Monday, December 28, 2009

Windy City

I'm off in a few hours to visit one of my favorite cities:

If you don't know where that is, it's Millennium Park in Chicago! I've been to Chicago in August, September, and March... just never in the dead center of winter! Please pray that there will be no major delays and that my Southern California-weathered self won't get killed in the cold. In case you were wondering just how cold this city can get:

Mind you, that's without factoring the lovely wind chill. I think yesterday the temperature in Chicago read 20 degrees but said it "felt like" -1 degree because of the wind. Oh joy!

For all my fellow bloggers and friends that read this, have a very happy last week of the year 2009 and happy new year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

House of Bread

Micah 5:2, "But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days."

בֵּֽית־לֶ֣חֶם or Bethlehem, literally means house of bread. While it may not have been all that influential during the days of Micah the prophet, this town will forever remain significant as the birthplace of the Messiah.

I will leave you with one final song as we cap off this advent season, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.'

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth
Peace to men on earth

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Our Lord Emmanuel

O little town of Bethlehem
How still
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow + Hope

While the East Coasters are probably busy shoveling snow off their driveways, I sometimes wish we had snow here too... (They'll probably disagree with me...) One cool picture I saw (HT: Big Picture)

I'm gonna be in Chicago for most of next week though, so I guess I'll get to see snow for a little bit. Let's hope for no major delays... Meanwhile, let me leave you with a quote from my current reading, Surprised by Hope:

"...because of the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah, we find the development of the very early belief that Jesus is Lord and that therefore Caesar is not. This is a whole other topic for another occasion. But already in Paul the resurrection, both of Jesus and then in the future of his people, is the foundation of the Christian stance of allegiance to a different king, a different Lord. Death is the last weapon of the tyrant, and the point of the resurrection, despite much misunderstanding, is that death has been defeated. Resurrection is not the redescription of death; it is its overthrow and, with that, the overthrow of those whose power depends on it. Despite the sneers and slurs of some contemporary scholars, it was those who believed in the bodily resurrection who were burned at the stake and thrown to the lions. Resurrection was never a way of settling down and becoming respectable; the Pharisees could have told you that. It was the Gnostics, who translated the language of resurrection into a private spirituality and a dualistic cosmology, thereby more or less altering its meaning into its opposite, who escaped persecution. Which emperor would have sleepless nights worrying that his subjects were reading the Gospel of Thomas? Resurrection was always bound to get you into trouble, and it regularly did."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Please have snow...

Next up on some Christmas songs for you to listen to: the great Oscar Peterson along with Jack Schantz.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm yours?.....

I'm studying for my Ephesians final, but had to share this with you... pretty good guitar skills for a little guy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


γὰρ εὐδαιμονία κάλλιστον καὶ ἄριστον πάντων οὖσα ἥδιστον ἐστίν.

Happiness is at once the pleasantest and the fairest and best of all things whatever.
Aristotle, Eud. Eth. 1.1214a

On my way home today, I listened to a bit of N.T. Wright's lecture at Fuller Seminary earlier this year, and I have to say, so far, very good. He talks somewhat about Aristotelian perspective on 'happiness' (εὐδαιμονία) and proper biblical understanding of ethics toward attaining real 'happiness.' He does a good job of attacking the postmodern worldview that has placed such a high value on 'authenticity out of spontaneity' while simultaneously disparaging any real moral efforts. He also talked about the US Airways Flight 1549 and how what has been deemed a "miracle" by the public is also likely the product of careful training and experience of the pilots themselves. Some nuggets of wisdom from the good Bishop:

Our culture prefers effortless spontaneity with occasional divine intervention in emergencies, rather than working with God on developing the muscles which will meet those emergencies with a God-given second nature which appears spontaneous, but is in fact the result of thinking and choosing and practicing.

...the very mention of 'virtue' will make many Christians stiffen in alarm. They have been rightly taught that we are not justified by our works but by our faith. They know that they are powerless to make themselves conform to any higher and lofty moral code, the Ten Commandments, Aristotle, whatever. They've tried it, didn't work, made them feel guilty. Then they discovered that God accepted them as they are, "While we were yet sinners," Paul declares, "Christ dies for us." Whew! So why bother with all this morality? And in particular isn't 'virtue' a way specifically of talking about a self-help sort of moralism?...
(He's being sarcastic here...)

Wright goes on to talk about the proper place of right biblical eschatology in ethics. Obviously, there's much more to this lecture and I think this is probably an adaptation of his research that culminated in two books I'm looking forward to reading in the future: Surprised by Hope and The Resurrection of the Son of God. If you get a chance, do listen to the lecture! I mean, he's a great scholar but that British accent just makes it sound even better...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

3 in 1

Trinity. The word "Trinity" never occurs in the Bible, but it has been well argued elsewhere that this understanding of the plurality of the Godhead is found throughout Scriptures. Anyway, I've heard plenty of times that people often use water as an example to teach the Trinity (i.e., solid phase, liquid phase, and gas phase... but all water). I've also heard people assert that this is a poor way to teach the Trinity because it leads to modalism, which is a Trinitarian heresy that understands Godhead to be expressing itself in "modes" (in our example of water, at one point it's ice, then it is liquid, then it would be gas). Therefore, the wise Christian believes that using water is a bad way to teach the Trinity. I want to propose a new alternative: The person asserting that another person using water as a method to teach the Trinity is wrong, is also wrong!

I was a science major at UCLA and I've learned a little bit about phase diagrams, and the property of water. If you know what I'm talking about, you should be familiar with the picture below:

If you notice, around the lower left quadrant, there's a point marked as the triple point, and thermodynamically speaking, this is where all three phases can coexist in equilibrium! Of course it is not an easy thing to witness, as you notice the atmospheric pressure is so low that it's almost vacuum-like. However, it does disprove the assertion that by using water, it must favor a modalistic understanding of the Trinity. Not so!

