Matt O’Reilly has written a review of Reading Romans in Context edited by Ben, John and myself at his blog Orthodoxy for Everyone. He writes toward the end:

Reading Romans in Context is distinct in that it introduces elements of context by focusing on particular texts. We might say that books on biblical backgrounds often take a wide-angle approach; Reading Romans in Context is a zoom lens that takes the reader up close to the particularities of the ideas in question. I find that students are sometimes intimidated by the large amounts of information that come with a lecture or reading assignment on New Testament backgrounds. There is a lot to learn, and it takes a lot of work. The precision focus of the chapters in this book strikes me as offering a complimentary approach that has potential to mitigate that problem. Students should be able to handle this book, and I am happy to recommend its use in a course introducing the New Testament, Paul and his letters, or on the exegesis of Romans. As a pastor, I would also feel comfortable recommending this book to an interested layperson in a local church setting.

Thanks Matt for the review. Although there are not formal plans (yet) for additional volumes on Paul’s letter, we are working on Reading Mark in Context.

My thanks to Zondervan and Mike Bird for a copy of his latest book, What Christians ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed.

I haven’t had the chance to work through the whole volume yet, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. The structure of the book is simple. After some overview chapters about the development and importance of creeds and the nature of ‘faith’, Mike works through the Creed line by line. In his exploration of each line, Mike shows the connections with the Bible and ancient traditions. The chapters are also filled with personal stories, hymns and movie references.

One element I appreciate is that the book is pastorally sensitive. Mike connects the Creed with every day life but doesn’t shy away from aspects that can be uncomfortable for some (such as the language of Father for God). This is a book that takes the Creed seriously as a summary of the Christian faith and as a call to shape one’s life by that faith.

This book is not written for the scholar. That is, you won’t find here complex discussions of the text of the Creed (although it is discussed briefly) or lots of footnotes. The volume is written for the average church goer. I can imagine this book being used in a small group or Sunday School class. It is undoubtedly much better than much of the other material commonly used in small groups.

I know there are other books available on the Apostles’ Creed, but I’ve not looked at them. Perhaps Mike could do a couple of blog posts on how his book relates to other studies on the Apostles’ Creed.

In nearly every work in theological or biblical anthropology one finds a discussion of the ‘image of God’. The recent volume The Image of God in an Image Driven Age: Explorations in Theological Anthropology (eds. Beth Felker Jones and Jeffrey W. Barbeau; Downers Grove: IVP, 2016) seeks to place this phrase in its biblical context and to draw out the theological and ethical implications of the idea that all humans are created in God’s image. The editors describe the aim of this work in this manner: ‘The Image of God in an Image Driven Age encourages continued reflection on the imago Dei in a time when narcissism reigns and new patterns of living are desperately needed’ (p.261). The papers originated from the twenty-fourth annual Wheaton Theology Conference and draw on scholars from Wheaton and wider. A unique aspect of this volume is that the papers are not only by biblical scholars and theologians, but also artists. The reflections on the place of image theology in art and culture adds a new dimension to the usual discussions.

Part One of the book addresses the biblical material and rehearses the usual explanations for what image of God means. The papers are clear although the discussions don’t bring any significantly new evidence to the table. Catherine McDowell’s and Craig L. Blomberg’s papers would serve well as entry routes into the discussion. In Part Two the authors connect the image of God with the themes of sexuality, iconoclasm and Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. The chapters are interesting attempts to trace how humanity as image bearers is reflected and distorted in various ways. Similarly, Part Three expands the link between image bearing, culture and theology. One of the more interesting papers is Janet Soskice’s piece ‘The God of Creative Address: Creation, Christology and Ethics’. She contends that image bearing should be linked with speech. She emphasizes that image bearing is a physical idea and cannot be limited to rationality. The paper is a creative theological reading of Scripture. Part Four focuses on the ethical implications of humanity as image bearing. Beth Felker Jones’ piece ‘Witnessing in Freedom: Resisting Commodification of the Image’ presents a strong challenge to the selling of the human in practices such as slavery and marketing of body images in adverts. She addresses sexual ethics as a specific form of the exploitation of humans.

