General


This is a great quote by Clement that hits most of his key ideas. I’m doing a comparative piece on Clement and Irenaeus, and the difference between the nature of the image of God is fundamental. Irenaeus places it in the union of the body plus soul, whereas Clement places the image in the soul alone (without vilifying the body):

He is the Gnostic, who is after the image and likeness of God, who imitates God as far as possible, deficient in none of the things which contribute to the likeness as far as compatible, practicing self-restraint and endurance, living righteously, reigning over the passions, bestowing of what he has as far as possible, and doing good both by word and deed. . . . For conformity with the image and likeness is not meant of the body (for it were wrong for what is mortal to be made like what is immortal), but in mind and reason, on which fitly the Lord impresses the seal of likeness, both in respect of doing good and of exercising rule. (Stromateis 2.19)

Ben C. Blackwell:

Good summary of Richard Hays’ visit to HBU…

Originally posted on A Word in Edgewise:

Richard Hays, dean of Duke Divinity School and one of the top New Testament scholars in the world, was on the campus of HBU recently to give the A. O. Collins lectures in theology. He gave two lectures exploring the ways in which the New Testament evangelists read and incorporate Israel’s Scriptures into their Gospels. Hays is working on a book which will be published in the next year by Baylor University Press, so I won’t give away too much; I’ll only hint at certain things which hopefully will make the book something you want to read for yourselves.

Richard Hays

Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School, Duke University

The title to his first talk was: “The Manger in Which Christ Lies”: Figural Readings of Israel’s Scriptures.” The title was taken from the introduction to one of Martin Luther’s books. Rather than seeing the Old Testament as somehow different from, indeed…

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I’ve just listened to N. T. Wright’s lecture on “Israel in Pauline Theology” from the HBU conference held a little over a week ago (see below). I’ve read Wright plenty before on this and related issues, so there were no real surprises here in his exegesis and overall reading of Paul. For Wright, Jesus Christ and the multi-ethnic church are the true Israel. Thus, Paul does not anticipate any yet-fulfilled mass conversion of Israelites prior to the second coming (as the scholarly majority seems to understand Rom 11:25-26 to predict).

I’m quite happy with the way Wright interprets many individual texts, though I disagree with him on at least a couple of significant issues in the lecture (esp. Rom 11:25-26), and ultimately with his final position. I won’t quibble with the content of his exegesis, since many capable scholars have already done this elsewhere (in addition to many mainline commentators, see, e.g., the recent article by my colleague Michael G. Vanlaningham, “An Evaluation of N. T. Wright’s View of Israel in Romans 11,” BibSac 170 (2013): 179-93). But there are a few things Wright says or does (methodologically) here that I think are just plain odd, even for him.

First, given the topic of Wright’s lecture, I was surprised by how quickly he asserted his position on the meaning of “Israel of God” in Gal 6:16 and then just moved on. Near the end of the 57th minute, he says, “[In] Galatians 6:16, he [Paul] calls the church ‘the Israel of God’; I think there is no doubt about that.” That’s it. No exegesis and no argument. This is unfortunate considering how much discussion that verse has received and how many scholars plainly disagree with Wright on this text (see, e.g.,  Susan Grove Eastman, “Israel and the Mercy of God: A Re-reading of Galatians 6.16 and Romans 9-11,” NTS 56 [2010]: 367-95; Bruce Longenecker, “Salvation History in Galatians and the Making of a Pauline Discourse,” JSPL 2 [2012]: 65-87, at 79-80).

To be sure, Wright warns at the beginning of the lecture that he will principally focus on passages that don’t use the term “Israel” at all. I suppose that’s fine. But it is astonishing that he then so quickly bypasses those that do while also maintaining how crucial they are for a coherent reading of Paul. What I mean is that, in my opinion, Wright terribly exagerates the significance of Gal 6:16 and Rom 11:25-26 in Pauline thought when, at the 59th minute, he says, “if those passages don’t refer to the church, then Paul has just unmade the whole theological structure he has so obviously got throbbing through his head and his heart.” Again, this is just asserted, not argued: it is as if he simply forces his entire pre-conceived ecclesiology onto the two passages. Exegetical debates aside, it is just baffingly to me that Wright would place so much significance on two texts he hardly discusses in this hour-long lecture, or to put it the other way around, that he would hardly discuss two texts he considers to be so important.