I propose, the next time you want to teach the Trinity, bring a phase diagram with you and I think it'd be alright.

God with us

Finally finished my work! Anyway, in light of the Christmas season, thought I would leave you tonight with a great rendition of one of my favorite Christmas songs, hope you know who the artist is:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

O come, Thou day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to Thee, O Israel
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to Thee, O Israel

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

I know some think Jesus wasn't really born in December, but still... it is a good time of the year, no? Anyway, I'm about to start finishing up my final homiletical project on Mark 14:22-26, but before I do that, I wanted to share with you all a funny story about Christmas.

Around Christmas time, my sermons at church usually get more anti-secular (if you know what I mean) and I often tell my kids that Santa is just an imaginary character. Anyway, a couple years back, one of my old kids came up to me and told me a funny (or disturbing?) story:

Now in junior high school she says: You know, Pastor Mike, you were the first one to tell me that Santa wasn't real.

Me: Oh really? Umm... I see...

Student: Yeah, I remember that Sunday when I went home, I told my mom that you said Santa wasn't real.

Me: Oh? What did she say?

Student: She said you were lying.


Join me in my confusion...

I don't really get how Google Wave works, but I guess if you want to 'not-get-it' with me, then just send me a message with your email and I'll send you an invite!

Google is odd indeed. On a semi-related note, check this video out from them, the Google Goggle.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NTS 2010 out and free!

Just found out that the new issue (Jan 2010) of New Testament Studies is out and it is available for free for everyone. Go check it out! Some articles:

'From John 2.19 to Mark 15.29: The History of a Misunderstanding,' Gonzalo Rojas-Flores
'The Claim of John 7.15 and the Memory of Jesus’ Literacy,' Chris Keith
'Erastus, Quaestor of Corinth: The Administrative Rank of ὁ οἰκονόμους της πόλεως (Rom 16.23) in an Achaean Colony,' John K. Goodrich

And many others.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lord and Savior

Recently, a friend of mine asked what I thought about the connection between accepting Jesus as Lord and Jesus as Savior. For some reason, I started thinking about it again today and I just did a quick search on BibleWorks and saw something interesting:

In the NT, the word for savior or deliverer, σωτηρ, occurs a total 24 times. Out of those, I think maybe 14 or 15 can be said to be directly attributed to Jesus Christ.

On the flip side, the word for lord, κυριος, occurs 717 times in the NT, and out of those, easily over a hundred of those can be attributed to Jesus Christ.

It's interesting to me that so many tracts that are out there say something along the lines of 'Jesus is your personal Savior.' I think this is also reflected in much of Christian music and literature. Unfortunately, I think they've forgotten that the NT in large measure certainly understands Jesus to be Lord.


There's a lot of things I am thankful for but for the moment, I just got home and saw that I got a bunch of new shipments of things from publishers:

The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, eds. James VanderKam and William Adler

On an unrelated but interesting note is the last and final article reading for my Ephesians class is Benjamin Wold, "Family Ethics in 4QInstruction and the New Testament, NovT 50 (2008). This is timely considering I just bought Vermes' translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Lots of reading this weekend! Happy Thanksgiving y'all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


One of the Greek words that I often hear in Bible studies is "to exercise or train" and that it comes from the word γυμνάζω (gymnazō), where we get our word "gymnasium" (However the meaning of 'gymnasium' now is very different from how it was used then). One particular place you can see this word in action is in Herodotus, in The Histories 7.208:

While they debated in this way, Xerxes sent a mounted scout to see how many there were and what they were doing. While he was still in Thessaly, he had heard that a small army was gathered there and that its leaders were Lacedaemonians, including Leonidas, who was of the Heracleid clan. Riding up to the camp, the horseman watched and spied out the place. He could, however, not see the whole camp, for it was impossible to see those posted inside the wall which they had rebuilt and were guarding. He did take note of those outside, whose arms lay in front of the wall, and it chanced that at that time the Lacedaemonians were posted there. He saw some of the men exercising naked (γυμναζομένους) and others combing their hair. He marvelled at the sight and took note of their numbers. When he had observed it all carefully, he rode back in leisure, since no one pursued him or paid him any attention at all. So he returned and told Xerxes all that he had seen.

Anyway, I was reading through my Greek NT plan and today's reading was 2 Peter 2 and saw something interesting in v.14:

They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained (γεγυμνασμένην) in greed. Accursed children!

Both verbs are basically the same, granted it's in the perfect/passive form in 2 Peter. I don't own any 2 Peter commentaries, so I can't say exactly, but it's very interesting to me that the 'heart' can be trained (in a very thorough sense! if I understand this perfect tense aright) in greed as the body could be trained for warfare. I recently had a talk with a friend about how 'money' has taken a preeminent position in the lives of many believers, I'm wondering if that could potentially be one 'training in greed' in light of 2 Peter 2:14. I should be more careful how I train.

Why are you throwing down your crowns?

Revelation 4:9-10 has a very interesting picture of the elders before the throne of God:

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne...

I've been reading through D.E. Aune's Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity, and he gives a few good quotations from Greco-Roman lit. that helps to understand this scene:

Embassies (πρεσβεῖαι) also in the meantime came from Greece, and their envoys (πρέσβεις) themselves crowned, came forward and crowned Alexander with golden crowns, as if they had come on a sacred embassy to honour some god (Anab. Alex.; LCL trans.)

The Italian cities sent delegations (πρεσβεῖας) of their prominent citizens dressed in white, wearing laurel wreaths and all bringing with them the statues of their local gods and any golden crowns that were among their dedications (Herodian 8.7.2; LCL trans.)

He ends this paragraph by stating, "The heavenly scene of the twenty-four elders throwing down their crowns before the throne has no parallel in Israelite-Jewish literature, and become comprehensible only in light of the ceremonial traditions of Hellenistic and Roman ruler worship" (Aune, 107).


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sex change in the early church?

