Reading Romans in ContextSo our Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism was officially released yesterday. A friend tweeted that it was on high on an Amazon ranking, even beating out N.T. Wright for something. When I first went looking I searched under “Amazon Hot New Releases”. Then I drilled down through various sub-options: “books,” “Christian books,” and then “Bible Studies” to get here. We were sitting at #16 at the beginning of the evening, and already dropped to #19 by last night. Glory is fleeting.

Then I went and looked at the specific page for our book, my heart was elevated again. We were listed as #1 New Release in Paul’s Letters. That was cool and then I even noticed that we’re beating out an N.T. Wright book: Paul and His Recent Interpreters.

So, I learned my lesson. I can be number 1 if I just draw the circle small enough. As I always tell my wife, she is my favorite wife. : )

Ben C. Blackwell:

Just listened to all three of these. Learned lots of new things, reinforced some old things, and enjoyed them all!

Originally posted on Crux Sola:


The Association of Theological Schools has produced recordings of several fantastic webinars to help new seminary faculty and young scholars.

Webinar #1: Susan Garrett (Louisville Seminary) – “What They Tell You and What They Don’t: Conversations with the Dean on Promotion and Tenure”

Webinar #2: Carey Newman (Baylor University Press) “Publishing 101: What to Expect, What to Do”

Webinar #3: Andrea White (Candler): “Establishing a Research Agenda”

I listened to the first two (Garrett and Newman). Even though I just finished my first year at George Fox Seminary, this is actually my sixth year of full-time teaching, so Garrett’s advice is accurate and informative, but not new to me. I found very insightful Newman’s window into the publishing world. His advice is particularly helpful on #1: Forging partnerships strategically with publishers and #2: getting your dissertation published as a “regular book.” Also a great Q & A Session at about…

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One of the great things about my experience of Durham was learning about all the excellent scholars that had shaped the university’s past. In fact, I knew of many of the names of the scholars there, but never associated them with Durham before I arrived. Of course, one the influential NT scholars there of the past generation was Charles Cranfield, whose passing we were just notified about. I had the pleasure of having coffee with him, and following in my friend Nijay’s steps, I’m posting the summary of my time with him here.

Coffee with Charles Cranfield (23 June 2008)

At CK Barrett’s 90th birthday last year, someone mentioned that they were sad that Charles (aka C.E.B.) Cranfield wasn’t able to make it.  He’s just a year or so older than Kingsley, but can’t make it around as well.  John Barclay mentioned that Professor Cranfield does like to have students over, so I finally got around to asking for his info to have coffee.  He was kind enough to invite me over, and we had a nice chat about my studies and his thoughts on theology, plus I asked a few questions offered up by readers here.  He is quite candid about his opinions both theological and political, especially on points of disagreement.

As to his background, he mentioned that he originally studied classics and later did theology at Cambridge.  (His language ability is hard to believe…from memory he quoted John Chrysostom in Greek and later Aquinas in Latin.)  He spent the summer of 1939 in Basel, Switzerland but had to leave because of the beginning of WW2.  He was later an army chaplain and worked with the German Confessing movement after the war as well as with the World Council of Churches.  He came to Durham in 1950.  He was raised Methodist but noted switching to the reformed church because, among other things, of their reading of Rom 7 as applying to a Christian, which is no surprise if you’ve read his commentary.

For being 92 (almost 93–so that puts his birthday in 1915, Mike) and failing eyesight, he’s quite sharp and still well read, for instance he mentioned going through Watson’s Hermeneutics of Faith and Jewett’s Romans commentary.  Speaking of Romans commentaries, he noted several recent ones but seemed to have a critique for each one in some way or other.  I think Käsemann’s came off the highest.  He commented in particular that he wasn’t a fan of the New Perspective, so he thought Dunn’s commentary was off target in those areas.  He didn’t go into it in any detail but it didn’t seem like he thought there was a need to find a way forward.  (Regarding his own commentary, he mentioned that he would have made some changes but unfortunately didn’t elaborate further.  Though, on the ‘too reformed’ aspect in the questions, he noted he’s a good Calvinist, but with the ‘necessary’ revision of election offered by Barth.)  He noted particularly the commentaries of John Chrysostom and Aquinas as excellent but often overlooked, and that Pelagius’ commentary is quite helpful at times.

I asked him what 5 books or so a theologian would need to read in order to not be ‘uneducated’.  He offered these: 1) Barth’s original commentary on Romans because of its historical importance,  2) Shakespeare and John Milton, and 3) Greek writers: Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Aeschylus, and Euripides, and 4) the commentaries of Calvin and Luther.

The Department of Theology at Houston Baptist University is pleased to host a conference on “The Church and Early Christianity” on April 16-18, 2015. Our keynote speakers are

John Barclay (Durham University)

Everett Ferguson (Abilene Christian University)

Ben Witherington (Asbury Theological Seminary)

You can find out more details at

Call for Papers: We are inviting papers representing a variety of approaches from scholars and graduate students in this area of study.  We are particularly interested in the development of early Christian communities within their wider theological and cultural contexts in the first two centuries. This includes theological reflections about ecclesiology as well as social relationships with Second Temple Jewish practices and institutions, relationships within early Christian communities, and the relationship of early Christian communities with the wider Greco-Roman culture. Participants will have 25-30 minutes to present papers (inclusive of Q&A). Please submit a 200-300 word abstract to Dr. Ben C. Blackwell at by February 15, 2015.

