use of the OT in his The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. I received a review copy from Baylor press a few months back, and I’m finally getting around to posting my thoughts.
Over the last few decades the NT use and interpretation has garnered a growing level of interest, and Bates wades into a discussion dominated by some of the biggest names in Pauline scholarship–Richard Hays, Francis Watson, Christopher Stanley, Steve Moyise and Ross Wagner. While not changing the whole tenor of the conversation, Bates contribution effectively widens the scope of evidence and provides a new lens on some of Paul’s uses of scripture.
A Brief Summary
Chapter 1. Bates thoroughly lays out the history of research into Paul’s use of the OT. In fact this is one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve read in any dissertation/monograph. Though informed about the issues, I wasn’t previously aware of some of the nuances of various approaches, so this was quite helpful. He ultimately works towards two deficiencies in the field. The first, modeled by Watson, is focusing solely on Jewish comparators. The second relates to Hays’ limited employment of Bahktin, whose work calls for a consideration of the polysemous nature of texts in their original context and later contexts. Hays, he says, focuses on the polysemous nature of texts, but he doesn’t take into account later contexts. Accordingly, he calls for a “diachronic intertextuality” in which the interpretive methods of later post-Pauline interpreters are brought into the frame of comparison, rather than merely Paul and his contemporaries.
Chapter 2. Here the importance of scripture for Paul in forming his basic gospel narrative is the focus. Rather than picking Pauline passages that directly quote scripture, Bates chooses two passages where Paul summarizes his key message (in “protocreeds”): 1 Cor 15.3-11 and Rom 1.1-6. In both these passages, which receive detailed exegesis, Bates shows that the narrative of the Messiah is one that Paul sees as developing from his interpretation of scripture. He summarizes the details of his exegesis by developing a 12-stage narrative in two sections: stages 1-8 relate to the story of Christ and 9-12 relate to apostolic mission arising out of the Christ event. Though Bates doesn’t use these terms, it seems that he is detailing what Hays in his later revision of his work on intertexuality (see Conversion) would describe as a christocentric and ecclesiotelic model of interpretation. Bates uses the terms kerygma and apostolic to capture this.
Chapter 3. Bates next brings in the results from study of rhetorical handbooks to explain how scriptures would be employed to support Paul’s apostolic kerygma. Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation. The key to this argument is considering the stage in which scripture would be employed in writing (based on the rhetorical handbooks). Though he concedes these steps don’t happen rigidly, the order is important: 1) invention, 2) arrangement, 3) expression, 4) memory, and 5) delivery. The collection of material to use in an argument (for Paul, scriptural texts) happens with the invention stage (1), whereas the employment of that material to the audience through tropes (metalepsis, metaphor, allegory, etc.) would occur in the expression stage (3). That is, typology (a trope) would be just verbal dressing meant to convince, but this would not be the heart of his argument. Since Paul has a unified view of the divine economy he can use older texts to speak about current events, which can only be viewed in light of Christ and the apostolic kerygma. They don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology). They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue. Bates goes through a number of Pauline passages to demonstrate this: Rom 5.14; 1 Cor 10.1-11; Gal 4.21-31; and 2 Cor 3.1-4.6.
Chapter 4. One central example of reading the Old Testament as speaking directly to or within the contemporary frame is through prosopological exegesis. That is, an interpreter encounters an inspired writing which has an ambiguous voice/saying, and the interpreter “resolves the perceived uncertainty by assigning a suitable prosopon to the speaker or the addressee (or both) to explain the text” (217). In this chapter, Bates does not focus on Paul but rather Greek, Jewish, and later Christian writers to show how this method of interpretation was employed. This is particularly where his “diachronic intertextuality” model comes into play. After establishing the existence and execution of the practice, he turns in the next chapter to explore how Paul employs this.
Chapter 5. Bates walks through several Pauline passages that meet his criteria for the possibility of prosopological exegesis: Rom 10.6-8; 15.3; 10.16; 10.19-21; 11.9-10; 14.11; 15.9; and 2 Cor 4.13. Of these passages, he cogently explains how Paul inserts/hears Christ (or others) as the ambiguous speaker in OT texts. Paul only explicitly introduces prosopological exegesis in Rom 10.6-8, but the other texts explored (besides 10.19-21) clearly show prosopological exegesis. While 10.19-21 may appear to be prosopological, Bates argues against seeing this employed in that passage. Importantly, Bates doesn’t conclude that this method of exegesis is the key to unlock every use of the OT (cf pg 326), but it does give insight into Paul’s perspective on the unified divine economy.
