Sunday, December 27, 2015

Off to Urbana 2015

Once held in Urbana, Champaign, Illinois, the conference has become so
large that it has been moved to the larger convention center in St. Louis
I'm off on a road trip to St. Louis to attend Intervarsity's Urbana 2015 Conference. Though I have heard about Urbana many times, as far back when I myself was a college student at the University of California, Berkeley, and listened to tapes from speakers of past Urbana conferences (e.g., Helen Roseveare), this will be the first time I will be attending the conference in person. I, another pastor, my oldest son and four other graduating high school seniors will be driving from Chicago to St. Louis for a week at Urbana. 
   I'm not sure how much of the conference will connect to my research, but if there are pastoral connections and reflections to share, I will post them here or via twitter. I personally am looking forward to hearing some challenging messages and reflect on my own call as a theological educator for the church. I'm always conscious of the need to bring the best of the academy in service of the church's mission and ministry. Being at Urbana will not only be, by God's grace, a fresh wind and fire for my own walk with Christ but also hopefully inspire me to think through the pastoral and theological implications of my own research, as I make connections between what I hear, and the conversations I engage in, with the work that I am currently doing. 
   In the end, this is a time for me to "Be still and know that the Lord is God" (paraphrasing Psalm 46:10). 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Highlights from Intertextuality, Rhetoric, and the Pauline Letters (Nov 23)

I got sidetracked during the Christmas holiday, but finally I found the time to give my final post on SBL-AAR 2015. 
    The session I presided over for the Intertextuality and New Testament Intepretation Section (S23-124: Intertextuality, Rhetorical Criticism, and the Pauline Letters) had five fantastic paper presentations, and I enjoyed them so much that I forgot to take a quick photo of our session. So here is a random book cover photo of a classic example of intertexuality: Ulysseys, James Joyce's modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey but set in modern 1904 Dublin. 
James Joyce's Ulysses is a classic example of intertextuality,
which structures its poetry after Homer's Odyssey
As with the other session summaries, I won't comment on every paper but just share a few highlights. 
   First up was A. Andrew Das of Elmhurst College, with his paper entitled "An Audience-Oriented Approach to Paul's Use of Scripture in Galatians: Reader Competence and Differing Target Audiences." Das' paper did not really introduce any new theoretical framework on intertextuality but applied existing models in an innovative way. In my previous post, I gave a concise description of the rhetorical vs. narrative approaches to intertextuality (here). Usually, these approaches are seen as competing. But Das, in his reading of Galatians, applied both models in corresponding and consistent ways. From the perspective of reader competence, Das doubts that the Galatian Gentile converts had much knowledge of Scripture (key word here is "Gentile"). He argues that when Paul addresses the church at Galatia, for the most part, Paul's use of Scripture is rhetorical without reference to the wider co(n)text. 
    However, when Paul addresses the agitators (or Judaizers), Paul's approach is narrative and provides a much more sophisticated exegetical argument against a collective reading of the Genesis texts (i.e., the Judaizer position) which would posit the descendants of Abraham as the inheritors of God's promises. Nor does Paul identify the seed of Abraham as Isaac even though some contemporary Jews of his day did. Instead, Paul understands the seed of Abraham to be Christ and controversially the Judaizers as apostates to the gospel. 
    Probably the most provocative paper was by G. Brooke Lester of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, entitled "No, Seriously: A Unifying Theory of Allusion." Lester primarily is a Hebrew Bible scholar, and the Old Testament has its own theoretical models of intertextuality with ancient near eastern traditions or approaches to inner-biblical interpretation. Sometimes the models used do overlap with those employed by New Testament scholars, and in this case, Lester draws on the work of literary theorists Ziva Ben-Porat and Carmella Perri who are familiar to recent NT scholars on intertextuality (e.g., see the work of Christopher Beetham, David McAuley, and Leroy Huizenga; cf. Lester's own book on Daniel). Forgive the pun, but the theories of Ben-Porat and Perri on allusion had eluded me, and so I found Lester's paper on tacitness of reference very helpful.
   In the past, scholars have understood allusions to Scripture or other ancient texts in the New Testament to be defined by how tacit is an author's identification of a Scriptural reference. If, for example, Paul identifies an OT quotation with the typical formula "As it is written," then the OT text is not an allusion because it is overtly recognized by the reader with the author's help. 
    However, Lester points to the work of Ben-Porat and Perri to redefine allusion as a production of the author and reader. An allusion can be overtly identified, but it remains an allusion if the meaning of the NT text is still unclear even when the reader is aware of the alluded-to text. If the connection between texts creates a riddle, that is, it is unclear how the allude-to text is supposed to illuminate the meaning of the read text, then we have an allusion. An allusion creates an imaginative space that needs to be filled in by the reader who interprets the evoked text to make sense of what he or she has read.
    So a good signal that we may have a Pauline allusion to another text is when a surface or literal reading makes no sense. [Try reading Romans 9-11 without reference to the OT and you get the point]. Without the alluded-to text activating the meaning of the read text, the read text's interpretation remains undecipherable. 
    Let me give an example that I immediately thought about, but was not used by Lester: 1 Cor 6:13aτὰ βρώματα τῇ κοιλίᾳ καὶ ἡ κοιλία τοῖς βρώμασιν.
   What does "food for the stomach, and the stomach for food" mean? Commentators have been trying to decipher this text for a while, and the myriads of possible interpretations keep building. To me, this is a signal that an allusion might be embedded, and without identifying the allusion, the 1 Cor 6:13a text will remain undecipherable. I suspect that the allusion is not, however, to Scripture but to Greco-Roman discourse which a wisdom group at the church in Corinth is using to justify a slogan and position on the ethics of pleasure which Paul finds objectionable.
   In any case, I have some reading to do with Ben-Porat and Perri, and I appreciate the theoretical framework provided by Lester's fine paper. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

