Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Intertextuality Revisited: Retrospect on SBL-AAR 2016 and Prospect for SBL-AAR 2017

The panel review of the book Exploring Intertextuality sponsored by the
Intertextuality in the New Testament Section at SBL-AAR 2016
Wrote finals. Gave finals. Graded finals. Celebrated Christmas. Heading into the new year. Trying to write but failing miserably. So if I don't catch up on some overdue blogging now, forget it. Notably I offer some notes on the past meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio last November 18-22, 2016 as a lead-in to a larger discussion on Intertextuality.
Collection of Essays on Method & Practice
born from papers and invited essays from the
Intertextuality in the NT Section of SBL
This past November, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section featured a panel review of Exploring Intertextuality (2016), a collection of essays from papers read during the past four years of our sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature and some select invited essays. The goal of the book was to provide the landscape of diverse methodological approaches on intertextuality (if you need a primer on intertextuality, click here) and how these (post-)modern literary approaches help illuminate how New Testament authors quoted, alluded, and interpreted the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, Greco-Roman moral traditions, Homer's epics, and other ancient texts to shape their respective messages. In an earlier post, I listed the select chapters from this book under review at the panel and the roster of panel participants. 
    Well, the panel was a resounding success. At one point, we had over 160+ fellow scholars and students attend the session. Within 2 hours after the session, the Wipf & Stock book table sold out on all copies. Wow!
    I can't go over the whole session, but I would say of the four chapters reviewed, the two that received the most "friendly fire" from the reviewers was the chapter on Mimesis by Dennis MacDonald (review by Karl Olav Sandnes) and Multidimensional Intertextuality by Erik Waaler (review by Stanley Porter). For the most part, the chapter on Midrashic Interpretation of Scripture by B.J. Oropeza and Lori Baron received a very favorably response from Craig Keener, who simply added that he saw other midrashic examples of intertextuality applied by the New Testament authors other than the specific type applied by the B.J. and Lori. Likewise, Nick Perrin gave a favorable review of the chapter on Metalepsis by Jeannine Brown and noted that while they both agree that the New Testament author evokes the backstory of the OT text which is alluded or quoted, the disagreement between exegetes who employ a maximalist approach to intertextuality is determining what part of the OT backstory that the NT author intends to highlight. 
   The real fireworks began, however, when Sandnes offered his review of MacDonald's chapter on mimesis, which by way of a general definition, is the way ancient authors of a later period imitate or appropriate narrative elements of works from an earlier author, notably Homer (which MacDonald favors), but also Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, and other Greco-Roman writers. Sandnes was dubious that Mark's story of the Gerasene demoniac, for example, as MacDonald interprets it, stood as an imitation of various episodes of the Odysseus story but especially Odysseus' encounter with the cyclops Polyphemus. There is a concern that the narrative elements common to Homer and Mark are simply plot points that are commonly shared across many other stories versus Mark's intentional zeroing-in on the Odysseus account. Sandnes wonders if the comparisons between the two stories of Mark and Homer were becoming "more or less out of control." MacDonald rehearsed the specific literary analogues drawn from Homer in his original essay but more intriguely, gave a call to the academy that they might think about intertextuality in a fundamentally different way.
    It is this latter challenge by MacDonald that not only intrigued me the most but also the steering committee members of the section. In short, MacDonald did not find (post-)modern literary approaches to intertextuality helpful. He wanted scholars to examine how ancient authors themselves practiced intertextuality and see if the same ancient methods were applied by the New Testament writers. 
    In response to this challenge, I and some other steering committee members thought it would be worth devoting a few themed sessions to this very topic. For the SBL 2017 annual meeting in Boston, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section in its call for papers is inviting paper proposals which give a description of ancient Jewish exegetical practices (e.g., rabbinic or midrashic techniques, methods by Hellenistic Jewish exegetes like Philo, and exegetical practices from any other ancient Jewish author) and which explain how a given NT author employs or modifies the same method in their own intertextual readings of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, or other ancient texts. For SBL 2018, the focus will be on ancient Greco-Roman exegetical practices, and I'm thinking of expanding my earlier blog post on this topic into a full paper for 2018. 
    In any case, I'm excited for the next two years of the section. I'm certain we'll have some great papers and perhaps some of these can be revised into publishable essays for our next volume on exploring intertextuality. MJL

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Blessings 2016

Photo of a painting I purchased from a Christian artist during my trip to the
Democratic Republic of Congo entitled "Nativity" © May 2015
As I was reading Luke 1 during our family "7 Day Countdown to Christmas," I was just struck by the future tense verbs in the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary:

  • And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come (ἐπελεύσεται) upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow (ἐπισκιάσει) you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God...  For no word from God will ever fail (οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει)."
  • "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:35-38)

