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.

Thanksgiving

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

Gym?

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).


Interesting!

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

Shipped

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

DJG

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.

Amazon.com
Augsburg

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.

Recommended!

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.

Amazon.com
WTS Books
Zondervan

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!