For all regular readers of this blog and random visitors, have a Merry Christmas! and blessings in the New Year!
Photo Credit by
Personally, as I reflect on 2015, I cannot help but be thankful for how God has answered many prayers, some quite miraculous, and continues to demonstrate His faithfulness no matter how stressful, hectic, and challenging life becomes. May God's grace, revealed most fully in the epiphany of His Son, sustain the work of your hands and strengthen your faith!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Primer on Intertextuality and the Bible

Screen Capture Credit:
I was about to start a post on the last session of the Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation section at SBL-AAR 2015 in Atlanta, when I realized that to appreciate the innovation of these papers, a status quaestionis needs to be described first. So for the benefit of those who are not that familiar with the theory and practice of intertextuality, here is a short primer or tutorial, especially in regards to the Pauline corpus. 
   Intertextuality, to coin the definition articulated by literary theorist Julia Kristeva, is the "shaping of a text's meaning by (an)other text(s)." In regard to the New Testament, intertextuality usually refers to the biblical writer's use of Old Testament quotations, but I would like to define the discipline more broadly to include Greco-Roman allusions as well. Those engaged in the task usually fall between two dialectical approaches: 1) the rhetorical approach, and 2) the narrative approach. At stake is the question: when Paul quotes or alludes to a particular [OT] text, does Paul allow the literary context or larger narrative unit in which the quotation/allusion is embedded to help shape the meaning of his own discourse?
   If you follow Christopher D. Stanley, your answer would be "No!" Paul pays no attention to the original literary context of the Scriptural quotation but shapes the quotation to fit his own rhetorical purposes. So effectively, the quotation or allusion functions as an empty semantic shell into which Paul inserts his own meaning or reinterpretation of the OT text so that the quotation serves the line of argumentation in his letter. A quick example of this would be 1 Cor 9:9: For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? (NRSV). If you look at the original context in Deut. 25:4, it appears that God is concerned with oxen and the non-exploitation of the land, and not with the rights of an apostle to receive material help from his congregation.
   But on the other side of the debate are those who would answer "Yes!" Paul does take into consideration the literary context of the OT quotation/allusion. Francis Watson, for example, believes that a quotation, echo, or allusion to the OT by Paul functions as a narrative metonymy for a larger text. So the quotation functions to point the reader to the larger context into which the excerpt is embedded. Paul might reinterpret the OT in light of the Christ event but his arguments would not make sense if the reader limited the text's shaping of Pauline discourse to just what is quoted. The entire narrative in which the quotation is embedded must be accessed to make sense of Paul. Watson finds the larger narrative context especially important in Paul's engagement with the role of Torah in Romans. 
    There is yet a third new(er) approach to intertextuality that does not really fit in the spectrum outlined above, and this method has been called 3) the rewritten Bible approach. Some scholars argue that rather than looking at each individual quotation of Scripture in isolation and trying to decipher Paul's use of each quotation one by one, context by context, a larger story view perspective is needed. Take for example, Romans 9-11. In Romans 9 alone, in a successive flurry of OT quotations, Paul references: Gen 21:12, 18:10, 25:23; Mal 1:3; Exo 33:19, 9:16; Isa 45:9; Hos 2:23, 1:9-10; Isa 10:22-23, 1:9, 8:14, 28:16. 
    Rather than looking at each of the above texts individually, what's important is how Paul strings all these quotations together to weave one story, i.e., a particular rereading of Israel's history. If, for example, 1-2 Kings gives a raw version of Israel's historical events and critique of the Davidic monarchy, while 1-2 Chronicles provides a much more idealistic perspective of the Davidic-Solomonic rule, we have other examples in Jewish literature that reread the history of Israel and give alternative versions of Israel's story. Jubilees appears to give a more optimistic viewpoint of Israel's covenant fidelity, while the Psalms of Solomon has a much more pessimistic perspective of Israel's unfaithfulness. Josephus has his Antiquities as another example of rewriting the biblical account. Bruce Fisk has applied his work on Pseudo-Philo's rewritten Bible (L.A.B.) to Romans 11 (see his essay in this anthology).  
   The above approaches are the starting point for any new methodologies in intertextuality. In my next post, I will get to some of the innovations and new methods suggested by the paper presenters at the Paul-themed session by the Intertextuality and New Testament Interpretation section at SBL-AAR 2015 Atlanta. But for now, I wanted to give a guide by which to judge the newly proposed methods. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Highlights from Philo, Plutarch, and Paul (Nov 21-22)