The volume brings up some interesting issues related to the image of God. I did feel that there was a lack of explicit Christological reflection on this subject. The Genesis account of the image of God was given priority and seemed to set the agenda for many of the papers.

In celebration of upcoming 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ Greek text and the Reformation, the Department of Theology at HBU, in conjunction with the Dunham Bible Museum, is pleased to host the conference Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus’ Bible and the Impact of Scripture. The conference will be hold at HBU on February 25-27, 2016.

We will consider the textual and historical issues surrounding the development of the Bible, the Bible’s impact on human society across the centuries, and the future of Biblical translation and interpretation in the future. Our keynote speakers include Craig Evans (Houston Baptist University), Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University), Herman Selderhuis (Theological University Apeldoorn) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

We also invite proposals for short papers from scholars and graduate students from a wide array of disciplines and topics, including:

  • The historical context, and textual tradition, of the Biblical canon;
  • The history of the Greek text of the Bible;
  • The social and/or cultural impact of the Bible in any historical period or location;
  • The Bible and the history of the book;
  • Modern Bible translations and translation practice;
  • Textual and cultural issues concerning the Bible in the Digital Age.

Anyone who is interested should submit a 300 word abstract on any relevant topic by December 18, 2015. Papers should be 20 minutes long, and decisions will be announced in early January. Send proposals to Jason Maston at jmaston@hbu.edu.

You can get further information and register here:  www.hbu.edu/theologyconference.

There are several upcoming events that I want to bring to everyone’s attention.

First, on October 29th at 7:30pm Nick Perrin, from Wheaton College, will deliver this year’s A.O. Collins Lectures. His title is “From Stories to Scriptures: When Did the Gospels Become Authoritative?” Prof. Perrin is an internationally recognized expert in the Gospels. He has written on the Gospel of Thomas and the historical Jesus. The lecture is free and open to the public. (See here for more details.)

Second, we are very excited about this year’s Theology conference: “Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus’ Bible and the Impact of Scripture.” The conference marks the 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ Greek text and the Reformation. Our keynote speakers are Craig Evans (Houston Baptist University), Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University), Herman Selderhuis (Theological University Apeldoorn) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

As with previous conferences, we invite short papers. The call for papers can be found at the Conference webpage: www.hbu.edu/theologyconference. You can also find a schedule and registration information there.

When working on Romans 7, I struggled to grasp how Paul was conceptualising ‘sin’. I eventually settled on the position that he viewed ‘sin’ as more than wrongdoing and that he was not only personifying an abstract idea. Rather, Paul had in mind something more sinister, more powerful. I adopted the language of ‘quasi-personal being’, which was a compromise but at least indicated that more was going on. How best to understand Paul’s statements, though, has remained a problem for me. Thus, when I saw Robert Moses’ book Practices of Power: Revisiting the Principalities and Powers in the Pauline Letters (Fortress, 2014), I was naturally drawn to it.

Moses’ study, though, is not like the typical investigations of Paul’s principalities and powers language. Rather than focusing primarily on the question of what Paul meant by this language, Moses turns his attention to how Paul instructs his congregations to act (the ‘practices’) in regard to the powers. This shift in focus is a breakthrough in the discussion of the powers, undercutting a good deal of the discussion. To be sure, Moses realises that one can’t discuss how a person should act toward the powers without some assessment of how Paul conceptualises the powers. His second chapter surveys four common approaches to the topic:

