Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving Day this 2015! Let us remember the goodness of God and the many gifts the Lord showers upon us each day in ways seen and unseen. 
Image Credit: The Gospel Herald

Psalm 118:28-29New International Version (NIV)

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Seven-Minute Summary of Paul and the Gift by John Barclay

Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans 2015)
Many thanks to Nijay Gupta for finding this video on Seedbed's youtube channel. Here is John Barclay giving a summary of his central thesis in the recently reviewed book Paul and the Gift. The book was reviewed at the Pauline Soteriology Seminar (S23-133) at SBL-AAR 2015 by a great panel of scholars, namely, Joel Marcus, Margaret Mitchell, and Miroslav Volf with Barclay responding at the end. 
   I, unfortunately, had to miss the panel review since I was presiding over another session. I am still hoping someone in the blogosphere (HT Nijay Gupta) might offer some comments on the session. But this little video is a neat, tight, 7-minute summary of how Barclay's research on gift-exchange in the ancient world illuminates Paul's own discourse on grace. Thank you Seedbed for interviewing and producing this video: 

   Some quick thoughts: Barclay points out that the Greek word χάρις (often translated "grace" in the New Testament) had no unusual meaning on its own in every-day common or Κοινή usage and simply means "gift." Paul is not unique in talking about the abundance of God's gifts to human beings, nor is he unique in saying that God was the one who took the initiative in the gift-exchange. There apparently were many examples, in the literature of the Mediterranean world, of gods being the first to give gifts to humankind, and they did so quite lavishly. 
    What makes grace or gift unusal in Paul's gospel was that God gave χάρις to people regardless of their worth or in spite of their unworthiness. God did not pay any attention to the worth of the individual. In the ancient world, gifts functioned to produce relationships or bind two people or communities together. So an ancient person chose carefully whom to give a gift and form a binding relationship with. Not so the God of the gospel. God does not discriminate against any person based on their intrinsic worth. He forms binding relationships with anyone who receives the gift.
    That said, if ancient gift-giving took into consideration the ethnicity or social status of the individual, and if God's gift/grace now by-passes these previous social standards of discrimination, Paul can now challenge his congregation to form relationships with one another regardless of ethnicity, education, power or privilege solely on the basis of this same grace.
    Wow! That preaches! Though John shares his summary very irenically, it's still a powerful seven minutes worth listening to. So enjoy, and blessings as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Highlights from the Pauline Epistles Session (Nov 21)