The same Spirit which by God's word that created the cosmos in Genesis 1 was about to overshadow the virgin Mary and by God's word, the Word would conceive and be born as the Son of the Most High. 
   All of world history hinged on Mary's obedience. The Holy Spirit will come, and the power of the Most High will overshadow, but the Lord wanted Mary to respond to this grand invitation to partake in His divine plan for humanity. God's word did not require, but the Lord nevertheless sought, Mary's faith so His word can do its work in her and through her. 
   She was at most a teenager from a politically insignificant village of Nazareth in Galilee, a blip to people like Caesar Augustus, or governor Quirinius, and the powers at Rome (2:1-2). Yet without her faith, would Christ have come? It's a mystery we need not ponder because she did obey. She did surrender herself to God's word and will. And God's word was fulfilled by the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, gave death's its death blow, and rose as the Son of God. 
    May we all be humbled by Mary's example and seek to have the same obedience of faith as Mary's (Rom 1:5). May the Lord bless you with His presence this Christmas and may His word to you be fulfilled to the fullest. Amen! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Blessed Thanksgiving this year of 2016
Photo Credit by @HWCDSB
Ever since the Symposium on Science and Religion held at North Park last month, I have not been doing much blogging. But I have been active on twitter. I think, for the time being, given my increasing duties at the seminary (I'm now the chair of the biblical field, and the whole faculty including myself is currently working on the ATS report for the seminary's reaccreditation), I will continue this habititude of tweeting actively and only occasionally posting on this blog. I do, by the way, have some reflections on the past SBL-AAR in San Antonio that I would like to share here after the holiday has passed. But generally you can find me on my twitter feed (see the side bar) and randomly posting something on this blog where a tweet will not suffice (hopefully 1X a month). 
   As for now, I would like to wish everyone a Blessed Thanksgiving this November 2016! Personally I have been reflecting on Romans 14:8 "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's (τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμέν)." In the midst of a morally confused and rapidly changing world, I have only one assurance: I belong to the Lord. I can count on Him who will never let me go. So whether I live or die, experience loss or gain, suffer in the present or find unexpected moments of peace this day, my life rests on God's kingdom and purpose unfolding in my life at His speed, His timetable, not mine. 
    So Lord Jesus, thank you that whatever my family, my church, or I might experience in this earthly life, we can count on one thing: we are the Lord's.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Science and Religion (Part 2): More Papers from the 2016 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture

Johnny Lin, Senior Lecturer & Director of Undergraduate Computing Education
at the Univ of Washington (right) with respondent Linda Eastwood, Affiliate
Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary (left) with questions moderated
by Jay Phelan, Senior Professor of Theological Studies at North Park (center)
Continuing from my last post on Sessions 1-4 of the 2016 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture, here I introduce and reflect on the remaining Sessions 5-8. 
    Session 5 featured a paper by Joshua Moritz, Lecturer of Philosophical Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif (my old stomping grounds BTW), entitled Made as Mirrors: Biblical and Neuroscientific Reflections on Imaging God. The response was given by Tyler Johnson, pastor at Albert City Covenant Church, Albert City, Iowa and one of our seminary's alumni. 
    This was another paper that made my head spin as I tried to wrap my mind around two concepts that I simply have not thought about it. First, in discussing the image of God, Dr. Moritz argued that homo sapians alone and no other homonids, including Neanderthals with whom we share genetic material, were created in the image of God even though other hominid species possessed the same capacity for complex language, advanced tools types which indicate a high degree of metacognition and symbolic thought, abilities for art and the abstract, and other cognitive functions. So the imago Dei not only distinguishes human beings from other animals but also from other homonids who did not belong to homo sapiens
   Moritz is able to make this claim because secondly, he defines the imago Dei not as innate capacity unique to homo sapiens (e.g., Karl Barth believed that our freedom to act against instinct is what reflected God's image because above all else God is free). Moritz defines God's image in terms of election. Out of all the other homonids, only homo sapiens were elected by God to a particular priestly office. This is a historical election, not classical or Calvinist, because this election forms the starting point and basis for a particular vocation or call to service unique among homo sapiens
   To hear more, follow the video below of the session (jump to 2:50 for the start of the paper)   