Since I finished my paper on the use of Isaiah 5 in Mark 12:1-12 and its parallel in Gospel of Thomas logia 65 and 66, I haven't really thought about GThom much, but seeing Brian LePort's review of Nicholas Perrin's book (which I reviewed also in Part 1 and Part 2) here and here and here, made me think about it again. For some reason, when I think of GThom, I think about logion 114 (the last saying in this book) which says:

Simon Peter said to them, 'Mary should leave us because women do not deserve life.' Jesus said, 'Look, in order to make her male, I myself will guide her, so that she too may become a living spirit - male, resembling you. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is just so odd! DeConick writes in her commentary:

The community appears to have settled on a metaphorical interpretation that served to maintain women within the community. Women could 'make' themselves 'male', thus 'resembling' the men in the community. J. Buckley thinks that this logion signals that salvation was a two-step process for women in the community, whereas only a one-step process for men. In my opinion, the gender refashioning for women would have stressed encratic behaviour, particularly celibacy and their refusal to bear children.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad I was born a male!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Apocalypse now

I'm getting very interested in the 'genre' of apocalyptic literature... Does anyone have any particular advice on who is the "go-to" guy to get to know this topic? Right now I'm reading Aune's Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity and picked up John J. Collins' The Apocalyptic Imagination and VanderKam and Adler's Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I recently got a gift card for Amazon for my bday from my college buddies, so I decided I will use part of it (I couldn't get myself to use it all in one day!) and ordered:

N.T. Wright, New Testament and the People of God

Since the semester is winding down, I guess these books will be my winter reading! Happy birthday to me, thanks friends!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is the common acronym of the book, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. It's been one of the main readings for my Gospels exegesis class this semester, and I just found out from my prof that there is a revised edition of this tome in the works! From what he said, two new editors will replace two of the current editors, along with a majority of new, younger contributors. I guess in a few years I'll have to buy that too... On a related note, has anyone read DOT: WPW, DNTB, and/or DLNT? If so, what did you think of it and is it worth adding to one's library like DJG or DPL?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book review

Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul

Authors: Bruce J. Malina, John J. Pilch
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, 2006
Paperback: x + 417 pps.

Thanks to the great folks at Augsburg Fortress for this review copy! I'm quite interested in the 'world' in which the NT authors lived in (i.e., their socio-economic background, customs, worldview, attitude, etc.) and so this seemed to be a good book to look at to see how they understand Paul from that perspective. First, a quick caveat: they are adamant that only seven letters are Paul-authored and the rest are possibly second, third, or even fourth-generation "Jesus-group documents"! I'm not sure how I feel about that, but since this review is not dealing with that issue, I won't stir that hornets' nest. Therefore, this commentary only looks at those seven letters. Second, the writers are equally convinced that a phrase such as Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην in Gal. 3:28 are not referring to racial distinctions between Jews or Gentiles, but refers instead to "Judeans," ones practicing Judean traditions, and "Hellenists," those civilized folk characterized by the use of the common Greek language.

As the title suggests, this is a commentary, so each chapter is devoted to each of the seven letters of Paul. The big plus for me in this book was the chapter that followed these sections, what they titled 'Reading Scenarios for the (Authentic) Letters of Paul' (Seemed like they really wanted to drive home this point...) This section focuses on anthropological themes that help to interpret the letters. Some of the topics mentioned are: challenge-riposte, purity-pollution, collectivistic personality, demons-demon possession, encomium, and patronage system. There's much more, but you get the idea. Again, this is a commentary, not a book meant to be read cover to cover, so I think it is a good supplement to understand some of the things that are going on the NT world. I'm sure I'll look at this book from time to time to see what social conventions might have been detected in the Pauline letters.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ETS 2010

While the 2009 ETS meeting is just around the corner, my professor (Dr. Clint Arnold) who is the VP right now, just let us know that for the 2010 meeting in Atlanta, they've just confirmed that both John Piper and N.T. Wright will be there and will take part in a panel discussion!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the topic of that meeting is "Justification by Faith".

Monday, November 2, 2009

The dividing wall...

My next research paper is on Eph. 2:11-22, especially its OT referents and the concern with the "dividing wall of hostility" from 2:14. I've been reading through Markus Barth's The Broken Wall: A Study of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and I have to say, it's quite insightful and still very helpful, considering it was published in 1959.

I have to do a lot of reading today, so I will leave you with just a small nugget from Barth:

"Excluded is the assumption that under any circumstance, Jew or Greek, man or wife, Westerner or Asiatic, bourgeois or proletarian, white or black, can claim to have Christ on his side or for himself only. Even if the claim were made by Christians, who with missionary zeal feel committed to bring Christ or Christianity to outsiders, non-Christians, and apostates, it would still be wrong, for Christians bear witness to Christ only when their words and deeds make it plain that Christ is as much the outsiders' and opponents' Christ as their own. He is the end of division and enmity... He is not what a Christian can give to others. He is the gift of God to both."

Book review

Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Editors: Kenneth Berding, Jonathan Lunde
Contributors: Walter Kaiser Jr., Darrell Bock, Peter Enns
Publisher: Zondervan
Paperback: 256 pps.
WTS Books

Much appreciation to Jessie Hillman and Zondervan for sending me this review copy! I'm pretty swamped with school and my laptop just got infected with a virus this past Friday so it's been a pretty hectic weekend all around, so I didn't have time to read/review this sooner. Anyway, most of my major research papers this semester involves this idea, so this book is a welcome addition to my library/head to help me better understand this broad topic. The book is divided into five major sections, an intro by one of the editors (Lunde), with the next three sections led by each of the contributors with a response from the other two, and finally a conclusion by the other editor (Berding). I'm not really going to talk about what the editors say since it's just a brief intro/conclusion, so the review will be focused primarily on what the contributors think.