My flight back home is delayed, so while I'm waiting at the airport, I'm thinking the best use of my time is to do a quick post on SBL-AAR 2015. I won't be posting on every session and every paper that I attended but I will highlight what I feel were presentations either of particular interest to me personally, or I think would be of wider interest to those who, as Kevin Vanhoozer puts it, appreciate that one aspect of pastoral ministry is being a public theologian and therefore do not shy away from the insights born from engagement with academic study.
Pauline Epistles Session at SBL-AAR Atlanta on Sat morning (11/21/15)
   The Saturday morning Pauline Epistles session (Nov 21) had some great papers. I'm grateful that David Wheeler-Reed mined Galen's recently discovered treatise De Indolentia (now published in a critical edition) for how its exposition on λυπή (often translated as "grief") might illuminate Paul's discourse (paper title: "Paging Dr. Paul: Reading Paul's Use of Grief with Galen"). Long story short, after a great summary of the treatise, Wheeler-Reed argued that the injunction μὴ λυπῆσθε in 1 Thessalonias 4:13 should be translated not as "Do not grieve" but "Do not distress over." Galen, of course, was writing much later than Paul, but the former's discourse on λυπή, so argued by Wheeler-Reed, was part of the wider linguistic currency of the Greco-Roman world that ran through the 1st century up until Galen's time. 
   Theologically, the implications of the translation means that Paul was not against emotional grief per say (by all means, the loss of someone in this earthly life is an occasion to grieve, weep, and remorse). Rather "distress" relates to a mental state on how to deal with the tragedies and external circumstances surrounding an individual. Rather than reacting with visible demonstrations of panic, Paul's antidote to distress is faith, especially a faith which confesses that those who have died in the Lord will not be excluded from the benefits and promises of salvation. 
   I'm not completely convinced that Paul would limit the definition of λυπή to exclude the emotional component of distress. Paul does say: Don't grieve as those who have no hope, not: dont' grieve at all [period!]. And since Galen was not a Stoic but accounted for emotional experience in moderated measure (see my essay in Klyne Snodgrass' Festschrift), I'm inclined to think that Paul's use of the term did include some emotional component. However, the paper was a helpful reminder that λυπή focuses not on an internal condition of the soul but one's deliberate (not knee-jerk) response to present external circumstances. 
    I must mention also that my dean, colleague, and friend Stephen Chester gave a fantastic paper on "Conflicting or Mutually Dependent Perspectives?: Interpreting the Flesh, Sin, and the Human Plight in Paul." I don't think he meant to be humorous, but the points he made in his presentation were so clear, I could not help but laugh a few times throughout his presentation for the sheer irony that he was so ably cataloguing in his history of interpretation on Paul's justification language. His central thesis was that the New Perspective has made the mistake of lumping together the views of Augustine and Martin Luther so that in their re-reading of Paul, the NPP (= New Perspective on Paul) ends up faulting Luther for concepts that Luther himself does not support. In fact, if one examines Luther's interpretation of Galatians more closely, many of Luther's exegetical conclusions anticipate the criticisms of the NPP against Augustine. 
   In regards to Luther's understanding of the flesh vs. the Spirit, for example, the NPP has accused Luther of being dualistic in his views of human anthropology. However, Luther, in a text quoted by Chester, actually says: 
  • The apostle [Paul] does not wish to be understood as saying that the flesh and the spirit are two separate entities, as it were, but whole... [LW 25:339-41 = WA 56:350, 22 - 352, 9]. Note that one and the same man at the same time serves the law of God and the law of sin, at the same time is righteous and sins! For he does not say: "My mind serves the law of God," nor does he say: "My flesh serves the law of sin," but "I, the whole man," the same person, I serve a two-fold servitude." [LW 25:336 = WF 56:347, 2-6; excerpt from a handout given by Chester]
When Luther talks about the whole person, he is hardly being dualistic or positing an anthropological hierarchy (human spirit > flesh). So when N.T. Wright says: 
  • [Paul's anthropological terms] sometimes appear to designate different 'parts' of a human being, but, as many have pointed out, it is better to see as each encoding a particular way of looking at the human being as a whole but from one perticular angle (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p. 491; excerpt from Chester's handout)
Luther would agree with Wright, and would add: And I said it first! Luther says the whole man serves God or sins. He does not think two different faculties in a person are at war with each other in some sort of (Neo)platonic dualism as Augustine does, but the NPP wrongly posits Luther's position as Augustinian. 
   So there is a delicious irony at work: the NPP has defined its movement vis-à-vis the Reformers but in fact many of its tenets (e.g., a holistic view of the flesh, or sin as an apocalyptic power) continue to depend on the exegetical work of the Reformers like Luther. 
    This paper, by the way, is part of a larger monograph that Stephen is almost finished with, and is tentatively entitled: Righteousness in Christ: Paul, the Reformers, and the New Perspective. He plans to submit a manuscript to Eerdmans and we will probably see it debut at the next SBL-AAR 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. Can't wait! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Craig Bartholomew on the Question of God and Historical Criticism (Nov 20)

Friday Night Plenary Session with Craig Bartholomew at IBR
speaking on "Old Testament Origins and the Question of God"
I don't know if I can do this for every session, but may be I can post on highlights of the day while I am at SBL-AAR 2015 in Atlanta. Last night, I heard a very challenging address by Dr. Craig Bartholomew, the H. Evan Runner Chair and Professor of Philosophy at Redeemer University. His paper title was "Old Testament Origins and the Question of God," which gives a nod to N.T. Wright's "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series now in its fifth volume. 
    There were many good challenges to Bartholomew's address, but the most poignant one was re-assessing how historical criticism should be practiced. He charged that any theory is underdetermined in relation to the data it seeks to explain. It is time to re-assess whether historical criticism underdetermines too much data so its interpretative model no longer remains useful for reconstructing and understanding a historical event. 
    Bartholomew gave this example from OT history: as soon as you read the Penteteuch at the literary and theological level, Moses is clearly a central figure. But at the level of historicity or historical criticism, scholars have virtually erased Moses from history and certainly do accept, even in mediated form, the idea that Moses contributes to the authorship of the Penteteuch. 
   Bartholomew went on to suspect that the need to re-assess how the scholar practices historical criticism would have come sooner had it not been for the "post-modern tsunami" which blew in alternative forms of criticism (new literary, rhetorical, reader-response, deconstruction, post-colonial, and others) into biblical studies. Before exegetes realized they needed to make revisions to the historical-critical method, scholarship, in response to the post-modern tsunami, retracted deeper into historical criticism as a default method because of the destabilizing effects of new and competing criticisms.
   Though delayed by the emergence of competing post-modern criticisms, Bartholomew feels that biblical scholars are long overdue in re-evaluating and revising how historical criticism is practiced, so data is more adequately determined and interpreted. 
    Wow! This lecture certainly gives me much to think about!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Hunt at SBL 2015 (part 2)