    Session 6 featured a paper by Susan Eastman, Associate Research Professor of New Testament at the Duke Divinity School and this year's NT Lund lecturer, entitled Paul and the Person: Perspectives from Cognitive Science and Philosophy. The response was given by A. Andrew Das, Professor of Religious Studies at Elmhurst College. There was some overlap with her Lund lectures on Paul and the body but in many ways the paper was also an advancement from what she shared earlier.
   One of the best parts of her paper was her analysis of what she called Paul's grammar. She noted that Paul's syntax of identity looks something like this: It is no longer I who [verb] but [subject+verb] in me. This grammar occurs in two places for Paul: 1) Romans 7:17 (and again in v.20) where Paul says "It is no longer I doing it, but sin dwelling in me." and 2) Galatians 2:20 where Paul says: "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2 is parallel to Romans 7 as its qualitative opposite.
    Eastman noted that past commentators like J. Louis Martyn and even her own doctoral supervisor Richard Hays were wrong in thinking that somehow the subject of "I" is replaced by another agency: either sin, or Christ. Rather, she argues that "I" still remains the subject. Paul is not talking about a replacing the "I" but a new constitution of the "I" from the ground up where in relationship to sin, I  get damaged and experience death but in relationship to Christ, I live. Paul describes a genuine intersubjectivity with distinct subjects but with sin, it vacuates human agency and destroys the person. But with God the intersubjectivity allows for the "I" to remain intact without entertaining a competition where one is undone by the other. Worth every minute, click below for the full session (jump to 6:58 for the start of the paper) 

    Session 7 featured a paper by Johnny Wei-Bing Lin, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Computing Education at the University of Washington in Seattle who also serves as an Affliate Professor of Physics at North Park University. The title of his presentation was Knowing in Part: The Demands of Scientific Religious Knowledge in Everyday Decisions. The response was by Linda Eastwood, Affliliate Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
    Dr. Lin presents several working models on how science and religion impact everyday decision making where the components of revelation, reason, intuition and feeling all have their contribution to make in each respective model. I was surprised to see how both can potentially work cooperatively with one another quite well and in fact already inform many every day decisions in real life. Click below for the session (and jump to 3:40 for the start of the paper).

   The last session of the symposium, Session 8, featured a paper by Hans Madueme, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Covenant College in Georgia, entitled 'A Rock of Offense': The Problem of Scripture in Science and Theology. The response was given by Matthew Maas, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Anesthesiology at Northwestern University. 
   Dr. Madueme, who completed his medical degree and internship before deciding to pursue a doctorate in theology, reflected on the relationship between science and Scripture. He argued that while conflict between the two bodies of knowledge can act as a catalyst for Christians to make new theological conceptualizations and re-articulate doctrine for a new generation and setting, there are also times when some conflicts between science and theology should not be alleviated by theological revision. To hear more on those instances where doctrinal truth should challenge some scientific theories where the phenomenalogical data has yet to be confirmed, watch the video of the session below (jump to 0:55 for the start of the paper).

That's it. Enjoy and be blessed! MJL

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Science & Religion: Papers from the 2016 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture at North Park (Part 1)

Gerald Cleaver, Prof. of Physics at Baylor University (right) with respondent
Stephen Ray, Asst. Prof. of Physics at North Park (left) responding to
questions moderated by Hauna Ondrey, Asst. Prof. of Church History (center)
This past Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon (Sept 29-Oct 1, 2016), North Park hosted its annual Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture. Each year the seminary invites scholars across the nation and abroad to present papers on how Scripture speaks to a particular theological or contextualized theme. The conference is interdisciplinary, and so we attempt to invite biblical scholars, theologians, ethicists, pastoral care practitioners, and especially for this year, scientists in fields ranging from cognitive development to theoretical physics. 
    The papers from this symposium and their responses are eventually published in the journal Ex Auditu. We live-streamed the paper sessions and their video is available below. Since these videos are unedited, be sure to look where to scroll for each video (time in red print) so you don't have to wonder where to begin.  
    Session 1 featured a paper by Paul Allen, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Concordia University, Canada entitled: Evolutionary Psychology and Romans 5-7: The 'Slavery to Sin' in Human Nature.  The response was given by Chris Lilley, a doctoral candidate in theology and philosophy at Marquette University.
     Dr. Allen began his lecture quoting Habermas that secular modernity has lost the langugage to describe the phenomena of sin. We have translated sin into concepts of guilt, suffering and offense with the result that the need for forgiveness has been replaced with a non-sentimental desire to undo suffering. In an attempt to bring the Christian concept of sin into secular discourse, Dr. Allen points to the findings of evolutionary psychology and its description of addiction. He finds analogues between clinical addiction with Paul's discussion of sin, the flesh, and the "I" of Romans 5-7. The most provocative comparison was how addiction as a complex of disease and human agency creates a genetic pre-disposition toward destructive practice which does not suspend human responsiblity for addictive behavior. (Jump to 2:35 for the start of the paper)