Walter Kaiser Jr. (Singled Meaning, Unified Referents)
Kaiser's view seems to be the most 'rigid' out of the three views espoused in this book. He criticizes those who hold to the theory of sensus plenior and poses two question regarding this view: '(1) Were not the original audiences, to whom the OT writers addressed these words, left out of these, indeed, of any deeper meanings? And (2), if there is no signal from the original writers that more was stored in the words that appeared..., would this not be an example of what we call eisegesis?'
He looks at three texts that scholars often appeal to confirm the 'ignorance' of OT authors of the real meaning and references in their words: 1 Peter 1:10-12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, and John 11:49-52, finding the supposed 'deeper meaning' unconvincing. However, as Bock and Enns show in their responses, Kaiser draws the line in a black or white, right or wrong, old or new fashion, that misses the subtle changes that might be occurring through the text (Bock) and his neglect of Second Temple evidence. There's so much more to say, but basically, Kaiser views all OT references in the NT as being very consistent with their original OT context.

Darrell Bock (Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents)
Bock takes a different approach to see that while the context of the original OT passage must be an important factor to determine the allowable parameters within which the NT writers function, he asserts that this is not the only factor. However, he is also careful to say that the NT use of the OT is not so random to the degree that we can only appeal to inspiration. Instead, he sees importance in both words and 'revelatory events' that shed light on a given passage in the NT. Bock understands the NT writers utilizing many elements of Jewish interpretive techniques of their time, but with theological presuppositions that result in very different interpretations from those of Judaism. He also looks at three texts, Acts 4:25-26, Rom. 10:6-8, and 2 Cor. 6:16-18 to see that the meaning can remain stable even when new referents are introduced in the new NT contexts.
Kaiser's response to Bock was very minimal and he actually agrees with him on many points! It was more of a concession that "maybe" he is right and ends by stating, "But whether there are 'fresh meanings' that can be refracted back onto older texts is still an area needing more work..." Enns is more critical in his response, viewing Bock's defense as showing "marks of an inconsistent analysis and even an unwitting practice of midrashic techniques to demonstrate his point."
Bock's view is that the stability of the OT text can be maintained even when the NT authors change some aspects (especially the referents) in their appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures.

Peter Enns (Fuller Meaning, Single Goal)
Enns is big on the importance of Second Temple literature to help us understand what the NT authors were doing in their writings. He asserts that Scripture has been given through time and space and therefore we cannot engage in anachronism by forcing the NT writers to follow 'proper' interpretive practices as we understand them today. Rather, he sees great value in understanding Second Temple hermeneutical practices in order to see its application in the NT. I think he makes a good point regarding the nature of the NT: "Though the NT itself is a collection of texts, unified in its Christ-centered focus, it also evinces its own degree of hermeneutical variety. It is not helpful, therefore, to think of Second Temple literature and the NT as monolithic entities that stand on opposite sides of a fence." Enns' main perspective is that the writers' main agenda was not how they can engage in 'good' exegetical techniques in their appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures, but rather how they can best bear witness to the crucified and risen Savior.
Kaiser is very critical of Enns, seeing his view as creating a huge disconnect between the NT and OT that seems to point to gross 'prooftexting' by the NT authors. For Kaiser, Enns' view will engender a dismissive attitude to the OT despite Enns' own claim that it would not be so. While Bock agrees with Enns' focus on historical sensitivity, but finds Enns' 'christological' principle adopted by NT writers to be unsatisfactory in explaining their use of the OT.
Enns' view is that basically the NT authors engage in Christotelic reading of the OT texts, as they see the full completion of the OT to be in Christ.

I think there is still much room for research in this field of the NT use of the OT, and it's clear this is true when reading through this book. The authors all make pretty good points, but it was difficult to compare each of their exegetical principles played out since each author chose different texts to work with in their essay. However, it was still a great introductory book on this topic that will probably remain disputed (I think) for a long long time. Recommended!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which one to buy?? The pain of indecision...

As a poor seminarian, I always have to be judicious on which book to buy from my super long wish list of books... Anyway, the bookstore close to my school always puts on a Fall sale, where commentaries are mostly 40% off SRP and other books around 35% off. My question to you is, for the biggest bang for the buck, which one do you think is worth it??

Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, ~$23
Geza Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, ~$14
James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 1, ~$43
D.A. Carson and Peter O'Brien, Justification and Variegated Nomism Vol. 2, ~$36
David Aune, Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity, ~$33
Luke Timothy Johnson, Writings of the NT, ~$30
James Beilby, The Historical Jesus: Five Views, ~$17
Joseph Hellerman, Ancient Church as Family, ~$17

I know the list is somewhat long and the interests are varied, but it's so hard just to pick one! Any thoughts?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book review part 2

Continuing my review of Nicholas Perrin's Thomas, The Other Gospel:

Chapter 4 (The Syriac Gospel of Thomas)
In this chapter, Perrin argues that instead of the "long oral-traditioning process" for GThom espoused by the three aforementioned scholars, he believes GThom, coming from a Syriac provenance was originally written in Syriac. He compares GThom to the Diatessaron, seeing surprising similarities in their accounts. Furthermore, he does a study of "catchwords" of the hypothetical Syriac GThom and found that its huge number of catchwords solves the problem of so-called isolated sayings (instead the sayings are strung together with these catchwords).

Chapter 5 (Challenging the apostolic line)
Here he does a specific study of logion 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, 'Compare me to someone else and tell me whom I am like.' Simon Peter said to him, 'You are like a righteous angel.' Matthew said to him, 'You are like a wise philosopher.' Thomas said to him, 'Teacher, my mouth is entirely incapable of saying whom you are like.' Jesus said, 'I am not your teacher. Since you have imbibed, you have become drunk on the bubbling spring which I have dug.' And he took him, withdrew and told him three words. When Thomas came back to his friends, they asked him, 'What did Jesus say to you?' Thomas said to them, 'Were I to tell you even one of the things which he told me, you would pick up stones and throw them at me. Then a fire would come out of the stones and consume you.'