Photo Credit by the
Library of Congress
Continuing from my previous post on must-buy's at the book exhibit, I am writing here about books that have been advertised by publishers for debut at SBL-AAR 2015. These I'm not sure if I'm going to get or not, but I hope to browse through them before I decide to make a purchase. So the standing-on-the-fence book buy's include Michael Wolter's Paul: An Outline of His Theology, which was translated by Robert Brawley from Wolter's original 2011 Paulus. So thankful to Bob for making this work available in English.
Published by Baylor University Press
Next up are two books being published by Baker Academic which I don't know much about but the titles, nevertheless, have caught my attention. I'm always interested in work where historiography and the life of Apostle Paul juxtapose, but Patrick Gray's book Paul as a Problem in History and Culture looks more like one that focuses on reception history and why, historically and culturally, Paul has received his fair share of critics and fans.
Published by Baker Academic
Then there is the collection of essays edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, Apostle Paul and the Christian Life, where the authors explore the ethical and missional implications of the New Perspective. I take it that if the NP movement is correct, how does their rereading of Paul affect the way the church ministers to its congregations and shares the gospel? Great question to explore! I'm not a NP scholar but an Old Perspective Redux kind-of-guy; in other words, I appreciate the challenges of a NP reading of Paul, whose work forces me, in the good way, to reread Paul's letters and understand the apostle in his Jewish context. So this book helps in showing positively to students why a 1990's debate on the Judaism(s) of Paul makes a difference in appropriating his theology today.
Published by Baker Academic
A former fellow Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation steering committee member, Roy Jeal, just published his commentary on Philemon as part of SBL Press' new Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity series. Roy might have even referenced a post I did on Philemon here at Paul Redux, so I'm curious to see if a HT my way made it in the final published draft of his work. But really, kudos to Roy on his work and I'm keen to hear what he has to say about slavery and freedom in the gospel. Given the horrible history of misreadings of Philemon, I think a commentary committed to how Paul's rhetoric, in subtle and explicit ways, redefines slave relations in the Greco-Roman world is a needed and a welcome addition to the many commentaries out there on Philemon.
Published by SBL Press
Without knowing much about the book other than its title, I'm also curious to browse through Jane Lancaster Patterson's monograph on the metaphorical uses of sacrifice in the Philippian and Corinthian letter correspondences, entitled: Keeping the Feast.
Published by SBL Press
I almost missed this, and the advertisements on Festschriften usually get drowned out by other upcoming releases, but Wipf & Stock is publishing a collection of essays honoring well-known New Testament scholar Andrew Lincoln, edited by J. Gordon McConville and Lloyd Pietersen. Among the contributors are: N.T. Wright, Sylvia Keesmat, James Dunn, L. Ann Jervis, Philip Esler, Michael Gorman, Stephen Barton, Stephen Fowl, John Webster, Loveday Alexander... wait a minute! May be I should move this Festschrift to the "Shut-up-and-take-my-money" list:
Published by Wipf & Stock
Out in February (but will they have a display copy?) is Michael Bird's upcoming illustrated-by-Tomie-DePoala boyhood biography for children... whoops! I mean his commentary on Romans in Zondervan's The Story of God Bible commentary series (click the link above if you missed the joke post by Mike... have to admit, he had me going for a while).
Published by Zondervan Academic
Zondervan also has the co-authored book by Verlyn Verbrugge and Keith Kroll on Paul and Money that has my attention: 
Published by Zondervan Academic
Last but not least, whenever I go to the book exhibits, I walked through the well-established (and new!) monograph series to see what technical studies on the cutting-edge of Pauline and New Testament studies have emerged. I won't know really what I'll find until I browse through the exhibit, and many of these monographs, sadly, are priced beyond my budget range (except for a sneaky purchase here or there).
   But I try to look through: Mohr-Siebeck's WUNT series, Brill's  Supplements to Novum Testamentum (+click the titles tab), Fortress Press' Emerging Scholars, Cambridge University's SNTS monographs, T&T Clark/Bloomsbury's Library of New Testament Studies, SBL's Writings in the Greco-Roman World, and sometimes Peeters Publishers has some surprise monographs in its Contribution to Biblical Exegesis and Theology series. 
   That's it! Two more days and I'm off to Atlanta. See you all there! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Hunt at SBL-AAR 2015

