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.

Cambridge University Press has begun advertising the forthcoming release (January 2013) of Mark D. Mathews’s monograph, Riches, Poverty, and the Faithful: Perspectives on Wealth in the Second Temple Period and the Apocalypse of John (SNTSMS 154). This release is very exciting. Mark is a fellow Durham grad; we started together in 2007 and submitted our theses within days of each other in 2010. Mark and I were also neighbors in Durham for two years. His doctoral work was supervised by Loren Stuckenbruck, so when Loren moved to Princeton in 2009, Mark and his family followed him there. Mark is now in full-time church ministry at Bethany Presbyterian Church, near Philadelphia.

Here are the book summary and table of contents:

In the book of Revelation, John appeals to the faithful to avoid the temptations of wealth, which he connects with evil and disobedience within secular society. New Testament scholars have traditionally viewed his somewhat radical stance as a reaction to the social injustices and idolatry of the imperial Roman cults of the day. Mark D. Mathews argues that John’s rejection of affluence was instead shaped by ideas in the Jewish literature of the Second Temple period which associated the rich with the wicked and viewed the poor as the righteous. Mathews explores how traditions preserved in the Epistle of Enoch and later Enochic texts played a formative role in shaping John’s theological perspective. This book will be of interest to those researching poverty and wealth in early Christian communities and the relationship between the traditions preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament.

Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction: 1. The question of wealth in the Apocalypse
Part II. The Language of Wealth and Poverty in the Second Temple Period: Introduction
2. Dead Sea Scrolls: non-sectarian Aramaic documents
3. Dead Sea Scrolls: non-sectarian Hebrew documents
4. Dead Sea Scrolls: sectarian Hebrew documents
5. Other Jewish literature
Preliminary conclusions
Part III. Wealth, Poverty, and the Faithful Community in the Apocalypse of John: Introduction
6. The language of wealth and poverty in the seven messages – Rev 2-3
7. The present eschatological age – Rev 4-6
8. Buying and selling in Satan’s world – Rev 12-13, 18
9. Final conclusions.

Busy weekend but I wanted to get in the habit of summarising the presentations of the people who present.

Last Monday (Oct 25), Shane Berg from Princeton Theological Seminary presented a paper entitled ‘Knowing and Obeying the Law in Ben Sira’.  This draws from his larger work on ‘religious epistemology’, which is a bit more neutral terminology for what has been termed ‘revelation’ in the past.

The main part of his paper was an exposition of two passages in Ben Sira: sections from chapters 15-17 (16.24-17.14 and 15.11-20) that speak about knowing and doing the Law.  One key aspect of Ben Sira’s argument was the juxtaposition of allusions to creation (Gen 1-3) and the giving of the Law.  The thrust thus runs that God gave this knowledge of what to do to everyone, so the Jews have no excuse not to follow it.   It was also noted later in discussion afterwards that Paul too juxtaposes creation and Law in Romans 7.

Berg then mentioned two Qumran documents [update: now that I’ve got back to the handout 4Q417 1 i 16-18 and 1 QHa VII, 12-14] who focused upon the limitation of true knowledge to those within the community based on a more deterministic view of God’s election.

It was an interesting paper, and it stirred up a lively discussion afterwards.  Berg also spoke very highly of Greg Schmidt Goering’s book on Ben Sira and the Election of Israel as it discusses the dialectic of universal and particular and the mix of Wisdom and Torah.

As one of the primary preparations for a NT (or Patristics) PhD, I recommended focusing on primary text background sources.  I got an email question about which specific sources I would recommend, in order of importance.  These are the lists that I drew up.   Am I missing anything?  Would you recommend a different order?  Other thoughts?


  1. OT Apocrypha
  2. DSS
  3. OT Pseudepigrapha (esp. 1 Enoch)
  4. Josephus: Jewish Antiquities, Jewish War
  5. Philo: ???  (Recommendations on 2-3 works on where to start?)

*Need it be said that you read the OT itself first (possibly even from the LXX): Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Daniel, etc.?


  1. Cicero: De Natura Deorum, De Finibis (both read like a 3 views on theology and ethics, respectively)
  2. Plato: Timaeus, Phaedo, Symposium (longer works like The Republic will also repay attention given)
  3. Epictetus and/or Seneca
  4. Histories: Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus
  5. Homer (which was the “Bible” of Hellenism)
  6. Rhetorical handbooks by Quintillian or Aristotle

Mike Bird has a list here which has a similar focus, but also points to key secondary sources.


  1. Apostolic Fathers
  2. NT Apocrypha
  3. Nag Hammadi
  4. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus

In honour of Prof Watson’s paper (‘Rethinking Gospel Origins’) at the NT seminar on Monday about the ‘canonical decision’ that occured some time in the second century to decide on just the 4 gospels, I’m passing along a link to a chart that shows the different canons for several traditions: What’s in Your Bible?

HT: Ben Byerly

Another original language resource website: Παρακάλυψις.  It’s got OT, NT, Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha, Patristics and classics.  Some stuff comes up online, and other stuff you have to use djvu (like pdf) software. 

HT: Roger Pearse

In our NT Seminar today Professor Loren Stuckenbruck discussed chapters 106-108, which gives a birth narrative of Noah. (1 Enoch is a intertestamental-psuedopigraphal writing.) The narrative has Noah being born with the characteristics of one of the Nephilim children–the giants who have an angelic father and human mother. Lamech is worried that Noah is not his own child because he is big like the giants, but more importantly he has shining eyes, white hair, and extols God’s praise from birth. Lamech asks Methuselah, and Methuselah goes to Enoch to get his opinion. Enoch tells Methuselah that Noah really is Lamech’s own child. He then tells how God will judge the world through the deluge, but save humanity through Noah. However, later the evil will be even greater than before the deluge and God will judge again. The story ends with Enoch telling Methuselah that the boy should be named “Noah”, noting the connection to comforting his people.