Friday, December 13, 2013

Michael Bird in Presbyterion

I just noticed in the newly released Presbyterion (Covenant Theological Seminary's journal), Michael Bird had an article published.  The title of the article is Not By Paul Alone: The Importance of the Gospel for Reformed Theology and Discipleship.  Sounds interesting!  I wonder if anyone could tell me if this article stems from his David Jone's Lectures from earlier in 2013.

Also, my friend, Blake Hartung appears to have a book review also present in this edition.  Well done, Blake!

A Brief Thought on NT Wright's Psalms Book from Jack Collins

So, I know, I know.  The NT Wright book to be talking about Wright now (that was intentional!) is not his Psalms volume just published earlier this year (see his new Paul book here). But Wright is also publishing a book on the Psalms.

I posted the link to Wright's book earlier today on my FB account, and got this great nugget from my Psalms prof, Jack Collins (OT Professor at Covenant Seminary):

The book is pretty decent, but it's short. It's more about motivating us to use the Psalter as a song-book more than we do, and I appreciated that. It covers less than, say, Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms, though it does stick better to the main idea. Wright does articulate a vision for the right kind of interpretation, one that respects the Biblical storyline. Made me realize that the only commentary I know of that carries that vision out is in the ESV Study Bible.
Look for a full-length review in Presbyterion early 2014, and if you don't get that journal, I believe it will be accessible via ATLA.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Room for Atheism? Methodology, Entitlement and Our Future

Today I have been reading Eta Linneman's small book Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology of Ideology.

For those who don't know who Eta Linnemann is: She is a German biblical scholar of the highest rank.  She was a student of Bultmann, Fuchs, Ebeling, etc. And was a member of some of the most elite academic professional societies.  She was also a very liberal historical-critical theologian, who roundly disregarded the foundational evangelical presuppositions.  However, at a point in her personal life she says she started realizing the reality of God's reign, but...
What I realized led me into profound disillusionment.  I reacted by drifting toward addictions which would dull my misery.  I became enslaved to watching television and fell into an increasing state of alcohol dependence.  My bitter personal experience finally convinced me of the truth of the Bible's assertion: 'Whoever finds his life will lose it' (Matt. 10:39)... Finally God himself spoke to my heart by means of a Christian brother's words.  By God's grace and love I entrusted my life to Jesus (18).

Linnemann writes this book to basically uncover the presuppositions of the historical-critical investigation/school.  She does not pull any punches!

The reason I was reading Linnemann's book is because of something shocking I recently read in Barton's commentary on Joel and Obadiah with regard to his methodology.  Barton says,

If we insist on reading [Joel] as a unity, then the presence of this future-oriented material will be bound to influence how we read 1:2-2:27 [and additionally: how 1:2-2:27 informs its reader of 3:1-5ff.] too, for taken as a whole Joel is a book about the end time, of which the locust invasion and its resolution are harbingers.  A historical-critical reading, however, is entitled to distinguish between two parts of the book and to identify quite different contexts.
Though I have often felt when reading critical scholarship an entitlement, it was the first time I had read a scholar say it so explicitly! This "entitled" method Barton undertakes in his commentary hamstrings his comment more often than it actually gives it insight.  It actually privileges his developed method over what the book of Joel says, and over how a whole tradition has read Joel.

Linnemann reveals this type of historical-critical entitlement later in her book,
The basic premise of historical-critical theology -- that the Bible is to be viewed as a creation of the human mind and cannot be handled any differently than other products of human activity -- is presented to the reader as established fact (or "insight" by Kummel).  (114)

For students of theology, as a stage most relevant for me -- though I guess we are all students as we continue to research, Linnemann says something important to ponder,

In order to receive an academic degree as an expert in things relating to God, I must, therefore, make the decision to make room in my thinking for atheism.  I will be kindly permitted to retain pious feelings, but my thinking must follow the pattern of the atheistic guiding principle: ut si Deus non daretur (as if there was no God). (116)

She adds -- "This is a perversion!" (116)  Remember who is saying this.  It is not your token Fundamentalist-American-Evangelical-Right-wing Preacher!