Between sessions and catching up with people, one highlight of SBL-AAR is walking through the book exhibit, finding some jewels among a treasure trove of books, monographs, reference works, and commentaries. Many of my favorite publishers and university presses will be there in Atlanta, and they each offer a range of discounts, some as much as 40-50% off the sticker price. 
    I already having a working shopping list of purchases I have mind, divided between four groups: 1) must-buy (or the "Shut up and take my money (already)" books, 2) I-want-to-browse-it-first-before-I-give-you-the-dough books, 3) I-want-you-but-you're-too-expensive-for-me-to-buy-without-risking-the-wrath-of-my-wife books, and 4) pleasant-but-unexpected-purchases or let's-take-this-puppy-home book because it's too good a deal to pass up. Of course, I don't know what the 4th category of books will be until I roam the book exhibits and accidently stumble upon something I value. The 3rd category is a secret so I can give myself some wriggle room for a sneaky clandestine purchase from you-know-who. But I can comment on the 1st and 2nd categories in this and a subsequent post. So here are my tentative picks for category 1: 
    The must-buy books are Paul and the Gift by John Barclay, but to be honest, I already bought my copy because I could not wait. 
Published by Eerdmans
Richard Longenecker's long-awaited technical NIGTC on Romans was supposed to debut at Atlanta though all the online sellers seem to indicate that it will be a month or two later. Hopefully, Eerdmans will at least have a display copy at their table to peruse: 
Published by Eerdmans (may be available
in December? vs. Februrary)
Then there are E.P. Sanders' Paul: The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought, which also might be debuting late and N.T. Wright's The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle
Published by Fortress Press
Published by Baylor University Press
This last must-buy is not a book on Paul but nevertheless, a long, long awaited commentary on the Gospel of John from a premier Johannine scholar whose past work tells me that Marianne Meye Thompson's NTL Commentary on John will be the go-to-volume for the fourth gospel for a long time: 
Published by Westminster John Knox Press
Next post, the books I'm on the fence about and won't buy until I get a glance at them first. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Top Picks for SBL-AAR 2015 (Part 2)

Chris Spinks' suggested jogging route for SBL 2015
Continuing from the previous post, on Sunday Nov 22, I plan to attend the Worship Service of the Institute for Biblical Research at 7:30am. Then, for the morning sessions, I'm looking at: 


Pauline Epistles
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 209 (Level 2) - Hilton

Caroline Johnson Hodge, College of the Holy Cross, Presiding

Todd Berzon, Bowdoin College
Reading Galatians in Late Antiquity: An Ethno-History (25 min)

Sonja Anderson, Yale University
Are Idols Real? Demons, Christians, and Rabbis (25 min)

Mark A. Ellis, Faculdade Teológica Batista do Paraná, Brazil
The Augustinian Captivity of Rom 5:12 (25 min)

James Starr, Johannelund Theological Seminary
Second-Century Reception of Pauline Paraenesis (25 min)

Will Deming, University of Portland
Similarities between Paul and the Stoics on Ethics (25 min)

I'm particularly interested in Anderson's paper on idols and idol food in the Corinthian correspondence, and to hear what Deming thinks are shared categories in moral philosophy and ethics between Paul and the Stoics. I have my ideas on the subject but I would be curious to hear Deming's own independent evaluation on the matter, and catalogue his assertions/suspicions along side those of Troels Engberg-Pedersen and a growing number of Scandinavian scholars who have written on the topic in a jewel of an essay collection, sadly not getting quite enough press, entitled: Stoicism in Early Christianity (2010)
    For the early afternoon session, I'm heading over to: 


Philo of Alexandria
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: International 4 (International Level) - Marriott

Theme: Philo & the History of Interpretation
Seminar papers will be available on-line at

