With the First Sunday of Advent coming soon (November 29), I give below links to a series of observations on the incarnation from various theologians and the like through church history. The clean sea-breeze of the centuries, Lewis might say. Enjoy!
…won’t be coming out for awhile, I’m afraid. The extremely helpful “Black Dictionary” series by InterVarsity (I do wish there were an official series title!) has a prominent place on my shelves. Not long ago, I glanced at the recently-(2013)-published second edition of Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, and wondered when IVP was planning on publishing revisions of the aging Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (1993) or Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments (1997). So I asked. A very nice lady with the title of “IVP Continuity Specialist” (well, then!) informed me that there were no projected dates for any new editions, and it would thus be three years at the earliest (again, not that there are any concrete plans) before there would be even any possibility of seeing another revision released.
Just in case you wondered.
Now, that’s interesting. In the study notes of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Craig Blomberg discusses both the feeding of the five thousand in Matt 14:13-21 and the feeding of the four thousand in Matt 15:29-39, and suggests that the latter was a distinctly Gentile-oriented miracle. This is suggested in the narrative itself when the multitude “praised the God of Israel“; God would have not been specified to be Israel’s God if the crowd had been Jewish, Blomberg argues. He also notes that in the feeding of the five thousand, the word for “basket,” (κόφινος, 14:20) is the word for “a typical Jewish lunch pack,” while the word for “basket” in the later incident (σπυρίς, 15:37) is the word for “a larger Gentile hamper.” He is rightly more hesitant in his suggestion that Matthew may see symbolic value in “twelve” baskets in the former incident as engaging “the distinctively Jewish number (as in the twelve tribes of Israel) and in “seven” baskets in the latter incident as engaging “the universal number (as in seven days of creation), appropriate for all nations.” As well, though Blomberg doesn’t mention it here, the feeding of the four thousand comes on the heels of the very Gentile-oriented interaction with the “Canaanite” woman in 15:21-28.
The takeaway from this interesting suggestion for Blomberg is that “the close duplication of the earlier miracle may intentionally demonstrate that Jesus is the bread of life for Gentiles as well as Jews.”
“Paul’s Contact with the New Religions” is the heading of a section in Robert Banks’s interesting work Paul’s New Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting (rev. ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009). I was glad to come across this, as I had been considering lately whether and how much Paul self-consciously dug into trying to thoroughly understand other thought-systems of his day, and how much he self-consciously contrasted Christianity to them. That is a question which ultimately cannot be answered in a great deal of detail, I would think, although much work has been done to compare and contrast Paul’s teaching with that of other thought-systems (inasmuch as they are known) of his day, whether those of mystery religions or philosophical schools . Clearly, he was able to hold his own with Stoics and Epicureans at Athens (Acts 17), but did he delve into the mystery cults or gain a deep and abiding understanding of the various philosophical schools?