    Session 2 featured the paper entitled Multiverse: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives by Gerald Cleaver, Professor and Graduate Program Director for the Department of Physics and Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research at Baylor University. The response was given by Stephen Ray, Assistant Professor of Physics and Engineering at North Park University. 
    Anyone with teenage sons or daughters (I have the former) knows that there is a popular version of the multiverse embedded in the screenplays of DC television shows (think: The Flash) and Marvel movies (think: the upcoming films Dr. Strange and Infinity Wars). So, even just as a parent, I'm grateful to able to separate science from science fiction by hearing Dr. Cleaver explain in such clear terms what the multiverse is and why it is theologically relevant for our understanding of human freedom and the activity of God as Creator. 
    The most intriguing possibility that I gleaned from the lecture is hearing how before the "Big Bang" there was what theoretical physicists called a kind of "space soup" which in the process of expansion/inflation produces multiple universes (Level 2), each bound by their own set of physical laws (Level 1). Physicists readily think that the multiverse is a true description of reality and we likely have an infinitesimal number of them (but this is not the kind of multiverses found in Dr. Who or other science fiction; these are called Everett multiverses or Level 3). 
    However, if (and this is a big if) there is only one universe, it requires the kind of fine-tuning of the "space soup" likened to turning up the heat on a stove in such a precise way that only one bubble (= equivalent of one universe) is produced instead of many bubbles (multiple universes) from the soup. While Dr. Cleaver prefers to posit the existence of multi-universes, it is possible also to think theologically that God as Creator did fine tune the multiverse into just our one universe. As of this lecture, there is still no phenomenalogical evidence for the multiverse. Astrophysicists are still using radio telescopes to search for phenomena. Everything still remains in the theoretical stages, but even if multiverses turn out to be true, theologically it does not take anything away from the truth claims of Scripture on the origins of time and space. (Jump to 1:42 for the start of the paper)

     Session 3 featured the paper entitled Forming Identities in Grace: Imitatio and Habitus as Contemporary Categories for the Sciences of Mindfulness and Virtue by Michael Spezio, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Scripps College. The response was given by Kirk Wegter-McNelly,  the John and Jane Wold Visiting Professor of Theology at Union College. 
    Dr. Spezio explored the connections between 2nd person neural science and its description of cognitive imitation with the concept of imitatio Christi in Christian contemplative traditions. It was interesting to see how parts of Dr. Spezio's paper connected with the content of Susan Eastman's Lund lectures on how imitation is a form participation in the life of God and the communion between the Holy Spirit and the members of the church body. (No need to scroll; paper begins at 0:05)

    Session 4 featured the paper entitled On Bringing Home the Bacons: Reflections on Science, Faith and Scripture by Iain Provan, Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College and this year's OT Lund lecturerThe response was given by John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Here Dr. Provan gave a history of how the church in the past from Augustine, through the Reformation, as far as the Enlightenment and modernity engaged with the new discoveries of science. He challenged all of us that science and faith need not be at odds, and that was certainly not how the Reformers engaged scientific discovery. Learning from the educational principles of Roger Bacon (Franciscan monk of the 13th century) and Francis Bacon (16th century philosopher), Provan argued that when new scientific findings might potentially challenge the theological claims of Scripture, the church should see this as an opportunity to wrestle afresh with the data from science as an invitation to read Scripture more closely, deeply and faithfully. (No need to scroll; paper begins right away at 0:01)

This concludes my reflections, summaries, and links to the first four sessions of the Symposium. I'll post the same for the latter four sessions 5-8 some time in the evening. Enjoy! MJL

Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 Lund Lectures: Were the Reformers Wrong? by Iain Provan (Day 2)

Dr. Iain Provan asking the question: Were the Reformers Wrong?
for the 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship
This morning we held Day 2 of the 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship with Dr. Iain Provan, the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College. The theme of the Old Testament lectureship was: Were the Reformers Wrong? Some Reflections on Protestant Biblical Interpretation. His two lectures are based on a current book project on Protestant Biblical Hermeneutics. 
  The title of the 1st lecture was: On the Meaning of Words: The Literal, the Spiritual, and the Plain Confusing. This presentation made my head spin a bit. Dr. Provan wanted to recover a proper understanding of a "literal" reading of Scripture that was not "literalistic" but was defined as the Reformers understood literal vs. an allegorical interpretation of the biblical text. He cited Calvin and Luther who demonstrated, to my surprise, a remarkable sensitivity to grammar, historical context, the text within the larger canonical context, and other communicative acts between the author and the reader. In the past, I always made a distinction between the historical critical method and a literal reading of Scripture, favoring the former over the latter. But under Provan's redefinition of "literal" according to Calvin and Luther, the historical critical method and a literal reading of biblical texts are not competing but mutually informing. Listen to what he has to say on this topic directly by watching the video of his lecture below:

