First comes the redemptive work of God on behalf of the people. This serves to ground their precarious existence in the deliverance from both historical and cosmic enemies that God accomplishes on their behalf. The elect people is now a redeemed people. Only then is the law given at Sinai. The law is a gift to an already redeemed community. The law is not the means by which the relationship with God is established; God redeems quite apart from human obedience.
Friday, 27 September 2013
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Friday, 27 September 2013
As I continue to read & write on Cyril of Alexandria, I have been reading through other Patristic works with Ben Blackwell and friends (including our own Jessica Parks and Michelle Mikeska). Thus, I recently re-read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and was struck by the following sentiments regarding the relationship between the divine Word of God and the body of Jesus:
Saturday, 21 September 2013
It doesn’t get any better than this:
Here then the Christian faith stakes out its claim in the widest possible terms. It is no new fangled or minority cult, pandering to the special interests of a small pocket of humanity. Its truth is not one truth among others, nor its Lord a recent arrival in the world of many competing gods. On the contrary, Colossians lays a Christian claim on the whole of life, the whole of humanity, the whole of history and the whole of the universe, all in the name of Christ, the secret of all things. (John Barclay, Colossians and Philemon 92-93)
Thursday, 12 September 2013
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Professor N. T. Wright has agreed to give two lectures at Houston Baptist University March 19-20, 2014 as part of a conference entitled "Paul and Judaism." Professors Beverly Gaventa (Baylor University) and Ross Wagner (Duke University) will be presenting major addresses as well. The university will issue a call for papers soon to allow scholars an opportunity to join us for this two day event.
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
I daily contemplate how I can improve my reading ability in Greek and Hebrew (as well as German and French). Now, I consider myself a very disciplined person, setting goals both short and long term, sticking diligently to my reading plans, getting up early or staying up late to finish my intended number of pages or chapters, etc.
Still, I know that I am not as good at these languages as I should be.
Friday, 2 August 2013
Every semester I introduce my students to a range of Jewish literature. In the first year module, Jesus and the Gospels, for example, I give a brief overview of the historical context and review the relevant collections of Jewish literature. We also spend several sessions looking at non-canonical gospels and comparing them with the canonical Gospels. But, despite trying to get my students to read the ancient material, many remain resistant. Some lack motivation. Others don’t see the value: they have their Bible so what else do they need? Some, however, do take up the challenge. I think the spectrum I see with my students is fairly typical of the response of most Christians, and it seems that the majority of my students and Christians I know don’t see any value in understanding the historical context.
Mike Bird draws attention to a helpful piece by Andy Naselli addressing the issue of whether or not ‘background’ (that is, historical) knowledge is necessary for understanding the Bible. Andy gives a ‘cautious yes’, and Mike adds some good points as well. Two additional points seem relevant to note:
1. It seems to me that the debate about whether historical awareness is necessary arises because we have translations. If I wanted to read a Russian novel, then I would need to learn Russian which would include reading about Russian history and culture, for the two (language and culture) cannot be separated. If all Bible students and Christians had to learn the original languages, then this question of historical knowledge wouldn’t exist.
To be clear, I’m not advocating that we do away with translations. It just seems to me that a key reason we even ask the question about the necessity or importance of historical awareness is because translations are available and the reader then assumes that he or she can properly and fully understand the Scriptures.
2. If we hold that no historical knowledge is necessary, then one must ask why God choose to reveal himself through Israel and for the Incarnation to occur during the Roman period rather than some other historical period. God could have simply dropped the Scriptures from heaven at any time and in any language. He could have used metaphors and concepts that fit better with our context. But he didn’t, and because he didn’t it is vital that we seek to understand the language, history and culture of the ancient world in order to understand better and more fully the meaning of the text.
I recently read a novel set in England at the beginning of the 11th century. After finishing the novel I read about some of the events described because there were parts of the story that didn’t make sense to me. This wasn’t the author’s fault. Rather it was my lack of knowledge about the period and I wanted to understand better the setting of the story. The same is true of Scripture. Any reader of Scripture, whether in the original languages or translation, can get the basic story line, but there will always be gaps in one’s understanding without some knowledge of the historical context. The more one knows about the historical and social contexts and the languages, then the better chance one has to understand the text in its fullest meaning. And for those who are able to study the historical context, the greater the responsiblity that is placed on them to teach and help those who are not given this privilege.
Friday, 19 July 2013
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In 2011, Elijah Rising (a ministry committed to ending human trafficking) began offering van tours throughout the city in order to promote awareness of the impact and prominence of sex trafficking in the city of Houston.
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
For the last month, I’ve been at Tyndale House in Cambridge on research leave. Here are some of the things I’ve liked about Tyndale:
You have a wealth of books and journal articles right at hand. There are, of course, bigger collections elsewhere and there are some things that Tyndale doesn’t have. But one of the advantages is that nothing leaves the library. So even if someone else has gotten a book from the shelve, you can go get it from them.
There is a seriousness about the place. From the first moment that you step into the library, you are very aware that everyone is there for one reason: to research. It’s not like most university libraries where there is constant noise and laughter. Here it is quite and everyone is busy.
For those of us in small departments, Tyndale provides an opportunity to discuss research and get that informal feedback that is so crucial to thinking and writing. The two scheduled tea times are a welcome break as everyone stops for 15 minutes or more and steps away from the books. There are so many people working here that you can find someone who has given some thought to just about anything.
If you have a chance to spend some time at Tyndale, I would highly recommend it. My plans already include another month here next summer.
Monday, 15 July 2013
This section from Genesis Rabbah 14.6 reminds me of Romans 5:12-21:
the man: for the sake of Abraham. R. Levi said: It is written, ‘The greatest man among the Anakim’: ‘man’ means Abraham, and why is he called the greatest man? Because he was worthy of being created before Adam, but the Holy One, blessed be he, reasoned: ‘He may sin and there will be none to set it right.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
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I’m spending a month at Tyndale House this summer on research leave. One event that overlapped with my time here was the meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship NT Study Group. Other groups meet as well, such as the OT, ethics and theology. These groups run at the beginning of July each year. This year’s papers included several from current PhD students, and the NT Tyndale Paper was given by Dr Hanna Stettler (University of Tübingen, Germany) on the question ‘Did Paul Invent Justification by Faith?’ in which she explored potential connections between Paul and Luke 18.
If you are a PhD student wanting to try out your research, I think these groups are a good place. You will receive constructive criticism, but there is a completely different feeling to the session. No one is attempting to make a name for themselves or trying to stand out.
The meetings are on the smaller side, unlike SBL, and people are not running from one session to the next. This means that you have a chance to talk with people like Howard Marshall or to meet new people. This year I met Tim Gombis (who blogs at Faith Improvised) and Erwin Ochsenmeier (who blogs at Foursenses). One of the enjoyable things about Tyndale is the international element. Another enjoyable feature, and this goes for the British New Testament Conference as well, is that everyone eats meals together. Sharing a meal changes the dynamics of a meeting and is a reminder that life is about more than just research.
So, if you are in the UK at the beginning of July, you should think about coming along to one of the Tyndale Fellowship Study Groups.