Thursday, December 18, 2014

Video Interview with Klyne Snodgrass

Today I had the privilege to interview Klyne Snodgrass, the Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, on the 3rd floor of Nyvall Hall, in an office he has occupied for four decades, where many a conversation has taken place. It was truly a joy to do this and to celebrate with a mentor, colleague, and dear friend a lifetime of faithful service to North Park Theological Seminary and the Evangelical Covenant Church. 

Nyvall Hall with its steeple in the background
from the Johnson Center on the North Park University campus

The questions I asked of Klyne were as follows (with the time stamp): 
  1. How did you feel to have received a Festschrift in your honor? (0:33)
  2. How does a scholar and pastor "do theology for the church"? (2:14)
  3. What kind of scholar and teacher have you tried to be? (3:34)
  4. What legacy and challenge do you leave with us (= the seminary and the church)? (5:17)
  5. What has been the greatest joy and greatest struggle of your vocation? (6:48)
  6. What are your immediate and long-term plans, vocationally and personally? (8:51)
  7. Any last words you would like to share with us, and especially to your family? (10:49)
The entire interview is a lean 13:20 minutes long. Feel free to watch the video below or click the youtube link where it is posted. 
   I hope you will all be blessed as much as I was from hearing Klyne's testimony and words of exhortation. 

Post-script: I have to confess it was more work than than I thought to pull off the video interview, especially with the media equipment at hand (= Logitech HD 615 videocam; lapel mic, laptop). Many thanks to Zach Martinez, my teaching assistant, for his help in doing the camera work. He did a fantastic job. Production was all done by myself using Audicity software to improve the audio, and Microsoft Movie Maker to edit the video, add music and captions, and the like. Fun to do, but I'm not sure if I can make a career from this. MJL

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Festschrift for Klyne Snodgrass Honoring 40 Years of 'Doing Theology for the Church'

It's been a while since my last post (and many apologies for the delay!) but as soon as I got back from SBL-San Diego, I ran into the notorious 100-yard dash to final exams: wrapping up lectures, grading last-minute papers and assignments, writing the final exams, giving the final exams, and now... sigh... grading the final exams. But I hope to get back to my weekly posting once I turn in the grades (and then Christmas... but wait a minute! what happened to Advent? I missed it?)
   But for this post, I wanted to give a shout-out to the recently published Festschrift dedicated to a colleague (and in many ways also a mentor) at North Park Theological Seminary: Dr. Klyne Snodgrass, the Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies. The collection of essays celebrates Klyne's 70th birthday. 
   The book was announced first as a genuine surprise back in May 2014 at North Park's graduation ceremony. NPU wrote a nice article celebrating Klyne's 40-year ministry of teaching, scholarship, and discipleship of the next generation of Christian leaders for the church, and Klyne's family flew in from different parts of the U.S.A. to surprise him when a framed photo of the Festschrift cover was presented to him. 
   At the Friday night session of IBR (= the Institute of Biblical Research) in San Diego, we handed Klyne the first printed copy of the Festschrift hot off the press from Covenant Publications and Wipf & Stock. Here is a photo of Klyne at IBR surrounded by colleagues and friends, including myself: 
Presentation of a Festschrift to Dr. Klyne Snodgrass on the occasion of
his 70th Birthday at IBR in San Diego (Nov. 21, 2014)
Now for the details about the book, entitled: Doing Theology for the Church: Essays in Honor of Klyne Snodgrass (2014). The book is divided into 5 sections (17 essays total), all featuring the varied interests and areas of research of Klyne: I. Gospel and Parables, II. Paul, III. OT in the New (= Inner-Biblical Intepretation), IV. Women and Ministry, and V. Identity. The list of contributors include colleagues at North Park, former students now either in doctoral programs or teaching as professors themselves, and an international array of friends who have interacted with Klyne's work and known him personally for years, including: N.T. Wright, Darrell Bock, Richard Longenecker, Jan du Rand, John Painter, Scot McKnight, Robert Hubbard, Jr., Robert Johnston, James Bruckner, Paul Koptak, Stephen Chester, Jay Phelan, Max Lee, Rebekah Eklund, Jo Ann Deasy, Hauna Ondrey, and Ekaterina Kozlova, with a comprehensive bibliography compiled by Stephen Spencer. Here is a preview of the table of contents (below): 
Table of Contents (click photo to zoom)
   It was edited by a former student of Klyne and NP alumnus, Dr. Rebekah Eklund, currently an Assistant Professor of New Testament at Loyola University Maryland, and Dr. Jay Phelan, Senior Professor of Theological Studies at North Park Theological Seminary. Dr. Paul Koptak, the Paul and Bernice Brandel Professor of Communication and Biblical Interpretation at North Park, also did much editing work for the volume with the fantastic staff and team at Covenant Publications led by managing editor Jane Swanson-Nystrom. The book is co-published by Covenant Publications and Wipf & Stock. You can purchase a copy at the W&S website or on amazon
   I will be doing something adventurous next week: I will be video-interviewing Klyne (disclaimer: using very modest equipment with the help of my TA) and posting that interview here on this blog. I will ask him for his response about receiving the Festschrift as well as to reflect on his past 40 years of scholarship, teaching, and ministry for the church. So more to come and stay tuned! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Back from SBL-AAR 2014