Banks suggests that (1) Paul was unlikely to have been a member of anything other than a Pharisaic fellowship (due to the restrictions of that group); (2) Paul likely made polemical use of terminology that was common coin in mystery cults or other religious voluntary associations, such as “mystery” or “knowledge” [a debated point, I believe]; (3) Acts and Paul’s epistles at times hint at possible contact Paul might have had with philosophical schools outside Acts 17 (use of the hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus; reference to their activities (1 Cor 1:20; 2:4-5); echoes of their teaching (Epimenides (?) and Aratus in Acts 17:28). In summary, Banks suggests,
While we should not overlook the possibility that some acquaintance with the teachings of these groups formed part of Paul’s education in Jerusalem, it seems likely that most of his information would have been gathered on his travels in a rather ad hoc fashion, supplemented by occasional debates with their representatives and discussions with converts from their way of life. (13)
The question of Paul’s intentional study of other thought-systems intrigued me a bit and a little further research on his knowledge of philosophical schools in particular finds T. Paige (“Philosophy,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters) pointing out that Tarsus was home to a “flourishing school of philosophy” (True! see Strabo 14.673 [14.5.13]) and that “though it is unlikely that he attended, it is reasonable to suppose that Paul met with some philosophy in his youth, even if his training may have been in Jerusalem” (714); and later asserts that “as a man of his era, he was aware of intellectual currents” (718). J. C. Thom (“Paul and Popular Philosophy,” in Paul’s Graeco-Roman Context [ed. Breytenbach; BETL 277; Leuven: Peeters, 2015]) summarizes a good bit of scholarly work to note,
Recent scholarship has amply demonstrated that Paul and other New Testament authors were aware of and made use of philosophical topoi that were common in their time. It has also long been recognized that Paul in his pastoral engagement with the various congregations made use of the same psychagogical practices employed by philosophers. Paul’s use of letters to guide various early Christian communities is also similar to the way letters were used in philosophical communities. The style used in Pauline letters is furthermore strongly influenced by the diatribe style used by Cynic and Stoic philosophers. (47-48)
All the same, in spite of all of these assertions (however strong they are in the end), Thom notes that “despite these similarities in style and practice . . . it is problematic to pin down the precise nature and substance of philosophical knowledge that Paul and other New Testament authors may have had” (48). He suggests that the sort of similarities noted above between Paul and the philosophers resulted not from the formal study of philosophy, but simply from “a competency . . . in the general cultural repertoire of the period, which in turn is reflected in the popular philosophical texts [texts that made philosophical teaching accessible to a non-specialized audience]” (57). He further suggests that the likely level of rhetorical training that Paul had “may well have included exposure to popular-philosophical texts, since these were aimed at readers with a general education rather than formal training in science or philosophy” (57-58).
N. T. Wright (Paul and the Faithfulness of God [COQG 4; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013]) makes a good point, noting that after Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Acts 9:26-29, which clearly did not endear him to the Hellenistic Jews there, the Christians extricated him from the city and “sent him off to Tarsus” (v. 30), where Barnabas—apparently some time later—eventually collected him for ministry in Antioch (11:25-26). Wright:
Granted that Saul had recently gone back to his home town fired with the dangerous message that a recently crucified Jew was Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord, and granted all we know of his character before and after, we are bound to assume that he engaged with thinkers and scholars in Tarsus at all kinds of levels. . . . Saul’s early post-conversion stay in Tarsus allows plenty of time, not indeed to “translate” his initial “Jewish” understanding of the news about Jesus into a very different and “hellenistic” mode of thought—as we shall see, there is no reason to suppose he ever did that—but certainly for him to bump up against the major philosophical traditions of the time and to begin to work out not only possible points of convergence but also key points where confrontation or subversion would be appropriate. I regard it as highly probable that it was in this early time in Tarsus that he began to acquire the art of “tearing down clever arguments, and every proud notion that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,” resulting in his project of “taking every thought prisoner and making it obey the Messiah.” (205-7)
Wright’s comments tie back to Banks’s given above: Paul need not have spent dedicated time as a student of a particular philosophy—and “philosophy” was not quite the recondite discipline it is today; we might say “worldview”—but would have had ample opportunity in the course of his gospelizing ministry to learn of and interact with other points of view.
Now, that’s interesting. I’m reading Joe Hellerman’s When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community (Nashville: B&H, 2009). He discusses Mark 10:28-30:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
I’ve thought of this passage often, and how “in this time” indicates that what followers of Jesus are said to receive is not merely heavenly, but very much here-and-now, and happens through association with the church, God’s new family. What I had never noticed is something that Hellerman points out: every item that a follower of Jesus might leave finds its counterpart in what that disciple receives in plentitude in the present time. Every item, that is, except “father.”
left . . . mother or father or children . . .
will receive . . . mothers and children . . .
How very intriguing! Hellerman’s take on the reason:
There is going to be no “father” figure in the family Jesus is putting together—no human father figure, at any rate. In light of Matthew 23[:8-12], the reason is quite clear: God—and God alone—is to occupy the paternal role in the family of God.