Here, Perrin finds a "deeply symbolic scene in which Matthew and Simon Pete, as representative of a particular community or communities, are made to play a second fiddle to Thomas." This is an allusion to the Gospel of Mark/Matthew, showing their "deep epistemological and therefore hermeneutical differences." Perrin believes that the christologies represented by the Synoptics and GThom are very different, and in response, this is Thomas' own assertion to the apostolic line.

Chapter 6 (An extreme makeover)
In this chapter, Perrin gets into Hermeticism that has penetrated into Syriac Christianity, stating that Tatian, impressed with the use of Hermetic language by Justin for his apologetic, then took such similar lines in Syria which provided the framework for the Thomasine community there. He concludes, "As such the Gospel of Thomas may be as much a foundational document as an apologetic tract, specially crafted to convey the community's beliefs in an idiom that would resonate with its intended audience."
In his final subsection 'Conclusion', he lists seven important points regarding the Coptic Thomas that help to tie together his point of Syriac origins (in provenance and language) along with Thomas' dependence on Tatian thought.

For a short book under 200 pages, I think Perrin did an excellent job of helping me to wet my feet on the discussions on Thomas, and while I don't think I agree with all of his thoughts throughout the book, it definitely got me thinking hard on the subject.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oh, the joyful life of...

a NT student? Currently, I'm trying to learn Biblical Hebrew, Latin, Classical Greek, and German, all the while working through more Greek NT texts...

Why couldn't theologians of the past write in English or even Spanish??...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book review

Thomas, The Other Gospel

Author: Nicholas Perrin
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Paperback: xii + 160 pps.
Westminster John Knox

Much appreciation to Emily Kiefer from WJK for this review copy!

Due to time constraints with other work I have to do, I will divide this book review into two parts. Nicholas Perrin is an associate professor of NT at Wheaton College, with a PhD from Marquette who wrote his dissertation on the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron, so I don't think he's a slouch when it comes to scholarly discussions on GThom. He divides the book into two 'Parts' (which will be the way I have decided to divide my reviews): Part 1, he chose three Thomasine scholars to discuss what others are saying about the GThom and Part 2, which he titled, 'What Should be Said About The Gospel of Thomas.'

From just reading the first part last night, I can understand why the book comes so highly praised regardless of its length and relatively sparse footnotes (Part 1 ends on pg. 69 and the footnote # is at 47, averaging less than 1 footnote/page). From the Preface, Perrin makes clear, "I have written this book for two reasons. First, I write because there needs to be a scholarly yet accessible treatment of what researchers have been saying lately about the Gospel of Thomas" (emphasis mine). I appreciated the fact that Perrin does not beat around the bush discussing an endless list of journal articles and monographs with half the page filled with footnotes, at which point the reader must then wade carefully through the heavy material to decide how to best understand the current topic at hand. His points are clear and succinct. So onto the chapters:

Chapter 1 (Stephen J. Patterson)
Patterson sees GThom as telling "a story of community in social and theological flux, one that was transitioning from primitive Christianity as it was taught by Jesus into Gnosticism" (Perrin, 27). Perrin affirms Patterson's conclusion that asceticism is a central "self-defining activity" of Thomasine Christians (though he does list a few problems with Patterson taking Theissen's view that the Jesus movement was characterized by deep asceticism), but deems Patterson's source-critical analysis to be inconclusive in proving Thomasine independence of the Synoptic tradition. In addition, he criticizes Patterson for too quickly jumping on the Koester-Robinson bandwagon of seeing the logoi sophon (or a sayings genre) to which GThom belongs as being primitive, and therefore independent from and possibly have primacy over the Synoptics.
Perrin credits Patterson for successfully establishing a few points: (1) the order of GThom "cries out for explanation", (2) Thomasine Christianity was thoroughly ascetic, (3) this community adopted realized eschatology, and (4) there are analogies between Thomasine Christianity and Syriac Christianity.

Chapter 2 (Elaine Pagels)
Her main argument is seeing the fourth gospel as a response to the Thomasine community. Perrin states, "at bottom, Pagels's goal is to show that in the first three hundred years of the church's existence, certain notions attached themselves to Christian traditions, notions which, insofar as they unduly circumscribed legitimate spiritual expression, were alient o earliest Christian belief" (Perrin, 38). Perrin does not seem to be convinced of the argument that the fourth gospel casts Thomas in a negative light, especially in light of John 11:16; 14:7; 20:28.
Perrin concludes that "whatever our judgments concerning the dating of the core of the Gospel of Thomas, the evidence compels us to conclude that the collection could not have been compiled in its final form much earlier than 150 CE. This is simply because we know that at least two of the sayings, Gos. Thom. 7 and Gos. Thom. 102, are traceable to mid second-century contexts."

Chapter 3 (April DeConick)
Perrin states, "if Patterson has been the most influential within the academy and Pagels has been the most influential amidst the broader public, April D. DeConick... is poised, simply on account of her productivity, to have more long-term influence than either." DeConick offers a fourth and alternative model to three major ways scholars viewed the origins of the GThom [(1) literate model - Thomas using written gospels as sources, (2) oral-literate model - Thomas drew on both oral and written traditions, (3) redaction model - Thomas drawing on oral/written with subsequent redactions]: it is called 'rolling corpus', that the GThom evolved over time, "through multiple reperformances in an oral medium".
In response, Perrin (in chapter 6) will agree with certain parts of her argument, but in this present chapter, lists a few problems with her thesis: (1) DeConick's equivocation when it comes to the question of the historical Jesus, (2) her support of "authorship-by-commitee" of the gospels we possess, (3)her dependence on a text from Pseudo-Clementines (Recognitions), a third-century writing to illuminate her view of the transmission of the Jesus tradition.