So as I read such things as Barton proposes, I cannot help but wonder: methodology or ideology?

Finally, Linnemann says,

Whoever maintains that the Bible can only be made understandable with the methods of critical historiography is putting thoroughly atheistically conceived science in charge of the treasure of divine revelation.

That is, we take "I think, therefore I am," (Descartes) over "I believe, therefore I understand" (Augustine).

What I see as the value in the above comment from Linnemann and comment on Barton's perceived entitlement is the relevance it has for today's students of theology.  Many of my doctoral peers are each day faced with powers greater than themselves, supernatural powers, warring over the hearts and minds of the next generation.  Little by little, ground is granted as room for atheism.  That is, God's hand in Scripture and the world is slowly, not pushed out -- that is impossible! -- but ignored.  As Linnemann says, this reality has real effects of addiction and further denigration of our personal lives, and our societies.  It is not just a war of a pen, but much much more!  My peers are failing to see this as their challenge each day.  They are actually more wiling to take up the challenge of filling the void Linnemann left when she disowned her academic post.

However, I ask my peers: If Linnemann refused this "method" (ideology) as "refuse," who are you (especially you who claim Christ as Lord) to take up this mantel she disregarded, even to the extent of disowning works that defined her legacy? It is not more intellectual or enlightened to do so.  I am praying I will heed Linnemann's warning!  I need others to stand with me in fellowship.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Que hora es?: Joel 3:1

One of the critical questions concerning Joel 3:1-5 is: What does “after these things” mean?  In other words, what time in the story of God’s dealing with his people should the interpreter of Joel understand Joel 3:1-5 to be referring to?  Upon first blush most would agree with the chronological judgment of Wolff who sees the events of Joel 3:1-5 as prophetic promises that are in “expectation of the much greater future response."  Joel 3:1-5 is a future time that is yet to be fulfilled.  Thus, “after” is a chronological movement from the “assurance oracles” in Joel 2:12-28 that answer Israel’s plea and repentance, though neither are actually identified in Joel.  And this points to, as Wolff concludes, “[‘After’] presupposes that the preceding assurance oracles of plea-response pertaining to the earlier time have already been fulfilled…"   While, Wolff’s assessment of this text appears to be at the least on the right track, it has not gone without its detractors.  Furthering the difficulty is that the Hebrew conjunction for “Afterward" is a rare one (cf. 2 Chr. 20:35; Jer. 16:16; 34:11). Finally, such a proposal can also create many more questions such as: Are there two or more days of the LORD; one in Joel 1-2 and Joel 3-4, which is seems Wolff struggles to reconcile.  And thus, what does Joel 1-2 have to do with 3-4?
            The crux of the matter is how one understands "and afterward.”
            VanGemeren, positing against a tendency to see discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4, suggests a conjunctive use.  VanGemeren believes discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4 is instigated by a tradition of interpreters from Calvin to more recent scholars like Leslie Allen who create a “material” (1-2) and “spiritual” (3-4) promise dichotomy in Joel.  He notes that it is common in prophetic literature for “and afterward” to function as a “temporal conjunctive, ‘when,’ or even ‘and’." He supports his case with two prophetical texts: Isaiah 1:26 (“I will restore your judges as in the days of old… Afterward you will be called The City of Righteousness, The Faithful City.”), and Jeremiah 21:7 where the LORD judges King Zedekiah, introduced by “after that.” According to VanGemeren, however in Jeremiah 21:7, “after that” is part of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem (“…After that…I will hand over Zedekiah…").   
VanGemeren concludes saying “sequence is secondary,” and “‘afterward’… functions as a temporal phrase introducing the new work of God after an era of judgment."  Therefore, VanGemeren sees 2:18-27, what he calls “the era of blessing,” overlapping with “the era of the Spirit” (2:28-32, ET).  When these eras are specifically are associated with the day of the LORD, but he does not settle on a specific time; simply stating that it could be “after the exile or any period of judgment."