Here in this post, I'm going to cobble together highlights from papers read from Saturday through Sunday (Nov 21-22) from various different sessions. Again, I won't be discussing every paper but just the ones of personal or wider interest. 
Joint Session of the Philo Seminar & Corpus Hellenisticum NT Section

On Sat. afternoon (Nov 21) I attended the joint session of the Philo of Alexandria Seminar and the Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti Section (S21-28). The focus of the joint session was mapping where Philo and Plutarch overlapped in their view of religion. At times, there was very little said in connection with the New Testament, despite the theme: Philo, Plutarch, and the New Testament. The papers, rather, appeared to outline the religious milieu of the New Testament rather than address NT texts themselves.
   That said, I did find a few papers of personal interest. Gregory Sterling presented on "When East and West Meet: Eastern Religions and Western Philosophy in Philo of Alexandria and Plutarch" and made the convincing case that behind the ritual observance of cultic festivals and animal sacrifice practiced by Philo (as a Jew) and Plutarch (as a priest) was a philosophical monotheism: i.e., the doctrine that there is a divine cause to all reality and this cause may not necessarily need to be referred to as "god." Sometimes addressed as the First Principle (Eudorus), other times the First Cause (Aristotle), God nevertheless was understood as completely transcendent, immovable, eternal, indescribable, unspeakable, inconceivable and providential. While differing in the details (e.g., Philo believed the Eternal Forms to be thoughts of God, while Plutarch did not), both Philo and Plutarch's philosophical monothesism are remarkably similar.
   It begs the question, then, why Philo, as an pious Jew, and Plutarch, as a priest of Delphi, would participate in cultic activity when a transcendent God should be above ritual, sacrifice, and ceremonial traditions. In an attempt to answer this question, in part, was Zlatko Pleše's paper on "Ritual, Idolatry, and the Rational Norm in Plutarch and Philo." Examining a number of treatises, including Philo's Special Laws and Plutarch's Isis and Osiris, Pleše summarizes the pedagogical, psychological and symbolic reasons why philosophers continue to observe cultic traditions even though a transcendent God does not require sacrifice. Pedagogically, philosophers, by participating in the cult, provide an example to the wider masses against the dangers of impiety. Psychologically, cultic participation alleviates fear (of what? divine punishment?) and inspires the emotion of joy among its worshippers. Lastly, though the gods are nothing but human daimons, the symbolic import of religious practice points to the real, unseen, divine cause beyond the visible and sensible world.
   What I find fascinating about the papers is the common practice among philosophers (with the exception of the Pythagoreans) to provide a philosophical rationale for continued participation in cultic events even though the religious beliefs behind such events contradicts their philosophical monotheism. I myself read a paper way back at the 2009 SBL-AAR meeting in New Orleans on the reasons why Epicureans worship the gods even though they did not believe in them at all. The practice of philosophers for continued ritual worship of the gods despite their commitment to monotheism provides an interesting analogue and point of comparison with the practices of the Corinthian wisdom group at Corinth who were monotheist yet ate idol food and participated in the pagan cult (1 Cor. 8-10). 
   It just so happens that the uniqueness of Paul's teaching on idol food was the subject of another paper at the 2nd Pauline Epistles session (S22-140) on Sun. morning (Nov 22) by Sonja Anderson entitled: "Are Idols Real? Demons, Christians and the Rabbis." In Paul's day, ambiguity among early Christians and Jews concerning idol food was common. Paul himself seemed to allow for the permissibility of idol food consumption in certain social locations (e.g., sacrificial meat sold in the market place and brought home) but not in other settings (e.g., as part of pagan veneration of idols during cultic worship). I actually wrote a short essay on Paul's ethic on idol food that understands Paul's approach as dependent on Scripture yet nuanced and applied to diverse social settings (here). By the 2nd century A.D., however, Christians and Jews had parted ways on this issue.
   For Christians (e.g., Tertullian and Tatian), any idol food consumption was wrong on any occasion and was to be avoided at all times because of an idol's association with real demons. While idols are only stone and metal, the demons or demonic reality behind idolatry are dangerous. The Christian abstains so as not to commune or provide a pathway for the demonic. 
   For Jews of the 2nd century and onward (e.g., Talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah), an idol only had a demonic hold on a person if he or she believed in the idol. If a person knew an idol was nothing mentally, then the pious Jew could handle some objects previously associated with idolatry. They practiced a mental exercise which Anderson called "idol nullification" where things or places previously unclean because of their association with idols could now be handled or entered. One intriguing example was the case where Rabbi Aqiba was found in a bathhouse where a famous statue of Aphrodite stood. When questioned why Aqiba, a Jew, could occupy the same space as an idol, Aqiba responded that even the Gentiles in the bathhouse do not treat the statue as an idol as they urinate in front of it all the time! 
   So if a Jew knows a statue or object is not an idol, there is no danger of religious compromise or ceremonial contamination. Holiness is maintained. 
   All of this is to say that these two trajectories, Christianity's absolute prohibition and Jewish nullification practices, emerged from an earlier period where there was ambiguity on how to deal with idol food during the 1st century, the latter of which Paul was a part and offered his own unique ethic. 
   In my next and final post on SBL-AAR 2015, I am going to highlight some fantastic papers read at the Intertextuality in the New Testament session (theme = Intertextuality, Paul and Rhetoric), over which I presided.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What to Do after SBL? Post and Order Books