    The title of the 2nd lecture was: Empty Speculations and Froth: The Reformers and Allegorical Reading. Here Dr. Provan traced the history of an allegorical reading of texts beginning with Homer, through the patristics, and into the Medieval Age. He argued that the primary purpose of allegory was to domesticate the text and remove its offense. Hence Heraclitus removed the embarrassment that the Greek gods of Homer were barbaric, crude, and no better than vicious humans were by allegorizing the gods as symbols of something else less offensive. When applied to Scripture, Dr. Provan argued that the allegorical reading seriously undermined the authority of Scripture because it often removed the offense of a "literal" reading (note: "literal" as redefined by the Reformers).
   Rather than allegorical, or typological, Dr. Provan believes the biblical authors employed "iconic mimesis" or a figural reading of Scripture, the example of which he gave was Paul's use of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31 translating ἀλληγορούμενα as "figuratively" and not "allegorically." Provan compared Philo's allegorical reading (i.e., symbolic mimesis) of Genesis with Paul's figural one (i.e., iconic mimesis), giving a clear example of the differences between the two. You can listen for yourself with the video lecture below: 

   With this last lecture, the Lund series concluded this morning. But the 2016 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture began the same day later in the evening and will continue on the theme of Science and Religion through Saturday afternoon. Since the schedule is packed, I may not be able to post summaries and links to the video until after the symposium ends. But like the Lund Lectures, the sessions are being livestreamed here:  http://livestream.com/northpark/lund-and-symposium
   Stay tuned! MJL

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 Lund Lectures: Paul and Personal Flourishing by Susan Eastman (Day 1)

Dr. Susan Eastman speaking on Paul and Personal Flourishing
for the 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship 
This morning was the first two sessions of the 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship with Dr. Susan Eastman, Associate Research Professor of New Testament at the Duke Divinity School. The theme for the New Testament lectureship was: Paul and Personal Flourishing. Here she presented research from her upcoming book with Eerdmans Reframing Paul's Anthropology
   The title of the 1st lecture was Being Bodies: Paul's Body Language and Ours. The content of the lecture was interdisciplinary and engaged literature from the ancient world of Paul, the cognitive sciences, and philosophers who engaged with the cognitive sciences. 
The central thesis of this lecture was that the internal logic of Paul's body language is solidarity. She shared how the cognitive sciences explain how our neural networks are designed to create cognitive space for "we". Our bodies want to communicate with each other. This is not willed. It is an innate response. It is a shared imitation, examples of which include how babies imitate facial expressions; that is, they see each other through another person's gaze even though the baby is not even aware he or she has a face. 
   Human beings are shaped by their environment. We imitate larger social realities. Ancient views of the body understood that the concept of self-hood includes input from the body, the brain, and "what is out there" which feeds information back into our conscience experience as a systemic loop. Self is a constant traffic between what is outside and inside. The physical body is not a barrier but a bridge to our surroundings, to people, and to God. Bodies are conductors between us and those around us. We internalize our relationships to the point where they become constitutive of who we are.
   If the social systems which we internalize through unconscious imitation are corrupt, fallen, and sinful, it results in damage to ourselves and ultimately death. It takes a divine action to set us free from the social systems and sin which we have internalized. 
   There is more, but I'll let you watch and hear the lecture yourself (below) courtesy of Covenant Church's youtube channel. Susan Eastman is outlining here what she calls a participatory anthropology (jump to 1:42 for the start of Lecture 1)

   The title of the 2nd lecture was: Knowing God: Cognition and the Spirit in Paul's Thought. Here she gave an exegetical interpretation of Romans 8 and explained the Spirit's role in cognition. She focused on divine communication between God and believers through the mediation of the Spirit. There are depths of human awareness that cannot be discovered by human agency alone but are revealed through divine intervention. We can only know when the Spirit gives us new modes of speaking and new ways of knowing. 

   One of the most profound moments in the lecture was when Dr. Eastman used the example of facilitiated communication among autistic children to describe how the Spirit works. "How do I talk and connect with others when my lips do not move and my body does not cooperate?" From this question and subsequent answer, she goes on to discuss how believers speak through our bodies as a shared speech act with the Holy Spirit who – through the interpersonal, interactive relations between the body of believers – mediates to us how to pray, how to speak to each other, how to know one another and God within the church. Hear more from Dr. Eastman directly through the video below (jump to 1:33 for the start of Lecture 2)

   Tomorrow we will have Day 2 of the Lund Lectures featuring Dr. Iain Provan of Regent College speaking on the theme of Were the Reformers Wrong? Some Reflections on Protestant Biblical Interpretation
    Come join us for the public lecture in Isaacson Chapel at Nyvall Hall starting at 9am CST on the North Park University campus. Or, you are welcome to watch the livestream of the lectures here: http://livestream.com/northpark/lund-and-symposium
    Hope to see you there! MJL

