General


Just the other day a new student asked me (Ben) about studying the New Testament and early Christianity. They were wondering how you study early Christianity because we have relatively few sources for knowing what they thought and practiced. However, when I noted exponential growth in the variety of material we have from the second, third, and forth centuries, the problem is not too little material from these early Christians to process but too much material. Of course, it’s not really too much, but there is so much that putting all the data together can be quite complex.

Since that is the nature of later Christian material, they offered that it’s too bad that we don’t have that same diversity with Jewish material for understanding the New Testament. While again we don’t have “too much,” we have quite a bit of theological, liturgical, historical, philosophical, mystical, narrative, etc. texts from Jews that lived within a similar time frame as the New Testament. The problem isn’t so much the limited amount of material that we have, the problem for students interpreting the New Testament is that they are almost completely unaware of the existence of the material, much less its breadth and depth.

9780310534457I was so much on board when the idea was initially brought up for Reading Romans in Context and now Reading Mark in Context because after seminary I was partially aware that this world existed, but I didn’t know anything about specific texts or much about particular ideas. Our goal with these is to introduce students to this world by making this material accessible to graduate and undergraduate level students. We provide glimpses into that world to help people know it exists and to get a sense of some of its flavor. With just glimpses this means that each chapter is selective, just covering one central topic. Of course, the depth and variety of each biblical passage means there’s much more that could be explored, but we hope this will whet the appetite to study these issues further.

Advertisements

This summer my family and I were glued to our television for nearly a month, as we are every four years, during the FIFA World Cup. Even though the USA didn’t qualify, we were pulling for one particular team—England, where my wife and I lived during my doctoral studies. Sadly, the Three Lions were eliminated in the semi-final round, bringing an all-too-early end to our World Cup dreams. But it was an exciting tournament nonetheless and we were sorely disappointed when the final whistle blew.

Despite our World Cup thrills, most viewers probably appreciated the tournament far more than we did. While my family and I are avid fans of football, the truth is we normally follow the other kind—American football, which is, as they say, a completely different ballgame. In fact, our familiarity with the players, rules, strategies, and team histories of international soccer are embarrassingly limited. We know enough of the basics to follow along, even enough to get caught up in some of the drama, but there is no question we would have understood and appreciated more of what we were watching had we possessed a deeper well of knowledge about the sport, even about international politics and pop culture.

Believe it or not, reading the Gospel of Mark is not unlike watching the World Cup. Many readers can easily pick up their New Testament, read the Second Gospel, and walk away better informed about the life, ministry, and passion of Jesus Christ. They can even, as a result, grow in their love for our Lord and live more faithful lives as his disciples. But what Jesus said and did resonates at an altogether deeper level when one brings to the Bible greater awareness of the “game” Jesus was playing—that is, the game of Second Temple Judaism.

Mark’s Gospel was written for readers with at least some familiarity with intertestamental Jewish history, politics, culture, and religion. In fact, there are numerous pericopae that are in implicit dialogue with the Jewish theological traditions extant in the first century. Sometimes the evangelist himself tells us exactly what those traditions and beliefs consisted of. For example, when introducing the Sadducees for the first and only time in the narrative, Mark tells us they were a sect of Judaism that denied the resurrection of the dead (12:18). But at other times, Mark assumes his readers themselves possess the requisite knowledge to fill in the blanks about the who, what, and where of the narrative.

Reading Mark in Context

Our recently released collection of essays, Reading Mark in Context: Jesus and Second Temple Judaism (Zondervan Academic), seeks to show how familiarizing oneself with Second Temple Jewish literature can help fill those blanks. With a foreword by N. T. Wright and 30 essays by some of today’s most respected Markan scholars (Michael Bird, Darrell Bock, Helen Bond, Elizabeth Shively, Mark Strauss, Rikk Watts, and more), this book will help the reader study the text in new and enriching ways. The volume was designed to cover the entire Second Gospel, but not to be exhaustive. Much more could be said both about Judaism as well as about Jesus. But hopefully this book will whet one’s appetite for reading Mark’s Gospel in context and for digging deeply into the world of the New Testament. If this book interests you, I encourage you to check it out!

fragmentsoftruth-poster-4764daea9cfce7b93e08a35aa6f47d0c
My colleague Craig Evans has helped create a great documentary that I got to see about a month ago. If you are free Tuesday, it will definitely be worth your time. Here’s the summary:

The Christian faith is based on the New Testament—but can we really trust the Bible? Skeptics say no, arguing that the Gospel manuscripts have been doctored to push a theological agenda. In this new Faithlife original film, Dr. Craig Evans (@DrCraigAEvans) takes this claim head on, traveling the globe to track down the most ancient New Testament manuscripts. Along the way, he highlights groundbreaking new evidence, demonstrating that the case for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts is stronger than ever.

Fragments of Truth is showing in cinemas on Tuesday, April 24 only.

https://www.fathomevents.com/events/fragments-of-truth

For those who will be in Boston on Friday, Nov. 17th, for the first day of the SBL conference, please consider attending the IBR Pauline Theology Research Group, organized by Nijay Gupta and me (John Goodrich). This is the group’s second year in existence, and we have another great session planned. Please see the details below. Hope to see you there!