Order forms with SBL-AAR discounts until mid/late December
Now that SBL-AAR 2015 is over, and the Thanksgiving festivities have passed, what is the follow-up? I still have posting to do on some key sessions at SBL that I think are worth highlighting (so stay tuned for Philo, Plutarch and Paul). But typically, it's at this time I sit down and go through all the order forms I collected during the book exhibits and with my budget in mind, and calculator at hand, I figure out what books to order online or by old-fashioned snail mail using the book exhibit discounts from various publishers. Some publishers (look at photo above) extend their discounts until mid/late December, and these discounts are typically anywhere from 40-50% off the book cover price. Since black Friday deals seldom include books, this is the best way to get books at the best price for the scholar.
    In the old days when airlines allowed for 2 free check-in bags (think pre-9/11 days), I would take an extra bag with me on the flight, buy all my books at the exhibits, and haul them back home once SBL ended. But with the extra charges and strict maximum weights per bag, this is no longer a good way to buy and bring books home. 
    Now, my routine is to (1) buy books at the exhibits from publishers whose discounts end once SBL is over. I make a few strategic buy's. Then (2) I grab the order forms from those whose discount deadlines extend beyond the meeting and later sit down to figure out what books I really need/want with the limited monetary funds at my disposal. I place my order. And wait for the books to come before Christmas. This routine also saves my back as I get older and books get longer and heavier!
   I do most of my book buying this way, in this season of the year, because no matter what great deals are on amazon or barnes&noble, It's hard to beat a 40-50% discount from the publishers. I have to pay a little extra for the shipping, but it's still very worth it! 
   So if you happen to know anyone who went to SBL, and he or she does not want to use their order forms, grab them from said person and get your deals while they last. Believe it or not, I and my colleagues have done this at North Park many times. We would walk down the halls of the faculty offices, knock on each other's doors, ask how our trip was to SBL-AAR, and then ask: "Do you happen to have an extra copy of the Baker Academic or Eerdmans book order form? You do?! Can I grab this from you?" Nuff said.

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)