Clinton Arnold: Personal Spiritual Beings

Rudolf Bultmann: Demythologizing and Existentialist Interpretation

Hendrik Berkhof: Structural Interpretation of the Powers

Walter Wink: Invisible Interiority of Material and Outer Materiality

He highlights a variety of problems with these approaches, but more significant is his contention that the missing element in these discussions is Paul’s account of how the community acts with regard to the powers. He writes, ‘Whatever we may consider to be Paul’s theology of the powers, his understanding is embodied and social, disclosed by practices he performed or advocated for the early believers’ (p.39). Moses’ proceeds to discuss key sections of Romans, 1& 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Colossians. He highlights practices that not only remove humans from the control of the powers (such as baptism in Romans), but also ones that place humans under their control (such as idolatry in 1 Cor 8-10 and Galatians). The discussion is exegetically sensitive, and he often highlights how Paul’s arguments are influenced by the Old Testament. He offers several interesting and new arguments in support of standard views as well as his own solutions to longstanding problems.

To highlight one point where I think more could be said, I would like more discussion of exactly how the practices guard or expose humans to the powers. That is, given the exegetical work, some theological reflection is now needed. For example, Moses rightly identifies the crucial role of baptism. The discussion could be extended by engaging with the theologians on what is happening in baptism. This isn’t a weakness in Moses’ study; rather, it is the opportunity for someone to develop his insights into the practices further.

The book concludes by ‘applying’ Paul’s language about the practices of power to the African context. Unlike modern Western (scholarly) society, the African religions have a robust view of ‘powers’ and have devised a variety of practices to counteract them. The chapter is a fascinating case-study of how to apply Pauline theology to the real world. The chapter is also a strong critique of Western scholarship which discounts or re-interprets Paul’s powers language based on myopic views of truth and reality. However Moses intended the chapter to function, it serves as a call for scholars to see beyond our own culture and let others give us a wider view.

Overall, I think this book has a lot to contribute to the discussion of Paul’s view of the powers. It isn’t the last word, as Moses himself acknowledges, but I think he opens a new door that can help us in the task of understanding Paul’s theology and applying it to our own contexts. If you have any money left over after SBL or are looking for a Christmas present, Moses’ Practices of Power would be worth considering.

One of the exciting developments in recent scholarship is the series Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity (BMSEC) edited by Wayne Coppins and Simon Gathercole. The initial volumes have already received much attention. Wayne has been involved in a range of translation work, and the idea to include some translations of Martin Hengel’s work in Earliest Christian History came from him. I’ve asked Wayne, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia, some questions about the series and translating German.

1. Before this series you produced several translations of German material. What led to your interest in German scholarship and particularly providing English translations?

After completing my B.A. in Greek and Latin at the University of Georgia in 1998, my friend Jay Weldon invited me to join him in Germany where he was taking part in a UGA exchange program at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Since I was already considering graduate studies in religion, this seemed like a great way to learn German and so I took him up on his offer and moved to Germany in January 1999. I initially planned on staying a year at the most, but at some point I discovered it was basically free to study in Germany (cf. Andy Bowden), which contributed to my decision to enroll at the University of Tübingen, while living at the Albrecht Bengel Haus. At this time, I first discovered something of the riches of German scholarship, especially through my classes with Friedrich Avemarie, Peter Stuhlmacher, Otfried Hofius, Bernd Janowski, Dorothea Wendebourg, and Eberhard Jüngel, but also through my friends and teachers at the Bengel Haus. And my appreciation for the German tradition continued to grow in the course of my M.A. an PhD studies in Durham and Cambridge. During my time in Tübingen, Friedrich Avemarie also gave me my first academic job working as a Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft for the Tübingen-Durham Resurrection volume, and Peter Stuhlmacher asked me to translate one of his lectures for an upcoming trip to the States. These experiences gave me my first taste of editorial and translation work, and I found that I enjoyed it. This conviction likewise continued to deepen during and after my MA and PhD, when I had the opportunity to translate four essays by or about Martin Hengel. Against this background, I think my interest in translation has three main sources, namely a) my transforming experience with German scholars(hip) in Tübingen, b) the translation opportunities that I received in Tübingen and Cambridge, which helped me to discover how much I enjoyed this work, and c) my growing conviction that translation represented an excellent way for me to contribute to the advancement of my field.