I see that the REF 2014 results were released today, so I was very interested to see how the various departments around the UK performed for Theology and Religious Studies. (For those that are not aware, the UK rates the research output for each of the university departments to help determine funding.) For some reason they don’t provide a weighted ranking of the departments, so I’ve done a quick assessment based on the overall percentages given a 0-4 ranking based on the recognized excellence at a national vs international level (see description at the bottom). I was surprised by some of the overall rankings especially given the previous results (see below), but I’ll reserve commentary here and just provide the results. The GPA is the weighted average of the 0-4 ranking. You’ll see that Durham is the top ranked department, just as it was for the most recent previous exercise: the 2008 RAE.

2014 REF Overall Results for Theology and Religious Studies Departments

% of the submission meeting the standard for:
University GPA 4* 3* 2* 1* U/C FTE
Average (FTE Weighted) 2.91 28 40 27 5 0 12.5
University of Durham 3.34 50 35 14 1 0 24.8
University of Birmingham 3.26 51 28 17 4 0 9.0
Lancaster University 3.15 42 33 23 2 0 22.3
University College London 3.15 37 41 22 0 0 7.0
University of Leeds 3.15 33 49 18 0 0 10.8
University of Cambridge 3.12 34 46 19 0 1 24.4
University of Kent 3.11 38 37 23 2 0 7.9
University of Edinburgh 3.09 34 44 19 3 0 26.6
King’s College London 3.08 39 37 18 5 1 26.0
Cardiff University 3.06 33 43 21 3 0 8.6
School of Oriental and African Studies 3.04 29 49 20 1 1 14.3
University of Oxford 3.02 34 38 24 4 0 32.7
University of Exeter 3.01 21 62 14 3 0 11.2
University of Nottingham 3.01 30 44 23 3 0 15.7
University of Manchester 2.97 28 47 20 4 1 14.5
University of Sheffield 2.93 21 51 28 0 0 4.0
University of St Andrews 2.93 31 31 38 0 0 14.0
University of Aberdeen 2.88 29 39 24 7 1 19.0
University of Bristol 2.85 21 45 32 2 0 8.6
Heythrop College 2.82 22 40 36 2 0 15.8
Open University 2.71 18 35 47 0 0 6.0
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 2.64 14 48 26 12 0 8.2
University of Glasgow 2.56 11 44 35 10 0 10.9
Canterbury Christ Church University 2.52 6 47 40 7 0 9.0
Roehampton University 2.47 16 27 45 12 0 6.8
Liverpool Hope University 2.37 9 37 38 14 2 14.9
University of Chester 2.35 8 27 57 8 0 11.1
University of Winchester 2.33 6 36 43 15 0 8.4
University of Gloucestershire 2.21 3 30 52 15 0 5.3
St Mary’s University, Twickenham 2.2 9 26 41 24 0 4.8
York St John University 2.07 2 23 57 16 2 7.0
Leeds Trinity University 1.99 0 34 32 33 1 3.5
Newman University 1.79 0 26 28 45 1 2.0

For a quick comparison, here are the top 5 of the 2008 RAE Results:

% of the submission meeting the standard for:
University GPA 4* 3* 2* 1* U/C FTE
University of Durham 3.00 40 25 30 5 0 19
University of Aberdeen 2.95 15 65 20 0 0 18
University of Cambridge 2.90 35 25 35 5 0 32
University of Oxford 2.90 30 35 30 5 0 41
University College London 2.90 30 40 20 10 0 7.2

GPA – Weighted average of the % of the submission meeting the standard for:

  • 4* Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 3* Quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • 2* Quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 1* Quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified Quality that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

FTE – Full Time Equivalent faculty members who rated

We are growing our student numbers and graduate programs here at Houston Baptist University, so we have just posted an open rank position to begin in the Fall of 2015. Check out the full ad at HBU’s website, but here is the key information:

The successful candidate will have appropriate academic (PhD or terminal degree) and professional experience in a field related to one of the programs in the Department of Theology. The candidate will provide documentation of an excellent teaching record and evidence of scholarly interests and achievements. Candidates should have a strong research record. In addition, candidates may be considered for the role of Director of one of the graduate programs in the School of Christian Thought.

A few notes,

  • We particularly are interested in deepening our faculty representation in Old Testament and/or Historical/Systematic Theology, though we are not limiting applications just to those areas.
  • We will likely start an MDiv program in the fall of 2015. A distinctive aspect of the program is that it will be intentionally ministry focused, with internships throughout the program rather than just as an afterthought at the end of one’s coursework. If the candidate serves as the director of that program, s/he would coordinate the student interns and our relationship with partner churches.
  • We have intentions to strengthen our academic offerings further, so the strong research record is important.

Do send in your application or pass the word along to those whom you think may be interested and qualified.

I totally stole this post from Michael Barber, but who could resist. Plus, I want to all of you to be saved from academic marginalization…

If you are a serious Pauline scholar, you apparently know what he looked like.

Michael Bird, Chris TillingNijay Gupta, Ben Blackwell, Nathan Eubank–take note. If you decide on using a different picture of the Apostle on your future books on Paul, be forewarned that you will risk being marginalized. Go the safe route. Go with the majority opinion. Don’t question the emerging consensus on Paul’s appearance and opt for a more controversial position.
You’ve been warned. Your academic credibility is on the line here.


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