France suggests that the absence of “father” “may reflect the theological scruple that the disciple has only one heavenly Father (Mt. 23:9; cf. the omission of ‘father’ in the family list at 3:35)” (The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC, 407). Likewise, Lane: “The omission of a reference to the father in verse 30 is undoubtedly intentional since God himself is the head of the new spiritual family” (The Gospel According to Mark, NICNT, 372).
I’ve been aware for quite awhile that Matthew and Luke narrate the three temptations of Christ in different orders. Matthew gives them thus: stones to bread, pinnacle of the temple, then the kingdoms of the world; Luke reverses the last two: stones to bread, the kingdoms of the world, then the pinnacle of the temple. I’ve read before that while Matthew orders the temptations chronologically (note τότε as a temporal marker in 4:5), Luke rearranges them in a topical manner, making the pinnacle of the temple temptation the most prominent by putting it last, thus tying in the temptation narrative with his overarching interest in the temple and/or Jerusalem.
This may well be, but I noticed this morning how retaining the chronological order allows Matthew to tie Jesus’s temptation in with one of Matthew’s major emphases: the kingdom of heaven. In Matt 4:8-10, the last of Jesus’s three temptations is set forth, and he successfully overcomes the devil’s offer:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
Directly after the narrative of the temptations, Matthew speaks of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. After setting the stage with a historical note (4:12-13) and an OT connection (4:14-16), he summarizes Jesus’s preaching ministry, which picked up where John had left off (3:1-2; cf. 4:12):
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Of course, one might simply observe that since the kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s, wherever the kingdoms of the world temptation was narrated among the three temptations, it would provide a contrast in the context of the Gospel. That is true. It still seems striking to me that in Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’s temptation by Satan, by virtue of the order of the temptations, the repudiation of the kingdoms of the world is juxtaposed with Jesus’s formal embarking on his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of heaven.
Friends, you really, really, should sign up for this free service. JournalTOCs allows you to select academic journals to follow, then emails you a table of contents when a new issue comes out. This is something I’ve been wanting for quite awhile! A recent sample of the sort of email I get:
The following journal(s) have published new articles. Please click on the link(s) below to get the new article(s) published online, or copy and paste them into your browser:
|Reformed Theological Review, The
ISSN (Print): 0034-3072
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Merit and Moses: A Critique of the Klinean doctrine of republication [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Introduction to the prophers [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Charles Wesley: Musician and seeker for perfection
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Paul the necromancer: Luke’s use of the hapax ‘yvwoths’ in Acts 26:3
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – John Gill’s reformed dyothelitism
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – The intolerance of tolerance [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – A gospel pageant: A reader’s guide to the book of revelation [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Four views on the Apostle Paul [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – The book of Isaiah: Enduring questions answered Anew: Essays honoring Joseph Blenkinsopp and his contribution to the study of Isai…
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – A ransom for many: The gospel of Mark simply explained [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Book reviews [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Introducing Romans: Critical issues in Paul’s most famous letter [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Revelation: A new covenant commentary [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Gospel clarity: Challenging the new pespective on Paul [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Calvin and the reformed tradition: On the work of Christ and the order of salvation [Book Review]
- Volume 74 Issue 2 – Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the historic ministry and worship of reformed protestantism [Book Review]
Of course, this is not a journal subscription, just an alert to new issues. So clicking through to the listed articles doesn’t necessarily (or usually) bring you to the full text of the article. The value is that you constantly receive fresh updates as to what is being published, and can note if something new has come up in an area you are researching, upon which you can obtain the article in whatever way is available to you.