I think it's safe to say that this merely prepares the table, so to speak, for the second half of his book, at which he will then take a stab at understanding the nature of the Gospel of Thomas. I think the brief survey in 'Part 1' was an excellent review of just what the scholars are saying about Thomas and his community in a way that is not overly technical nor biased. I didn't really mention it in the above sections, but Perrin does give credit to many of the arguments put forth by the three scholars, and he is not dismissive (in my opinion) in any way of their own attempts at understanding the question of the canonical gospels against GThom.

So far, recommended! (For those of you that are interested in the Gospel of Thomas)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 4

John Kloppenborg sure bangs that drum in odd fashion. I've read 3 articles from him and working through his ~500 pps. monograph, and I can't seem to find a clear answer on two things that keep popping up in his argument:

(1) Why do any Isaiah 5:1-7 LXX allusions in Mark 12:1-12 instead of a direct adoption of MT makes any of those allusions "secondary additions"?

Can't the tradition, as it shifted from Aramaic to a more Greek-friendly environment have adopted this change, albeit some of it is verbatim (i.e., use of Psalm 117:22-23 LXX in Mark 12:10-11)?

(2) In one article, 'Self-Help or Deus ex Machina in Mark 12.9?', he writes:

In this appeal to a deus ex machina ending, the framer of Mark 12.9 does not invoke quotidian legal and economic realities, but reaches back to archaic representations of God, unfettered by considerations of human justice or judicial prudence, and to archaic codes of human behaviour, when the strong took and held their possessions by force. We are left with two options. One is to insist on a metaphorical reading of the parable of the tenants as outlined above, despite the fact that what lends to the parable its primary metaphorical sense is a clearly Septuagintal allusion. But if one pursues this option, it must also be conceded that at a crucial point in the narrative – the owner’s use of self-help – the parable fails the test of realistic actions and beliefs; the parable must be interpreted as an allegory adapted from Isa 5.1–7. As a judgment parable, Mark 12.9 is a necessary component of the story and cannot be detached. But insofar as the metaphorical reading requires that the ‘host story’ be realistic in order that the metaphorical picture also be coherent, at a crucial point the logic of the host story collapses. The owner’s actions are simply not realistic as justifiable actions.

I am not sure why the 'host story' must be realistic in every minute detail that any extraordinary material deviating from that must be deemed secondary?

I'm just not convinced thus far, but we'll see after I finish reading his monograph.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Upcoming review:

I just received my second book for review, and since the last book was more "reference" material, I'm glad to actually do a review of a book. The title I received is Nicholas Perrin's Thomas, the Other Gospel. I do have some interests in doing research in the Gospel of Thomas and its relation to the canonical Gospels, so I guess this will be a good introductory book to see if this is what I want to do or not.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 3

Continuing the series of posts on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, today I read Klyne Snodgrass' article in the Bulletin for Biblical Research titled, "Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment". Although the article is about a decade old, he still does a good job surveying some of the interpretive thoughts that have been synthesized from this odd parable. Anyway, this is what he said:

Today, despite the recoil many still have against the word allegory, Jülicher's position has completely eroded away. Some scholars even urge the use of the word allegory to describe NT parables because parables often have more than one point of correspondence. Some would argue that allegory is not a literary genre at all but a device of meaning, and many would say no distinction can be made between parable and allegory. Both parable and allegory—if allegory is a genre—are stories with two levels of meaning. The more one is aware of OT and Jewish parables, the less one finds it necessary to denigrate allegorical significance. Note, for example, the critiques leveled against Jülicher and his followers by David Flusser and David Stern. Even scholars who confidently mark out allegory as something entirely different from a parable end up qualifying their statements to such a degree that the distinctions become unclear. Incidentally, the frequent claim that after an allegory has been interpreted the text may be left behind is simply not true, certainly not more so than for any other form of literature. Otherwise the Wizard of Oz—originally a political allegory on the gold standard, the allegorical significance of which has long been lost--would never be retold.

Snodgrass is basically trying to regain some of the ground lost due to Jülicher's influential position in his rejection of allegories (and allegorizations) and it seems that this may be a good angle to approach the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. On an unrelated note (somewhat), Snodgrass wrote in the footnote:

The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful and enjoyable story with a great deal of wisdom, but if one understands the symbolism, it is a historically rooted, howling, political satire on the American scene. The work was written in 1900, about the time of the collapse of the Populist party that was based on an alliance of Midwestern farmers and industrial workers who challenged bankers and economic interests and also wanted a silver standard to replace gold. The scarecrow represents the Midwestern farmers, the tin man the industrial workers, the cowardly lion who can roar but little else represents reformers like William Jennings Bryan (the orator who failed in his presidential campaign), and Dorothy the common person. They all travel along the yellow brick road (the gold standard) to Oz (the abbreviation for ounce) to seek favors from the the wizard (the president), who is just a common man who has power by deception.

Now only if the parable in Mark 12 along with its parallels in Mattew/Luke and Gospel of Thomas became as crystal clear as the story of Oz...

The Wicked Tenants Series:
Part 1, Part 2

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 2

In keeping with my continued study into the Parable of the Wicked(?) Tenants in Mark 12, I have just a few thoughts regarding the use of Isaiah 5:1-7 in Mark 12. I am reading through Kloppenborg's monograph and this is what I read today:

The relationship of texts of the Tanak to Mark's parable arose quite independently of any knowledge of the Gospel of Thomas. Even before the discovery of this gospel critics had observed both the poor fit between the quotations of Ps 117,22-23 and the parable proper, and the fact that the details in Mark 12,1 drawn from Isaiah 5 are largely irrelevant to the plot of the parable. The owner's building of a palisade and a tower and his digging of a vat have no bearing on the plot or on the outcome of the story. Indeed, Luke omitted most of these details, probably precisely because they were irrelevant. A generation ago it was standard to observe that the Isaiah allusions in Mark 12,1.9 were Septuagintal and undoubtedly secondary.1

Interestingly, Evans says:

Secondly, the appearance of some Septuagintalisms does not prove that Isa. 5:1-7 was not present in the parable from the very beginning, for Septuagintalizing inevitably took place as the Gospel tradition evolved from Aramaic into Greek. Our Greek Gospels themselves provide compelling evidence of this tendency. For example, the Aramaic-influenced paraphrase of Isa. 6:9-10 in Mark 4:12, "so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven," is shortened in Matthew (with the result that the distinctive Aramaic element "be forgiven" is dropped) and then is followed by a verbatim quotation of LXX Isa. 6:9-10 (cf. Matt. 13:13-15).2

I haven't fully thought this through myself, but it's tough when two scholars make opposite arguments!