2. What led to your involvement with the BMSEC Series

The short answer is that I wanted to create a framework in which my translation work could be part of a larger vision for facilitating increased dialogue between German-language and English-language scholarship. For a longer answer, see my interview with Michael Hölscher.

3. What do you hope this series will accomplish for scholarship?

Since I spend much of my existence translating and editing volumes for the series, it will come as no surprise that I have great hopes for it! Let me outline these in three points.

(a) First, I hope that each volume in the series will make important contributions to concrete areas of scholarship within the field. For example, I hope Jens Schröter’s book From Jesus to the New Testament will be taken up in discussions of historiography, historical Jesus, Pauline studies, Luke-Acts, the canon, and theology of the New Testament!

(b) Second, beyond their individual contributions, I hope that each volume will serve as a window into the wider world of German scholarship and thereby enable English-speaking scholars to become more conversant with emphases and developments that characterize cutting-edge German scholarship.

(c) Third, I hope—or at least dream—that the series will contribute to a resurgence of interest in German scholarship on early Christianity and that this will, in turn, motivate a new generation of scholars to commit themselves to learning German, so that they can interact even more fully with the German tradition in their research and teaching.

4. How do you choose which books to translate? The volumes so far have been recent books. Will the series also pick up some older material?

The short answer to your first question is that we—i.e. Simon Gathercole and I in conversation with Carey Newman and Henning Ziebritzki—look for works that are of incredibly high quality and written by respected authors, without requiring that they fit a certain genre. For example, the first five volumes will include two collections of essays (Schröter and Frey), three monographs (Konradt, Markschies, and Hengel/Schwemer), and one commentary (Wolter). For a longer answer, see my interview with Clifford Kvidahl (Part I and Part II).

It is not impossible that the series will include some older material, but I doubt it. The reason for this is because I think much interaction with German scholarship is too backward looking. When people think of German New Testament scholarship they often think only of the formative period of the discipline or of the contributions of Bultmann and his students. This is not, of course, all wrong, since it is absolutely essential that scholarship continue to grapple with the contributions and issues raised by such key figures and movements (cf. e.g. here and here ). At the same time, part of my vision for the series is to communicate with all due clarity that contemporary German scholarship on early Christianity is alive and well, so that the future of German scholarship also lies in the present and not merely or even primarily in the past. And for what it is worth, I also think that engaging contemporary German scholarship is often an especially fruitful way to discover the strengths and shortcomings of past German giants, or at least this has been the case with my interaction with Schröter and Markschies in relation to Bultmann and Harnack.

5. Will you tell us a little about what will be out at SBL in November 2014 and in the future in the series?

The volumes that have been planned out so far are as follows:

Vol. 1 (2013): Jens Schröter, From Jesus to the New Testament (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 2 (2014): I am very excited about this year’s BMSEC volume, namely Matthias Konradt‘s book Israel, Kirche und die Völker im Matthäusevangelium Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew, not least because of the ringing endorsements that the German and English versions have received from Ulrich Luz (‘die wichtigste Arbeit über das Matthäusevangelium der letzten zehn Jahren’Evangelium Ecclesiasticum, p. 285) and Dale Allison (‘Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew is full of original observations and fresh arguments. Konradt has built a new foundation for all future work on the crucial topic of Israel and the Church in Matthew’s Gospel’, Endorsement for the English Edition). And in addition to the high quality of the argument, I think that Kathleen Ess has done an absolutely wonderful job with the translation (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

And I am, of course, equally excited about my and S. Brian Pounds‘ translation of Jens Schröter’s book Jesus von Nazaret: Jude aus Galiläa – Retter der Welt  Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World, which will also be at this year’s SBL, though not as part of the BMSEC series (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 3 (2015): The next volume, which I have recently submitted to Baylor, is Christoph Markschies‘s book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

I think that this impressive volume will prove to be a major contribution to the study of early Christianity in the second and third centuries and especially to key issues such as (1) the value of an institution-oriented approach to studying early Christianity, (2) the need to attend to diverse institutional contexts, such as free teachers and Christian schools, the Montanist prophets and their circle, and the Christian worship service and its prayers, (3) the relationships between the New Testament canon and Christian institutions, and (4) the advantages of the complementary model of the identity and plurality of ancient Christianity as an alternative to competing models such as Walter Bauer’s Cultural Protestant model of ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ and the Jesuit model of the ‘inculturation’ of Christianity.