To give a small idea of the variety available, here are the journals from which I’ve elected to receive tables of contents:
I’ve been studying 1 Timothy 4:10:
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
In examining “we toil and strive” (κοπιῶμεν καὶ ἀγωνιζόμεθα), I find that there are strong associations with Paul’s mission work (cf. Col 1:28-29), as there are with his designation of God as “the living God” (but that’s another post!). Very interesting! Here, though, I simply wanted to reproduce the summary paragraph from Spicq’s treatment of κοπιάω, with its clear implications for the Christian life (whether that of a Christian in vocational ministry or not):
We may sum up in a few words. In the NT, kopos/kopiaō, “work hard,” means (1) constant, exhausting manual labor; (2) the fatigue of long, incessant missionary wanderings; (3) blows, wounds, and sufferings endured in the course of stonings and riots; (4) slanders and insults by enemies, the humiliations of imprisonment; (5) the difficulties of governing and exercising apostolic authority; (6) the preparation of sermons, speeches given in the open air, the editing of epistles; (7) care for all the churches and for each soul (2 Cor 11:28-29; Heb 13:17), who will not be saved on the steep path except through costly endurance and violence (Matt 11:12). There is no Christian life, no apostolic ministry, without rough, persevering labor. (C. Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, 2:329, emphasis added)
Christoph Heilig’s thorough review of the second edition of NIDNTT (now NIDNTTE), ed. Moises Silva. Be sure to read the comment by Stan Gundry and the response by Heilig.
Originally posted on Biblical and Early Christian Studies:
2015.06.15 | Moisés Silva, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.
Review article by Christoph Heilig, University of Zurich.Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a review copy.
1. A Complex History
From a German perspective, the publication of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014) is undoubtedly an interesting event. After all, this five volume work, edited by Moisés Silva, is called the “second edition” of the dictionary formerly known as New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (ed. Colin Brown; 4 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975-1978), which is in turn based on the German Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament (ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1967-1971).
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Many have appreciated Martin Hengel’s classic study on crucifixion, Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), a learned and thorough work. As helpful a book as it is (and still well worth obtaining), it has been considerably superceded by John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World (WUNT 327; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014). At over 500 pages, Cook’s work is as thorough a treatment as one could wish for.
I had a chance to flip through the volume when I saw it on the new book shelf at the library a few months back, and its value was apparent at a glance. I see that Chuck Quarles has just published a very positive review in RBL. The review very helpfully summarizes each chapter of the monograph, and NT students would be well served at least to read the review, if not to find the book and peruse it as well. Here is the abstract of his work, which is posted on academia.edu:
To understand the phenomenon of Roman crucifixion, the author argues that one should begin with an investigation of the evidence from Latin texts and inscriptions (such as the lex Puteolana [the law of Puteoli]) supplemented by what may be learned from the surviving archaeological material (e.g., the Arieti fresco of a man on a patibulum [horizontal beam], the Puteoli and Palatine graffiti of crucifixion, the crucifixion nail in the calcaneum bone from Jerusalem, and the Pereire gem of the crucified Jesus [III CE]). This evidence clarifies the precise meaning of terms such as patibulum and crux (vertical beam or cross), which in turn illuminate the Greek terms [e.g., σταυρός, σταυρόω and ἀνασταυρόω] and texts that describe crucifixion or penal suspension. It is of fundamental importance that Greek texts be read against the background of Latin texts and Roman historical practice. The author traces the use of the penalty by the Romans until its probable abolition by Constantine and its eventual transformation into the Byzantine punishment by the furca (the fork), a form of penal suspension that resulted in immediate death (a penalty illustrated by the sixth century Vienna Greek codex of Genesis). Cook does not neglect the legal sources — including the question of the permissibility of the crucifixion of Roman citizens and the crimes for which one could be crucified. In addition to the Latin and Greek authors, texts in Hebrew and Aramaic that refer to penal suspension and crucifixion are examined. Brief attention is given to crucifixion in the Islamic world and to some modern forms of penal suspension including haritsuke (with two photographs), a penalty closely resembling crucifixion that was used in Tokugawan Japan. The material contributes to the understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus and has implications for the theologies of the cross in the New Testament. The relevant ancient images are included.
Also helpful is Cook’s nine-page overview of crucifixion in the Mediterranean world, complete with pictures and bibliography. Tolle lege!
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