It's been a week since the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego. I went to some very informative, some inspiring, sessions. I also caught up with many colleagues and friends whom I don't get to see except at the annual meeting. There was also the Festschrift presentation to Klyne Snodgrass during the Institute of Biblical Research gathering on Friday evening (11/21). The book, Doing Theology for the Church, was ready for the book tables of Wipf & Stock by the the time of the meeting. It looked like they were selling well, too. 
   I'll post separately on the Festschrift for Klyne and on some of the sessions which I thought were particularly helpful for the study of Paul in his wider Mediterranean context. But as a prelude to the fantastic time I had at SBL, here are some photos of the jogging route I took while I was there. Chris Spinks over at the Wipf & Stock blog Running Heads posted a map of a jogging path as a way to enjoy the boardwalk and ocean air of San Diego. His group was going to start running at 7am on Saturday (11/22) but I needed to meet someone at 8am, so I followed his suggested route at 6am. It was glorious! I made it a prayer run and it really fed my soul. Here are some pics below and I'll follow up with a succession of posts on my time at SBL in the days ahead.
Photo of the Sun Rising on the San Diego Boardwalk
Here was the route I took as suggested posted by Chris: 
I made it passed the pier, the Midway aircraft carrier, and the "pirate" ship before having to head back to catch my 8am meeting. About 4 miles round trip. Perfect!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SBL-AAR 2014 San Diego Preview

I was planning to do a few posts on magic and miracles in Acts called "Paul the Magician?" as a follow-up to my Alcinous post on competitive acculturation, but this will have to wait until after I come back from the annual meeting in sunny San Diego, California, that is coming up next weekend (Nov. 21-24, 2014). The Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion meets each year for a conference which features papers read on cutting-edge research issues in biblical studies, religion and theology. Last year, I read a paper for the Biblical Lexicography group on Paul's use of righteousness language in its Greco-Roman context (now published in Seyoon Kim's Festschrift). But this year, I'm only presiding over one session of the Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation Section for which I'm a steering committee member. This session has the theme: "Intertextuality and Gender in the New Testament" (S22-223) and features two papers by:
  1. Alice Yafeh, Azusa Pacific University and Frederico A. Roth, Azusa Pacific University
    Vision and Re-Envision: Re-Tracing the Social Justice Relationship between Hannah and Mary’s Songs (60 min)
  2. Kay Higuera Smith, Azusa Pacific University
    Feminist Intertextual Explorations: Mary as Intertextual "Signifier" in The Protevangelium of James (25 min)
SBL-AAR Program Book cover for Nov 2014
   Having perused through the catalogue, I've already mapped out my schedule for what sessions I'm going to attend. Here are some highlights of sessions I'm interested in: 

Friday afternoon (Nov 21): S21-201 - Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination (12:30-5:30pm). This will probably be the highlight of the entire meeting and everything after that will be anti-climatic. The roster includes: M.C. de Boer, N.T. Wright, Loren Struckenbruck, Philip Ziegler, Michael Gorman, Edith Humphrey, Douglas Campbell, Beverly Gaventa, and John Barclay! It's a stellar line-up of well-renowned scholars in New Testament studies. Ben Blackwell, who helped organize the session, has already blogged about the session and has paper titles, etc. over at his co-authored blog Dunelm Road. Be sure to click the link and peruse through the paper titles. 