Chapter 6. In his final chapter Bates gives a gift to his readers. He revisits all of the major conversation partners in modern scholarship and explains how his research affirms, critiques, or refutes their work. He prefigures this in chapter 1, but having a clear discussion about each scholar’s work in light of his research is again very helpful for framing its significance in larger debates. I’ll note two here. In distinction to Watson’s decision to explore Paul in light of fellow Jewish interpreters, Bates finds Paul’s fellow Christians, especially those a century or so later, to be better models of helping us understand Paul’s methods. In contrast to Hays who finds a form of typology important for Paul’s exegesis, Bates argues that the method of selecting and employing texts doesn’t support that view and more importantly the contemporary Christ-informed setting consumes Paul’s vision such that a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.
Hopefully, that is an adequate summary of the argument. It only scratches the surface of the exegesis and work put into the monograph. I will return in my next post to give my evaluation of the work.
Friday, 9 August 2013
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Warren Carter’s Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World (Baker, 2013) is a clear and well-written introduction to issues relevant for understanding early Christianity. The book is structured around seven crucial ‘events’ (using the term loosely at times) that impacted the world of early Christianity. The seven events are:
- The Death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE): explores the significance of the spread of Hellenism and compares Alexander with Jesus
- The Process of Translating Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (ca. 250 BCE): discusses the tale of the Septuagint and how early Christians read the Scriptures with ‘Jesus-glasses’
- The Rededication of the Jerusalem Temple (164 BCE): explains how the Maccabean revolt and the events following it helped form Jewish identity
- The Roman Occupation of Judea (63 BCE): describes the rise and impact of Roman rule in Judea and how early Christians responded to Roman rule
- The Crucifixion of Jesus (ca. 30 CE): addresses who was crucified in the ancient world and why Jesus was crucifed both historically and theologically
- The Writing of the New Testament Texts (ca. 50 — ca. 130 CE): goes over briefly the standard introductory issues, such as authorship and purpose
- The Process of ‘Closing’ the New Testament Canon (397 CE): outlines five stages that lead to the canon and then surveys some of the criteria for canonization
Carter explores the historical and social context of these events. His concern is less with individual figures or the event itself. Rather, he is interested in a ‘people’s-history’, so he explores the relevance of these events for the lives of the common folks. He highlights in each chapter the significance of these events for the development of the early Christian community. Spread throughout are pictures and sidebars that briefly explain related issues or develop some point in slightly more detail.
Scholars won’t find anything surprising in Carter’s discussion, although as with any short book like this one would wish for some more explanation at points. At times I thought that Carter presented conclusions as universal givens when there is dispute about the matters. For example, the discussion of the authorship of the disputed Pauline letters was too one-sided for me. Also, each chapter contains a short bibliography, although the lists don’t reflect well ongoing discussions and tend to be one-sided.
Perhaps the most disputed point will be the selection of these seven events. I think Carter is right to highlight these, but I wondered why there was nothing about the resurrection. Arguably the cross is meaningless without the resurrection. The chapter on Christ’s crucifixion needs to be supplemented by discussion of the resurrection for the full significance to come out.
Although Carter’s work is focused primarily on the ancient context, scattered throughout and particularly in the Conclusion are reflections on the relevance of the New Testament for today. I appreciate his concern to bring the ancient context of the New Testament into connection with its relevance for today. His final words are worth highlighting:
Reading with awareness of the worlds from which these texts emerged and reading in community help readers to have genuine conversation with the texts and with other readers, rather than simply making the texts reflect our prejudices and preferences. Reading in community requires awareness of how readers are interpreting the texts, what values and practices they are promoting, and who is being harmed and benefited by the interpretation. Reading in community requires conversation and accountability. (p.159)
Overall, I like this book and especially the idea of picking seven key events to focus on. I imagine that designing an Introduction to the New Testament class around these events would help students navigate the complexity of the ancient world and early Christianity’s place within it. Also, it would move beyond the typical approach of working book by book through the critical issues. I, though, wouldn’t use the book itself as a core textbook simply because it lacks the necessary detail that I want in an core textbook. But, that being said, I will be recommending it to my students as a starting point to help them get into the context of the New Testament.
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
A couple of weeks ago I noted that Dale Allison’s James and Karl Donfried’s 1 & 2 Thessalonians ICC volumes were selling at reasonable prices at bookdepository.com. The bad news is that the prices of the volumes have since been raised. The good news is that, on various websites, additional ICC volumes are now listed as available for pre-order. E. Earle Ellis’ posthumous 1 Corinthians is available at a significant discount (33% off) at Amazon, as is Loveday Alexander’s Hebrews (35% off). This is quite a productive year for the ICC. Does anybody know who has taken over the editorship of the series since Graham Stanton’s death?
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.
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)
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
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