1John S. Kloppenborg, The Tenants in the Vineyard, WUNT 195 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 149-50.
2Craig A. Evans, "How Septuagintal is Isa. 5:1-7 in Mark 12:1-9?", NovTest XLV, 2 (2003), 106.

The Wicked Tenants Part 1

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SAGE trial

For those of you who do not have access to SAGE online, you're missing out! Thankfully, my school provides us full access, so I've been downloading a bunch of articles (so many yet unread...), but if you don't have access to SAGE, they are apparently running a promo for free access until October 31, 2009. So click here and enjoy!

Some journals available:
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Expository Times
Currents in Biblical Research

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pauline Parallels

Pauline Parallels

Author: Walter T. Wilson
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Paperback: xvii + 469 pps.

Many thanks to Emily Kiefer from WJK for this review copy. As the title suggests, this book is purely a guide for Pauline parallels throughout his epistles (includes all 13). There's really not much for me to review but to just give you a snippet of how exactly this book works. For example, if I turn to the page that shows Galatians 3:1-9 as the main heading:

He will first show the Gal. 3:1-9 text in full (I believe he quotes all from NASB), then lists out other 'Galatian Parallels' in full (in this case, he listed Gal. 4:6; 5:11, 16; 6:12), then moves to 'Other Pauline Parallels' (Rom. 3:28; 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, etc.), to 'Other Biblical Parallels' (Gen. 12:1, 3, etc.), and finally to 'Noncanonical Parallels' in which he will quote in full, Sirach 44:20 and Mishnah Nedarim 3:11 in this case.

I think this will be a tremendous asset in helping any readers of Paul see where he may be drawing his thoughts from, and not only that, how there may be continuities between one epistle to the next. He does not quote the original languages, and in the beginning he lists the translations from which he derived his quotations (such as Charlesworth's The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and sources from Loeb Classical Library).

Overall, a very good addition to my library!

The Wicked Tenants Part 1

I'm working through Mark 12:1-9 for a paper I have to write for my exegesis of Gospels class, and I will just write some of my thoughts here as it comes. It's interesting first of all to see that there are deviations in the Markan pericope from its referent, presumably Isaiah 5:1-7. I want you to notice some of the different traditions in the synopsis below:

Mark 12:1-9 (NRSV)
1Then he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (MT, NRSV)
1Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:1-7 (LXX, NETS trans.)
1I will now sing for the beloved a song of the loved one concerning my vineyard: The beloved had a vineyard on a hill, on a fertile place. 2And I put a hedge around it and fenced it in and planted a Sorech vine, and I built a tower in the midst of it and dug out a wine vat in it, and I wanted for it to produce a cluster of grapes, but it produced thorns. 3And now, man of Ioudas and those who dwell in Ierousalem, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more might I do for my vineyard, and I have not done for it? Because I waited for it to produce a cluster of grapes, but it produced thorns. 5But now I will declare to you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be plundered, and I will tear down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6And I will abandon my vineyard, and it shall not be pruned or dug, and a thorn shall come up into it as into a wasteland, and I will command the clouds, that they send no rain to it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and the man of Ioudas is a beloved young plant; I waited for him to produce justice, but he produced lawlessness-- nor did he produce righteousness, but a cry!

Gospel of Thomas Logion 65 (Patterson-Robinson BWG trans.)
He said: "A [usurer] owned a vineyard. He gave it to some farmers so that they would work it (and) he might receive its fruit from them. He sent his servant so that the farmers might give him the fruit of the vineyard. They seized his servant, beat him, (and) almost killed him. The servant went (back and) told his master. His master said: 'Perhaps did not recognize .' He sent another servant, (and) the farmers beat that other one as well. Then the master sent his son (and) said: 'Perhaps they will show respect for my son.' (But) those farmers, since they knew that he was the heir of the vineyard, seized him (and) killed him. Whoever has ears should hear."

Some oddities:
(1) The perspective change from MT to LXX? (MT goes from 1st person to 3rd and back...)
(2) Wild grapes in MT to thorns in LXX?
(3) Does Mk. 12:1-9 correspond better with MT or LXX?
(4) Where does Gospel of Thomas fit in with all this?

This is it for now, but I will try to interact with the original languages in the future posts!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feels like college all over again... sort of.

As a biology major in college, I took many science classes, and specifically in chemistry and physics, we would always deal with the metric system. In chemistry we had to unlearn our everyday U.S. system of yards, feet, inches, pounds, and Fahrenheit, to acclimate ourselves with nanometers, kilograms, Celsius, Kelvin, and pascals. It wasn't hard, but it was just a hassle to deal with all the new units of measurement when we don't even use it here on a day to day basis. I wished so badly during college that they would just universalize this whole darn system. And these days, I noticed something even in the world of biblical studies that I found interesting:

In quoting from a passage in the Bible, the American, the British, and even the Canadian scholars seem to have different methods!

If we wanted to reference Psalm 119:105...

U.S. : Ps. 119:105
U.K. : Ps. 119.105
Canada : Ps. 119,105

What is the deal? Just use one system...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review copy!