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coming Soon: The 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship (Sept 28-29, 2016) at North Park Theological Seminary

I can't think of a better occasion to resume blogging than to announce the upcoming 2016 Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship held at North Park Theological Seminary here in Chicago. Named after the seminary's 4th dean (1922-54), and held in conjunction with the seminary's annual Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (this year's theme is "Science and Religion"), the #LundLectures feature leading scholars in the States and abroad invited to speak on cutting-edge issues in New Testament and Old Testament studies. 
Nils Lund teaching class as a professor of NT (1922-54)
Photo ©2013 Historical Photo Collection at NPU

This year, for the New Testament lectureship series on Wed morning Sept 28, Susan Eastman, Associate Research Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, will be speaking on the theme Paul and Personal Flourishing. Her lecture schedule is as follows: 
9:00–10:30 amBeing Bodies: Paul's Body Language and Ours
10:30am–12pmKnowing God: Cognition and the Spirit in Paul's Thought

    For the Old Testament lectureship series on the following Thurs Sept 29, Iain Provan, The Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College, will speaking on the theme Were the Reformers Wrong? Some Reflections on Protestant Biblical Interpretation. His lecture schedule is: 

 9:00–10:30amOn the Meaning of Words: The Literal, the Spiritual, and the Plain Confusing
10:30am–12pmEmpty Speculations and Froth: The Reformers and Allegorical Reading

I'm really looking forward to hearing from both our invited lecturers. These lectures will be live-streamed (and hopefully also recorded; if so, I'll post the links on my blog later) and during the live-stream, listeners can send questions during the Q&A through the chat function. The livestream will be available either on the Cov.Church.tv website or on the Covenant Church's youtube channel. I'll try to post an updated link to the lectures once I hear from the tech crew exactly how they will be handling the livestream. But this won't probably be something I can do until early Wed morning before the 9am lecture begins. Stay tuned! MJL

Postscript 9/26/16: I received word from the tech crew. The livestream for the Lund Lectures will be here: https://livestream.com/northpark/lund-and-symposium

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hiatus from Blogging during Summer 2016

I'm not sure how many people follow my blog, but in case you missed my twitter announcement, I'm taking time off from blogging to wrap up some writing projects before the summer ends. When I start teaching again at North Park Theological Seminary this Fall 2016, I'll resume my weekly posting for the rest of the year and beyond. I'll definitely start with posting and writing short articles on the archaeological and historical sites I saw during my post-doc at the Ecolé Biblique et Archéologique Française as well make some comments for the upcoming sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio come November 2016. 
   In the meantime, please follow my twitter feed (to the left or click), for which I do daily tweets and posts on all things theological and pastoral. As a preview of things to come in the Fall, below is a photo from my visit to Caesarea Maritima, the Roman port city built by Herod the Great, with the track of the hippodrome in the forefront, and the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Blessings, MJL
The Hippodrome (horse racing track) in Caesarea Maritima, Israel, built by
Herod the Great (10 B.C.) and restored with a theater added (2nd c. A.D.)
Photo by Max Lee © 2016
And if you are looking for some good scholarly humor, check out this gag reel by Wipf & Stock publishers featuring biblical and theological scholars (i.e., Michael Gorman, Chris Tilling, Doug Campbell, and others) struggling to make a joke, and making me and I'm sure many others laugh wholeheartedly with them. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Back in Chicago after a Month in Jersualem