11/17/2017
3:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: Arlington (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Theme: Research Group – Pauline Theology
Often scholars examine Paul’s theology in terms of his “soteriology,” that is, the themes and constructs that comprise and influence his theology of salvation. This session takes interest in better understanding Paul’s soteriology with focused attention on Paul’s “sin” language (especially hamartia and its cognates, but also key synonyms). Sometimes Paul appears to present sin and disobedience as self-conscious transgression; at other times it is personified and treated as an enslaving power. Is there a model or perspective that can account for these? And what does this tell us about the Christological, Theological, and Pneumatological “remedies” to the problem of sin as Paul conceives of them? For further information, contact Nijay Gupta (ngupta@georgefox.edu) or John Goodrich (john.goodrich@moody.edu). See also https://www.ibr-bbr.org/ (Click on Research Groups).

John Goodrich, Moody Bible Institute, Presiding
Nijay K. Gupta, Presiding
John Goodrich, Moody Bible Institute, Introduction (5 min)
Martinus de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Panelist (25 min)
Andrew Das, Elmhurst College, Panelist (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Nijay K. Gupta, Introduction (5 min)
Bruce Longenecker, Baylor University, Panelist (25 min)
Panel Discussion
Discussion (20 min)
Open Discussion
Discussion (10 min)

Call for Papers
National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion
Annual Meeting
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs, NC
May 21 – 23, 2018

The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion (NABPR) invites paper proposals in any area pertaining to scholarship in Religion.  In an effort to develop innovative conversations among scholars, papers which create integration between traditional disciplines or broaden the margins of disciplinary conversations are encouraged.   Although many NABPR members work primarily in the traditional disciplines of Biblical Studies, Church History, Theology, etc., proposals are encouraged from any field, including Ministry Studies.

Paper or panel proposals on any aspect of pedagogy related to the teaching of Religion are encouraged.

Proposals must be received by January 15, 2018.  Send a 300-word abstract to:

Doug Weaver
Department of Religion
Baylor University
One Bear Place # 97284
Waco, TX 76798-7284
Doug_Weaver@baylor.edu

  • Papers will be scheduled into a 30 minute time period, including discussion.
  • Proposals will be accepted or denied by March 1, 2018.
  • Graduate Students are encouraged to submit proposals.
  • The price of registration for Graduate Students is waived for the Annual Meeting.

Membership Requirement

Authors of accepted proposals must be members of NABPR in good standing by May 1. Authors must pay dues for the current year and be registered for the Annual meeting. Accepted Papers which have not met these criteria will be removed from the program. Inquires about dues and membership status should be directed to Joyce Swoveland: joyce_swoveland@baylor.edu

This year’s HBU Theology Conference takes up the issue of canon on March 2-4. Our plenary speakers are James Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Lee McDonald (formerly of Acadia Divinity College). Both are well-known for the contributions on this topic. We also have a great line-up of speakers on Friday who will speak on canonical criticism, various figures in church history and their views of canon, textual problems relevant to the question of canon, among other topics. There will be something for everyone.

You can find more information about the conference and registrar at www.hbu.edu/theologyconference.

The conference is jointly hosted with Lanier Theological Library (http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/). If you haven’t been to the chapel and library before, you certainly want to attend Saturday night’s double lecture. You can register for the Saturday lecture at laniertheologicallibrary.org/events.

The conference is also partly sponsored by Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software. They will have a display booth at the conference where you can preview and purchase Logos or upgrade your present version.

 

Sometimes it is popularly asserted that the Emperor and/or the bishops at Nicaea invented the idea that Jesus is God incarnate. Of course, that has been clearly refuted in scholarship, but conspiracy stories are so much fun and more interesting to pass along. I (Ben) am heading to give a lecture at Huntington University in a couple of weeks on Justin Martyr, Paul and the issue of circumcision, so I have been rereading the Dialogue with Trypho and was reminded of this gem on Christology:

Chapter 48 [1]“We have now heard your opinion on these matters,” interrupted Trypho. “Resume your discourse where you left off, and bring it to an end, for it seems to be entirely absurd and utterly impossible of proof. Your statement that this Christ existed as God before all ages, and then that He consented to be born and become man, yet that He is not of human origin, appears to be not only paradoxical, but preposterous.” [2] “I am aware,” I replied, “that my assertion must seem paradoxical, especially to you Jews, who were never in the least interested in knowing or doing the things of God, but only the things of your teachers, as God Himself testifies [cf. Isa 29.3]. However, Trypho, the fact that this Man is the Christ of God, is not to be denied, even if I were unable to prove that He, being God, pre-existed as the Son of the Creator of the universe and became Man through a virgin.

No nuanced reading or sophisticated hermeneutic to get the main idea here. Of course, the ontology of Nicaea is still wanting, but this is about as clear as an economic description of theology as you can get, and this is about 175 years before Nicaea. Irenaeus has equally clear statements about Jesus as God, dating to just a few years after Justin’s work.

Next Page »