Finally, as a progressive dispensationalist, I was confused at the 12th minute when he responded to the claim of some dispensationalists (not me) that in Romans 11 Paul predicts the return of the Jews to the land. Wright says in response, “This would be odd [for Paul to predict], not least, because of course when Paul wrote Romans, they [Israel] had not left it [i.e., the land] in the first place,” a comment that sounds like it incited a great deal of laughter. But what does Wright mean about the Jews having not left the land? Had the Jewish Diaspora come to an end before 57 AD? There were obviously thousands upon thousands of Israelites still scattered across the Mediterannean. So I don’t get it. This is a very odd criticism, and one that too quickly won the audience’s approval.

Nonetheless, I appreciate Wright’s attempt to read ALL of Paul and to make his entire theological vision work together, even if I disagree with how he goes about it. I may have my summer school Romans class listen to this lecture (and maybe another one of Wright’s on justification), since it provides a good representation of Wright’s system and is generally quite easy to follow.

Ben C. Blackwell:

I’m overseeing an MA thesis on Barth’s theological exegesis by Jessica Parks. Here’s a nice quote she found…

Originally posted on Cataclysmic:

“My sole aim was to interpret Scripture.  I beg my readers not to assume from the outset–as many in Germany have assumed–that I am not interpreting Scripture at all, or rather, that I am interpreting it ‘spiritually’.  In this context the word ‘spiritually’ is used, of course to convey a rebuke.  It may be however, that the rebuke turns back most heavily upon those who launch it so easily against me.  The publication of this book in English may perhaps lead to a fresh formulation of the problem, ‘What is exegesis?’  No one can, of course, bring out the meaning of a text ( auslegen) without at the same time adding something to it (einlegen ).  Moreover, no interpreter is rid of the danger of in fact adding more than he extracts.  I neither was nor am free from this danger.  And yet I should be altogether…

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Houston Baptist University is hosting a conference on “Paul and Judaism” on March 19-20, 2014. Our keynote speakers include N.T. Wright (St Andrews University)Beverly Gaventa (Baylor University), and Ross Wagner (Duke Divinity School).

In addition to the keynote speakers, we are inviting papers in the area of Paul and Judaism, representing a variety of approaches from scholars and graduate students. Participants will have 30 minutes to present papers (inclusive of Q&A). Please submit a 200-300 word abstract to Dr. Ben C. Blackwell at bblackwell[at]hbu.edu by January 15, 2014, and you should receive notification regarding acceptance by January 31. Registration by February 15 is required for those who will present at the conference.

For more info: www.hbu.edu/theologyconference

Ben C. Blackwell:

I first really imbibed this idea when reading Scott Hafemann on covenant in biblical theology. This is a great expression of the idea that the Mosaic covenant is based on grace…

Originally posted on Crux Sola:

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. But then the concern for the law suddenly fills the scene, not only in Exodus, but in the remainder of the Pentateuch. Central to the law is the issue of faithfulness to God alone, particularly as manifested in proper worship. Such faithfulness and other forms of obedience are certainly in Israel’s own interests for the best life possible (see Deut. 4:4). But Israel is called beyond itself to a…

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Ben C. Blackwell:

Good questions about Athanasius that came up in class.

Originally posted on Cataclysmic:

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:

For he [the Word of God] was not enclosed in the body, nor was he in the body but not elsewhere.  Nor while he moved that [body] was the universe left void of his activity and providence.  But, what is most marvelous, being the Word, he was not contained by anyone, but rather himself contained everything.  And, as being in all creation, he is in essence outside everything but inside everything by his own power, arranging everything, and unfolding his own providence in everything to all things, and…

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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)

Ben C. Blackwell:

Excited doesn’t capture our feelings.

Originally posted on A Word in Edgewise:

Tom WrightProfessor 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.  For more information contact Dr. Ben Blackwell at 281.649.3000.

Professor Wright will also be on hand Friday, March 21, 2014,  to lecture for the Lanier Theological Library in Houston. 

Professor Wright has recently completed a new book entitled Paul and the Faithfulness of God.  All of his lectures during this series will deal with Paul.

Recently Professor Michael Bird sat down with Wright to discuss his new book (approximately 25 minutes).   This interview offers a good summary of Wright’s approach.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2013/09/interview-with-n-t-wright-on-paul-and-the-faithfulness-of-god/

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Ben C. Blackwell:

Tavis is part of the newer Durham (i.e., Dunelm) crowd, and he has a great post about learning languages and the discipline and time it requires.

Originally posted on Abbey House Sojourner:

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. Applaud me for even attempting to study them if you’d like, but you see, I’m not the kind of person that ever does something half-mast. Ask my wife to describe me and she’ll use one word: “intense.” (I prefer “motivated.”)

My self-assessed shortcomings in the languages are scary, because I’m about to begin a PhD in New Testament studies at Durham University, considered by many to be one of the best theology departments in the world.

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