Thanks to Emily from Westminster John Knox Press for this review copy! I'm pretty excited because this is my first book received to review and even if I didn't get approved, I probably would have just bought it myself. I will be sure to post a full review once I read through this book during this week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NEEDED: Your input yet again

In my previous post regarding the letter to the Ephesians, I received some very good feedback on OT use in Ephesians. Now, I am well on my way to thinking/writing through Isaiah in Ephesians 2:11-22. I hope I can yet again rely on some feedback on articles, books, and monographs on OT use in the Gospel according to Mark. I'm thinking specifically Isaiah 5:1-7 in the parable of the tenants found in Mark 12:1-9. So far I've looked at:

Steve Moyise and Maarten J.J. Menken, Isaiah in the New Testament

and a few journal articles in NovT of the dialogue between John Kloppenborg and Craig Evans on this passage.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just one word?

Do you guys like tattoos? I'm not much of a big fan, but seems like tattooing a word from the Bible (or a verse) is a big trend that's catching on in our churches today [at least where I'm from!]. My encounters with the ink:

(1) When I went to New Orleans after Katrina, we met a lady there who tattooed the Greek word ἐλεέω (eleeō, lexical form of the word meaning "I have mercy") I think on her wrist, mistakenly thinking that it was the noun form for "mercy" which is actually ἔλεος (eleos). It was kind of funny and sad at the same time...

(2) I have a friend who is a social worker who is very concerned about social justice. She is doing some great things in the community, and on her forearm, she has the tattoo מִשְׁפָּט (mišpat), which I guess is the closest word to (social?) justice she could find in the OT.

So, if you were allowed just one word, what would you tattoo, where would you put it, and why?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Letter to the Ephesians

For any of you guys out there, do you know of any recent journal articles, books, and commenatries that deal well with OT use in Ephesians? I'm thinking specifically Ephesians 2:17 (Is. 57:19). Immediately only O'Brien's commentary and Beale/Carson's commentary come to mind!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Third Person

I think it's fair to say that in most of the conversations I've had or heard regarding the Christian life, with respect to the Trinity, topics regarding the First Person (i.e., God the Father) and the Second Person (i.e., God the Son) far outweigh any discussions about the Third Person (i.e., God the Holy Spirit). I'm not sure if that just means that my own life is severely deficient in this regard, but I'll go ahead and assume that is true for most other Christians as well. I don't know if it just means that our perception of the Spirit is that he is weak, but I was working through Mark 1:1-13 for my Gospels exegesis class and I saw something interesting:

Mark 1:9-12
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." And the Spirit immediately drove him out (ἐκβάλλει) into the wilderness.

I wanted to focus on the word, ἐκβάλλει, which literally means to drive out or cast out. This is the only place as far as I can tell in the NT and LXX, where the Spirit is shown to ἐκβάλλει _______. Why did Mark choose this word? I've looked through R.T. France's NIGTC commentary and this is what he says:

"Whereas Matthew and Luke speak here of the 'leading' of the Spirit, Mark uses the more vivid verb ἐκβάλλει; the historic present adds to the immediacy of the impact. While it would be an exaggeration to say that ἐκβάλλω always suggests violence, it normally implies at least the possibility of resistance... The use of ἐκβάλλω also reinforces the OT concept of the Spirit of God as a powerful force (cf. Mi. 3:8)."

I want to do a study on this particular word sometime to see if any Greco-Roman lit. uses it to describe the actions of any particular deities, but for now, it seems that the Third Person of the Trinity is no wimp to be ignored in our conversations!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Nine eleven. Is there any other date in the 21st century that has been so world-changing as that day in 2001? Everyone that knows me knows that my memory is terrible, and yet I distinctly remember where I was, what I was doing, and can recall to this day watching all of it on TV in disbelief.

We just started talking about Zeitgeist in my class, which is a fancy German word for the 'Spirit of the age.' An example of Zeitgeist in the US would be the 'Sexual Revolution' of the 60s, the 'Red Scare' of the 40-50s, etc. There's been some other blogging about 9.11 by Nick Norelli and Brian LePort here, and I guess my attempt to add to that discussion is: how has that day altered the Zeitgeist of our world? Your country? Your life?

We will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't you wish you had an unending supply of...

gift cards?? I had a couple from Borders I forgot about, so I ordered:

(1) UBS Reader's Greek New Testament
A couple of my NT classmates had them, so I guess I should follow suit.

(2) Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright
I was reading this book on the plane on my way to Africa, and it was very interesting until I lost it in London! So here I am.

A poll

This is a picture of some of the books that I am currently reading, and my question for you all are: how much time do you spend reading?

How many hours do you read a week?

Let the voting begin!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"No one has arisen greater..."

This is how Jesus describes John the Baptist in human terms in Matthew 11:11 (as well as its parallel in Luke 7:28). We just began a full blown discussion and exegesis of the Gospel according to Mark, and right out of the gates in Mark 1, John the Baptist enters the scene as no insignificant figure. I'm guilty of probably overlooking the significance of JB in most of my studies in the Gospels (i.e. 'just get to Jesus already!'-mentality). Some things I've read today:

"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness toward one another, and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent as prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the citadel I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him."
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:116-19

"John the Baptist thus appears in these verses [i.e. vv. 2-8] as both of supreme significance, as the subject of some of the most stirring prophecies of the OT, the first embodiment of the age of eschatological fulfilment, and at the same time in the clearly subordinate role of the herald and footman, sent on ahead to prepare for the arrival of the sovereign."
R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC

"...this suggests that Mark's intention in using the Baptist material is not primarily to indicate that John bore witness to Jesus (as in the Johannine material) but rather as a foil to indicate who Jesus was not. This is accomplished in part by distinguishing Jesus' and John's activities and correcting the false impression of the outsiders about their identities, and in part by having Jesus in two key places (Mk 9 and 11) give testimony to who John really is, a testimony that balances that of John to Jesus in chapter one. This suggests that for Mark, John is the beginning of the gospel, not merely because he was seen to be Jesus' forerunner, an Elijah figure, but also because Jesus bore witness to John."
B. Witherington III, "John the Baptist" in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Let the unfolding of the gospel begin!