I returned to the States after a glorious April month in east Jersusalem at the Ecolé Biblique et Archéologique Française (or EBAF, for short). I'm still processing my experience in the midst of pushing forward on the intellectual boost I received on my research project from well-spent time in EBAF's library. My trip had a multi-faceted missional character and I hope to blog about my experiences in the months ahead.
   First and foremost, it was a tremendous opportunity to get a huge breakthrough in my writing. I'm grateful that I could bust through some conceptual and exegetical roadblocks to my project on Paul and the Epicureans while at EBAF.
Front Reception Area of the Ecolé Biblique et Archéologique Française (EBAF)
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Second, not only was my post-doctoral studies a researcher's dream, as a seminary professor who teaches with the mission of the church always in the forefront of my work, it was a teacher's dream as well. I took thousands of photos (10,000+) that I plan on incorporating into my powerpoint slides that I use in my courses at North Park Theological Seminary. I can finally replace other scholars' photos of the Holy Land with my own. Vocationally, it was just inspiring to live, breathe, and see firsthand the archaeological and historical sites where much of the biblical narrative took place.
Finally, after years of waiting, I visited Qumran, the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Third, pastorally, I am grateful for the warm welcome and reception I received from the Palestinian Christian community. I visited both Nazareth Evangelical College and Bethlehem Bible College and heard first-hand the challenges that Palestinian Christians face trying to live out their missional mandate to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) in a volatile political climate where secular Israelis, orthodox Jews, Muslims, Messianic Jews, and Palestinian Christians are in conflict and experience personal frustration at the reconciliation process. It does not help that while many evangelical Christians in North America are keenly aware of Israeli politics, they nevertheless are unsympathetic to the suffering of their fellow Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters in the church. I'm hoping, after my trip, the doors will be open to sending some North Park seminarians to Bethlehem Bible College for field education and study on the peace process in Israel/the Palestinian Authority.
Bethlehem Bible College in the Palestinian Authority where Arab Christians
receive a theological education in preparation for a life of ministry
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Fourth, personally, I'm grateful that my family could join me during my last week in the Holy Land and we could visit, survey, pray, read God's word, and hear the Lord speak to us as we went to Caesarea, Nazareth, Mt. Carmel, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Ein Gedi, Masada, Qumran, the Dead Sea, Jersualem again, and several other sites throughout Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In many ways, this family time felt more like a spiritual retreat than a vacation. Praise God for that! Amen!
My sons Zach and Jonathan posing in the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Scholarly Life at the Ecolé Biblique de Jérusalem

Well, I thought I would have time to blog about my experiences in Jerusalem, but the day flies by so fast, my head spins at night wondering where the time went! I just have to give a more detailed set of blog posts about the archaeological and historic sites of the old city later. But let me say a few words (and share some photos) about studying at the Ecolé Biblique de Jérusalem (or EBAF).
Front Gate and Address for the Ecolé Biblique
housed at St. Stephen's monastery
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
I will say that the hospitality and research set-up at the Ecolé Biblique has been wonderful. A scholar's dream really. My sleeping quarters are modest and clean. The food is delicious, and in a good way, you will lose weight. It's mostly fresh vegetables and fruit, salads (two or three), all types of bread (but Mediterranean pita is the best!), various pastas, and sometimes fish, chicken and other meats. I have not eaten this healthy in a while. 
To the left is a typical meal at EBAF: salads, pasta, steamed vegetables,
stuffed potatoe with eggplant, Lebanese loquat (the orange fruit), banana, water,
coffee (as much as I want!). To the right is a typical room with bed and desk,
You share a kitchen sink and bathroom with the adjoining room across the hall
The library is excellent, good wifi, and a very good antiquities section. They even have Galen's 3-volume treatise On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato on hand! If, however, you are a New Testament scholar interested in Jewish backgrounds, especially the Qumran scrolls, or an Old Testament scholar, the selections are not only very good but outstanding. You can check out their holdings here
    One thing to note that is especially helpful of their catalogue is that they (actually 3 committed librarians in the back) maintain a searchable database that lists out not just the books of an author but their individual essays. Most catalogues do not list out every essay separately for a given scholar. Type in "Troels Engberg-Pedersen" in an electronic catalogue and you will get all his books, but type this same search in EBAF's catalogue and you get a listing of books and hard-to-find essays hidden in various anthologies and Festschriften. 
Reference Section of the EBAF. There are two floors and their holdings
are organized by section: Antiquities (including Greek and Roman materials;
this is where I hang out!), Old Testament, New Testament, Qumran, Patristics,
Medieval Church History, etc. You get 24-hour access and can work all night!
   When you arrive, the folks at the EBAF get you settled, give you a quick library orientation, and set you up at a desk where you can work and leave your laptop.
Modest desk set up at the EBAF but it does the job! You can plug in, get
good wifi, leave your books and laptop there to return later. Not shown are the
scanners, copiers (40 Agorot each copy = $0.10 each; scanning is free), desktop
computers, outside lounge area with coffee machine, water, etc.
   I think the best thing about the EBAF is their wonderful community of Dominican priests, nuns, and visiting scholars in an ecumenical setting. I have been having some wonderful conversations at the meal times over work, scholarship, parish life and the politics of Israel. In the mornings and evenings, there are prayer chapels. Although everything is in French, and I sing horribly, it is an experience to share in the Roman Catholic piety of those who take their service and mission in East Jersusalem with such passion.
The beautiful interior of St. Stephen's Church located on the campus of
the EBAF and monastery. The middle mural/fresco before the altar is the Lord
Jesus, to your left is St. John, and to your right, St. Stephen. Imagine how beautiful
and awe-inspiring it is to have a prayer chapel here every morning and evening
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
   Last thing, old Jersusalem is less than a 10 minute walk away from the EBAF. I do it in 5. Walk down the hill on the Nablus Road and you run into the stunning Damascus Gate. 
The stunning Damascus Gate which leads into the Muslim Quarter
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
Walk through the gate and you are in the Muslim quarter, hang a right and you head to the Christian quarter, walk straight and you'll find your way to the Jewish quarter, and farthest away is the Armenian quarter. 
As soon as you weave your way through the Damascus Gate, you walk onto Souk 
Khan al-Zeit Street with its various shops lining its edges in the Muslim Quarter
   It was hard not to spend the first day just exploring the sites in Jersualem and so I have already visited all four quarters of the city, walked fully around the pathway/roads around Jersualem's walls (a 2 hour walk), and seen the Western Wall, Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock, the underground excavations under the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives and Church of All Nations (Gethsemane), the Kidron Valley, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and more. Too much to do. Too much to see. One month here now feels painfully short. 
   P.S.: I probably won't post any more until after I return from my trip unless I get writer's block and need to do something random to move forward in my work. So until I get back, blessings! MJL