Friday evening: P21-401 - Institute for Biblical Research Annual Lectureship (7-9pm). Craig Keener, well-known for his work in primary source material across the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of the early imperial period, will give a paper (based on his well-received 2011 2-volume work on Miracles) entitled: "Miracles: Philosophic and Historical Plausibility." Having just had a discussion with North Park seminarian students on miracles and how the biblical corpus helps us recognize the miraculous in our day and age, especially as the church encounters and experiences the supernatural, both God-given and sometimes demonic in origin, I'm keen to hear Craig on how he tries to reconcile the reality of miracles in the biblical corpus with the skepticism toward the supernatural in a (North American) scientific and post-scientific cultural context. 

Saturday (Nov 22): It's slim pickings on Saturday morning. At a very subjective level, none of the papers read for the 9-11:30am sessions really grab my interest or are relevant to my research/teaching agenda. So I might wander the book exhibit for the morning session, check in with Mohr-Siebeck for which my own monograph is contracted, or find myself walking back and forth between the Paul and Politics section, the Pauline Epistles section, or the Social Scientific Criticism of the New Testament (the latter of which features the theme "Food in Antiquity"). 
   In the afternoon, I'm committed to presiding over the "Intertextuality and Gender in the New Testament" session (mentioned above) from 1-3:30pm.
   In the evening session (4-6:30pm), I'll be wandering around again between papers that I'm intent on hearing but unfortunately are spread around between different sessions. For example, in the Paul and Politics section, Laura Nasrallah is giving a paper on: "How Do Paul's Letters Matter for a Political Philosophy?" (4:10-4:32pm), in the Rhetoric and the New Testament section, Katherine Shaner is presenting on: "Seeing Rape and Robbery: Harpagmos and the Philippians Christ Hymn" (4:55-5:20pm), or should I just stay for the Soren Kierkegaard Society session on Kierkegaard's use of the Passion Narratives the entire time (P22-343a)? 

Sunday (Nov 23): Sunday always starts off for me with a time of worship with the Institute of Biblical Research worship service from 7:30-8:30am (P23-103). I remember the day, before the IBR worship service was there, when I was always scrambling on Sunday morning trying to find a church service to attend. I'm very grateful that IBR has continued to provide a place of worship on Sunday's for its members! 
   Sunday morning I'm off to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture section (9-11:30am) which features papers on the continuing influence and legacy of Rudolph Bultmann. The papers are based on a collection of essays published by Baylor University Press entitled: Beyond Bultmann: Reckoning a New Tesatment Theology (2014). I guess one could argue that a person could simply read the essays in the book rather than attend the session, but I always found it valuable to attend such sessions because often the speakers add more content or provide a (biographical) context to their work. Certainly the Q&A ought to raise new concerns not addressed in the essays. The speaker line-up is fantastic: Joel Green is presiding, Bruce Longenecker is providing an introduction to the session (he also edited the book), and then papers from John Barclay, Richard Hays, Francis Watson, and Angela Standhartinger
   For the Sunday afternoon session, there is really only one paper I'm intent on hearing, and that is from my dissertation supervisor (= Doktorvater; don't know if Doktormater is common nomenclature yetJudy Gundry at Yale Divinity School who is writing a monograph on 1 Cor 7 and will be reading a paper for the Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism section (S23-227) entitled: "Junia.. 'Prominent among the Apostles' (Rom 16:7), Paul 'the Least of the Apostles' (1 Cor 15:9): Equality or Hierarchy of Jewish Christian Apostles?" (1:05-1:30pm). After her paper, I may run over to the Pauline Epistles section to hear the 2nd half of the session which features N.T. Wright, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Ward Blanton as the respondents to two papers read by Matthew Gordley "Psalms of Solomon and Pauline Studies," and Hans Svebakken, "Romans 7:7-25 and a Pauline Allegory of the Soul." 
   Sunday evening (the 4-6:30pm block), I'm torn. It always happens. There are two sessions I want to go to that are happening at the same time. The Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti (S23-309) has a special session on "Plutarch and the New Testament Revisited" featuring papers from Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, David Aune, Frederick Brenk, and a response from Hans Dieter Betz. BUT the Korean Biblical Colloquium has a two plenary papers from the past presidents of KBC: Won Lee, OT professor from Calvin College, is giving the paper: "Does God Deceive? A Rereading of Jacob's Wrestling Match" and my 2nd Doktorvater Seyoon Kim, NT professor from Fuller Theological Seminary, is presenting on: "Paul's Gospel of Justification and Jesus' Gospel of God's Kingdom." I'll probably hear the first two papers at the Plutarch Revisited session and then jam over to KBC to hear Dr. Kim's paper on Paul and Jesus. 