Sarah Pearce, University of Southampton, Presiding

Frank Shaw, Ashland University
An Onomastic History: What Can Philo Provide? (25 min)

Michael Francis, University of Notre Dame
Voluntary and Involuntary Sin and the Allegory of the Soul in Philo (25 min)
Break (10 min)

Ludovica De Luca, Università degli studi Roma Tre
The Bronze Snake according to Philo of Alexandria in Legum allegoriae II, 79–81 (25 min)

Justin M. Rogers, Freed-Hardeman University
The Reception of Philonic Arithmological Exegesis in Didymus the Blind's Commentary on Genesis (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)

An appealing feature of the above section is that the papers, for the most part, are already available to be read (here). The session is therefore dedicated to discussion of the papers, and over the years, there have been some very good ones. I'll have to make the most of my airplane flight and read especially Navaros Cordova's and Francis' papers so I can track whatever dialogue or debate ensues.
   For Sunday late afternoon/evening, I'm stuck again. I want to attend the Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics session but every year, I also attend the Korean Biblical Colloquium, especially to support rising scholars in biblical studies who read their papers for the first time at KBC. 


Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 202 (Level 2) - Hilton

Theme: A Preposition You Can't Refuse
This session is dedicated to Greek prepositions. The history of preposition scholarship, linguistic theories, and issues of exegesis will be addressed.

Stanley E. Porter, McMaster Divinity College
Greek Prepositions, Processes, and Cases in an SFL Framework (30 min)

Constantine R. Campbell, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Greek Prepositions and New Testament Exegesis (30 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Dilemma! Dilemma! Dilemma! What I'm likely to do is attend the first half of the BGLL session and run over to KBC to catch the New Testament papers by Kim and Park.


Korean Biblical Colloquium
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 210 (Level 2) - Hilton
Immediately following the papers, we will have a brief business meeting. Afterwards, we invite members (and guests) to dinner at a nearby restaurant (TBA).

John Ahn, Howard University, Presiding

Sok-Chung Chang, Catholic Kwandong University
The Korean Translation of "Two Stones" in Exod 1:16 (30 min)

Donald Kim, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Faith(fulness) of Christ within Paul’s Judaism (30 min)

Hyun Ho Park, Graduate Theological Union
Minjung in the Sinking of the Sewol Ferry: A Reading of Luke 10:25-42 from Minjung Theology’s Perspective (30 min)
Business Meeting (30 min)

After the day's sessions are over, I'm off to a dinner with Levant and the folks at Tuktu Tours to hear more about the possibility of a trip to Asia Minor to see the seven cities of Revelation. I'm hoping all the details can be worked out. I'm eager to go!

    On Monday Nov 23, after the Full Theological Seminary breakfast at 7:00am, I'm going to have to miss the morning session featuring a book review of John Barclay's Paul and the Gift (2015) because I'm chairing a session for the Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation Section. The papers for the INTI session look fantastic. It's just a shame that our session has to compete with the review of Barclay's book. 
     After the morning session is over, I'm heading to the airport and back to Chicago. I'm cutting my trip a day short and returning on Monday instead of Tuesday like I normally do.


Pauline Soteriology
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) - Marriott

Theme: Review of John Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans 2015)
Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding

Joel Marcus, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)

Margaret Mitchell, University of Chicago, Panelist (20 min)

Miroslav Volf, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Break (10 min)

John Barclay, University of Durham, Respondent (40 min)
Discussion (40 min)

     Hoping, nevertheless, to see many people for the INTI session on Paul and his rhetorical use of intertextual echoes. Safe travels to all who are going to Atlanta one week from tomorrow! MJL


Intertextuality in the New Testament
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: L404 (Lobby Level) - Marriott

Theme: Intertextuality, Rhetorical Criticism, and the Pauline Letters
Max Lee, North Park Theological Seminary, Presiding

Raymond Morehouse, University of St. Andrews
Diatribe and Deuteronomy: Romans 3:1-6 as Guided Reflection on Deut 32:4 (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Douglas C. Mohrmann, Cornerstone University
Paul’s Use of Scripture in Romans 9–11 as Palimpsest: Literature in the Second Degree (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Jason A. Myers, Asbury Theological Seminary
Paul and the Rhetoric of Obedience: A Rhetorical Reading of Obedience (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

G. Brooke Lester, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
No, Seriously: A Unifying Theory of Allusion (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)