Postscript 4/10/16: added an extra photo of the shops/bazaar lining the streets of the Muslim quarter

Sunday, April 3, 2016

At Least He's Still a Bear

Good news! My son received a letter of acceptance from Cornell University and will be heading to Ithaca, New York, as a freshman come Fall 2016 as part of Cornell's class of 2020. He also received the Posse scholarship which generally pays for his tuition for the next four years. Needless to say, I and the Mrs. are very proud of him. Way to go Zach!
To celebrate, the banner of Paul Redux was change to
Cornell colors until the start of Zach's Fall 2016 semester
and then I'll revert back to the older orange banner (or may be not!)
The awards ceremony was this early part of January, but I simply held off on announcing the good news until we all heard from Zach's friends and what schools they received acceptance. In case you're not a parent with a senior in high school, April 1st (no it's not a joke) is the day when most universities inform students of their admission. 
   I've included a photo of us celebrating the receipt of his scholarship at Posse (so it was not a dream!). I'm very grateful for the Lord's provision and encouraged by Zach's hard work. He also has his own literary blog entitled Montag's Musings (check it out!). 
   There is also the added bonus that Cornell University has a first class philosophy department in the same building as the English Department which houses the creative writing major that Zach is interested in. So when I do get a chance to visit Zach on campus, I just might mozy on down to Goldwin Smith Hall and see if I could connect with professors Tad Brennan and Gail Fine whose works on the Stoics and Platonism I have read and appreciated. 
    If I have any regret, a part of me wishes he could have gone to Cal Berkeley like Su and I did way back when, but at least he's still a bear, though a red one!
Photo Credit: Thanks to my younger son Jonathan for taking this pic

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Louder than a Bomb: Ground Zero for a Pastoral Theology

From February 13-March 13, 2016, the family and I were on pins & needles watching my oldest son Zach Lee (stage name: exzachlee; pronounced "exactly") compete in Chicago's annual poetry slam Louder than a Bomb sponsored by Young Chicago Authors.  Zach is co-captain of Whitney Young High School's slam poetry team and this year, he and the team went further than they ever have, moving from the preliminaries to the quarterfinals in the group competition, and Zach reaching the semi-finals in the individual ("Indy") bouts. 
   For those who follow me on twitter, I have been tracking #LTAB2016 and posting photos, videos and commentary on some of the poems I have heard and seen performed by some very talented young men and women with lyrical skill and cadence. As I shared in my tweets, LTAB is ground zero for voicing the angst, frustrations, and passions of urban youth. Among the poems recited, I heard from those who were hurt over dysfunctional relationships with mothers, fathers, step-parents, and grandparents. Others shared their frustrations with cheating boyfriends, or their anger over racial prejudice and the violence of their neighborhoods, and exasperation over the cultural slurs people fling at one another in ignorance and sometimes fear. As I heard one poem after another, some with an artistry and rhythm that shined with poetic brilliance, I was struck by how well each performance articulated and described the brokenness of our sinful world. 
    What was missing was hope. The strength of LTAB is how the artists express with truthful candor the ugliness of life and how wickedly people can act. But it was hard to see a glimmer of light in the midst of such darkness, nor find a redemptive moment in the midst of anguish and pain. 
    Zach, to his credit, wanted to share a poem which spoke to hope and redemption even in the face of hardship. His piece focused on what good word the Bible has to share in the pit of human struggle. He did not make it to the finals, but below is the video of his semi-finals performance held at the Metro theatre on the north side of Chicago. I hope you are encouraged and blessed by his witness.

Many thanks, by the way, to Park Community Church who posted this video clip on their youtube channel. Soli Deo gloria!