The next volumes planned for the series are:

Vol. 4 (2016): Wolter, MichaelDas Lukasevangelium The Gospel According to Luke. Translated by Wayne Coppins and Christoph Heilig. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 4. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 5 (2017): Frey, JörgDie Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten. Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I The Glory of the Crucified One: Studies on the Johannine Writings I. Translated by Wayne Coppins. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 5. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 6 (2018): Hengel, Martin, and Anna Maria SchwemerJesus und das Judentum Jesus and Judaism. Translated by S. Brian Pounds and Wayne Coppins. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 6. Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

6. For those thinking about PhD studies or at the early stages, what advice do you have for them about how to acquire a better understanding of German? Is there a particular author or two that you think is good to ‘cut one’s teeth on’?

Hard to say. If at all possible, spend some time in Germany (or Switzerland etc.). But even if you can’t make it to a German speaking country, I suggest combining a “German-for-reading” approach with at least some “spoken German”. I’ve never used it, but David Lincicum has suggested that slowgerman.com is a helpful resource for the latter. For the former, I have heard that April Wilson’s German Quickly is a good place to start. After that you might want to move on to a German reader or work through my model sentences. But it could be just as effective to begin working through German texts that are directly related to your research interests. But if you take the latter approach, don’t start with the German text alone. Instead find a work that has been translated on your topic and work through the original German with reference to the English. In terms of tools, I have provided links to some of the better dictionaries on my resource tab, which also includes links to other sites for learning German. Finally, the serious student might consider participating in one of Thorsten Moritz’s courses.

Good question. Chris Tilling has suggested that Udo Schnelle is a good author to start with due to his clear writing style, and this could be done with reference to Eugene Boring’s fine translations, e.g., Paulus/Paul or Theologie/Theology. Martin Hengel’s German is also fairly straightforward, though it is problematic that the English and German versions often differ greatly in length. But some of his essays might work well, for example the essays that I translated in Earliest Christian History. Jens Schröter’s German is more complex in Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, but he has clearly attempted to write in a very accessible manner in Jesus von Nazaret, so I think it could work well to use this volume in conjunction with the English translation, Jesus of Nazareth (cf. here). Finally, Peter Stuhlmacher could also be a good option, e.g., Der Brief an die Römer/Romans or Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments/Biblical Theology of the New Testament [Forthcoming; trans. Daniel Bailey].

7. Aside from your translation work for this series, what else are you working on?

Much of my recent research has carried forward past projects. Building on my previous publications on freedom, I wrote encyclopedia articles on freedom for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception and the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics. More recently, building on my RBL review of Ernst Käsemann’s posthumously published essays, I submitted an article titled ‘Revolution and Violence in Ernst Käsemann’s Radically Lutheran Theology of Liberation’, which may or may not be accepted and published. My most recent teaching and research interests are squarely focused on the Synoptic Gospels, esp. Mark, but to date my only publication in this area is my 2012 Tyndale Bulletin article ‘Sitting on Two Asses? Second Thoughts on the Two-Animal Interpretation of Matthew 21:7’. If another book-length project emerges for me in the future, then I suspect it will be related to the Gospel of Mark.

Many thanks to Wayne for answering these questions. Be sure to check out his immensely helpful blog German for Neutestamentler where he regularly works through a section from a German author explaining the grammar and reflecting on the historical and/or theological claims.

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