Monday (Nov 24): I'm heading over to the Fuller Theological Seminary alumni breakfast early morning and then packing it up to go home early. I'm not staying beyond Monday. 

   Running around SBL will be my exercise routine for this coming weekend. However, if any of you who read this blog happen to be at San Diego this year for the annual meeting, and if you happen to catch me in a session, sitting down somewhere, or running around from one place to another, please stop by and say "hello!" I would love to chat with you about the Paul Redux blog and your own work! Safe travels for all who are attending SBL-AAR this coming weekend. Peace!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bill Maher on the Heart of the (Christian) Liberal Arts Education

Normally I don't click anything on the tab "popular on youtube," but one feature video clip caught my eye because it highlighted my undergrad alma mater U.C. Berkeley (Go Bears!). I entered Berkeley as a pre-med English major back in 1986 and graduated with the class of 1991 (with an interm year as an English teacher and short term missionary to Japan in 1990). In 1986, it was at the peak of the Berkeley protests against Apartheid in South Africa. I remember the protests vividly and became quickly enthralled with the free speech movement, its history and practice, on the campus. 
Free Speech Demonstration in front of Sproul Hall at
the University of California, Berkeley, in the mid/late-1980's
image credit: Regional Oral History Office of UCB
Apparently the (in)famous talk show host Bill Maher of RealTime with Bill Maher was asked to be the commencement speaker for the December graduating class of 2014 at Cal Berkeley. Some have urged U.C. Berkeley officials to rescind their invitation in light of some comments he made concerning Islam that they found offensive. I can't say that I'm a big fan of Maher, and some of his caricatures of Christianity are inaccurate and hyperbolic in my opinion (though he at times does point out some real issues of hypocrisy so we can learn from the man!). I'm not a political liberal, nor am I a conservative. I vote on issues and across party lines.
   However, I did think his short 3 1/2 minute excursis on the nature and purpose of liberal arts education was a fantastic segue into a deeper conversation on the Christian liberal arts curriculum. You can watch the video below: 

   Bill's best line is: "Whoever told you that you only had to hear whatever did not upset you?!" (2:20). I showed this clip to my undergraduate Paul course before we move to the 3rd leg of the course: themes and major issues of contemporary importance in the Pauline letters. I exhorted my class to learn how to exchange ideas and hear the other person, even a person's ideas with whom we strongly disagree, and let the exchange lead to a deeper discourse so both parties can benefit and learn from each other. 
   I'm not a fan of censuring or silencing a critic. There are ways to voice disagreement that lead to further dialogue and understanding, rather than stifle them. If there are bad ideas in circulation and popularized by our North American culture, then the solution to bad ideas is not censorship. It is replacing bad ideas with better ones. That is the nature of a liberal arts education.
   For the Christian, the church needs to finds ways to enter the public forum, fight for its religious freedom, and not let itself be censured. The contribution that the church can make to public policy and programming can help our neighbors understand themselves more critically. Hearing our neighbors helps us test the basis of our convictions and see ourselves more clearly as well. Hopefully we can return to the roots of the liberal arts education and present a distinctly Christian voice and contribution to public dialogue on issues that are dear to us all. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Competitive Acculturation, Part 2: Alcinous and the Stoics on Good Emotions

[Warning! going turbo nerd again:] Remember that in a previous post (long ago, in a time far far away...[here]) I cited Thiessen’s definition of competitive syncretism as: “Rivals in the marketplace in part resemble one another ... They have to 'imitate' one another in order to outdo one another in the imitation” (A Theory of Primitive Religion; p. 49). In this earlier post, I used Thiessen’s definition as a template and but jettisoned the problematic term ‘syncretism’ to give the category competitive acculturation. Here in this post, I would like to give an example of competitive acculturation from ancient philosophical discourse (a long overdue post).
   Here is a quotation from the Middle Platonist Alcinous in his handbook on Platonism entitled the Didaskalikos. Here he pokes fun at his rivals, the Stoics, on what constitutes the basis for human flourishing (εδαιμονα):
  • Contemplation (θεωρα), then, is the activity of the mind when it intelligizes the intelligibles, but practice (πρξις) is the activity of the rational soul which happens through the body. The soul which contemplates the divine and the thoughts of the divine is said to be in a good state (επαθεν), and this state of the soul is called ‘wisdom’ (φρνησις), and this, one may say, is none other than assimilation to the divine.Alcinous, Didask. 2.2 (= Whittaker 153.2–9; Eng. trans. follows Dillon, Alcinous, p. 4)
The key word that is the hinge text for competitive acculturation is επαθεν. In the thematic context of  the passage: when are human beings at their best? (you can call it “living according to virtue” like the Stoics, or call it “assimiliation to the divine” as the Middle Platonists do), the Stoics and Platonists had contrasting views on the τλος or end/goal of life. The Stoics believed if we extirpated harmful emotions completely, and are ruled only by rational good emotions called the επθειαι, then we can live life according to virtue and be fully human.
   According to the Stoics, the sage could experience some “good emotions” or “good affective states” called επθειαι – i.e., joy (χαρ), willfulness (βολησις), and caution (ελβεια) – which stood as the positive counterparts to the harmful the passions of the soul which threaten to derail human life and character, namely, pleasure, lust, fear and grief. That is, joy stood as the positive counterpart to pleasure, willfulness to lust/desire, and caution to fear, with no apparent equivalent επάθος corresponding to grief (see Diogenes Laertius, Lives 7.116; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations. 4.12-14; note: Cicero translates επθειαι as constantiae or "stable states").
Roman copy (1st cent. AD) of a Hellenistic original (200 BC)
Head of Chrysippus, 2nd successor of the Stoa
Photo taken by Max Lee © 2010 British Museum
   So here is the punchline: in philosophical discourse, the Stoics own the language of the επθειαι. It would be impossible for the philosophically informed reader to miss the allusion then of Alcinous to the Stoic doctrine of the good emotions with his use of the word επαθεν especially in the context of the discourse: what does it mean to flourish as a human being.
   Alcinous effectively says the Stoics are wrong. Good emotions are inadequate. We do not reach our potential until we participate and commune with the divine through the process of contemplation (θεωρα = how the mind sees the transcendent world and models its life after what it sees). Ethical practice (πρξις) is important but secondary to the contemplative life which provides a paradigm for moral living. If we see what beauty, goodness, and justice is in the transcendent Forms of Beauty, Goodness, and Justice, then we can shape our souls and govern society according to the beauty, goodness and justice we see.
   So the example or case for competitive acculturation works if one can demonstrate that:
  1. a particular group (philosophical, political or religious) owns the terminology or language like the Stoics did for the terms επθειαι επάθος
  2. a rival group uses the same language in a literary context that evokes the discourse of their competing interlocutors (in this case, what is the τλος or end/goal of life? what is human flourishing?)
  3. the rival group offers an alternative solution or thesis in contradistinction to the solution offered by the other group (Alcinous posits theoria as the key to human flourishing not the good emotions of the Stoics)
  4. often times there is a double entendre or word play: “the good state” (επαθεν) of a human being is not the Stoic good emotions (επθειαι) and extirpation of the passions but the Platonic mind’s assimilation to the divine. 
The question, then, is with Paul’s use of such charged words as εαγγλιον (gospel), ερνη (peace), κριος (Lord), σωτρ (Savior), κτλ., did Paul consciously pit his gospel against the good news of the imperial cult? Did the imperial cult own this language? or do these terms find wider currency elsewhere? Going beyond whether Paul had an anti-imperial gospel or not, do current claims to find any Greco-Roman allusion in Paul which are competitive meet all or some of the above conditions distilled from Alcinous’ interaction with his Stoic rivals?
   We are still, in the end, just scratching the surface of how methodologically do we approach the problem and detection of Greco-Roman allusions in Paul, but I thought this example would give us some food for thought to move forward on the issue.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Need to Recharge but I Will Be Back!

Whew! I never thought writing out grant applications would be so labor-intensive but for the most part, I spent the entire Spring reading week either writing my monograph or drafting my proposal for some grants. I'm pooped! I need a recharge since my batteries are running low...
BayMax: Feeling Low on Energy... My Batteries Need Recharging
(Screen capture from the trailer to Disney's upcoming Big Hero 6 movie)
I have a Sabbatical semester off in the next academic year but I would like to extend that to another semester and hence the grant proposal writing. In any case, let me catch my breath and I'll be back to blogging soon. But right now, I feel like BayMax from the upcoming Big Hero 6 movie (photo above; trailer here). Peace!