VanGemeren's proposal is one I am currently testing out.  It's tendency for greater theological reflection upon the time and events of the day of the LORD seems to have its benefits.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Review of Carson's Commentary Guide

Over at For Christ and His Kingdom, Carmen Imes gives a good review of D.A. Carson's newly released NT Commentary Survey.  What a great tool for students, pastors, and scholars!  I just received my review copy from Baker about three weeks ago.  I will have my review up soon.  But I will mostly be concerned to highlight differences between this survey and his previous (6th edition) one.

Carmen basically compares Carson's and Longman's respective surveys.  She helpfully (and, 'affirmingly') hits some similar points I had previously made in my comparison between Longmann's survey and Carson's (here is my review of Longman's new edition where I compare more in depth.  The below link is a quicky!).  One being the layout and accessability.  Carmen says,

Carson weaves his analysis into paragraphs that stretch into page after page. For example, commentaries on Matthew fill nine pages, and Mark six. Readers will need to read the whole section carefully in order to decide which commentaries are worth their time. Unlike Longman’s 5th edition, this book is no “fast food” restaurant. The menu takes quite a while to read. This weakness is partially mitigated by the chart at the end that highlights “best buys,” but that chart includes only one or two commentaries for each NT book.
As I contended, they both have their upsides and downsides.

I think this was a good question that many will be asking.  While Carson is clear in many cases, as in Luke, among other places, clarity could be brought here that may still be lost in his "best buys" section:
While Carson’s narrative is helpful, I often find myself wondering, “What’s the bottom line? Which commentary should I consult?”
 I hope I can help add to the discussion with what the payout would be of buying the new edition instead of just getting an older one for a few bucks.

Biblia Graeca: Rahlf's LXX + NA28 Under One Roof

Earlier I posted on my ETS experience.  Nothing deep, just some highlights from 30 thousand feet.

In my post I noted my purchase of the new Biblia Graeca, or as it would be better called: "Rahlf's LXX + NA28 Under One Roof" and I gave a couple thoughts about it.  For those on the fence concerning the purchase of this book, I thought I would give a separate post on it (however, repeating my other thoughts, in part).

The Biblia Graeca is described by its publisher (UBS), thus:

This edition combines the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) with the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. A one of a kind, useful tool for pastors, scholars and students.
I stole this pic from zwingliusredivivus  See his post on the book HERE
This sums it up well.  Much like the Biblia Sacra that combines BHS (MT) with an earlier NA version (27, I think), Biblia Graeca combines the Updated Rahlf's LXX with the newly (last year) released NA28.

The book is over 31 hundred pages, which makes it about the thickness of three of your NA28s.  IT'S BIG!  The paper quality and binding is the same as a BHS, Rahlf's LXX or NA27/28 - that is, any UBS produced book.  It's sturdy.

The book does little more than combine the two volumes.  The font of each is as one would see them in their respective volumes.  UBS went to no length to harmonize their font.  Bummer.  There is a title page on the inside that indicates what the Biblia Graeca contains, but that is it when it comes to the harmonization of the texts.  There is no intro/explanation behind the motivation to combine the volumes.  And there is three (THAT'S RIGHT, 3!) reference inserts.  Wow! Talk about cumbersome.  These, like the fonts, might have been served well to be unified.  There is 1 German and 1 English insert for NA28, and a Latin insert for the LXX.   There are two ribbons, which is a nice touch.

It seems that UBS may have either, (1) been rushing to release this volume, or (2) not thinking outside the box (i.e., not concerned about such issues).  Or, both.  Did I have too high of expectations?  Not sure.

But in the end.  I bought it.  And I was excited to do so! 
You may be asking why I did after a review like this one.  The easy and most accurate answer is that I use both volumes with enough frequency that having them together is more convenient.  It is a fine volume, but if it was ripped in half, the two resulting halves would look much like they did before in their own respective volumes (see illustration to the left).  Also, I got a good price at ETS.  It retails 179.95, and 100ish on Amazon.  I got it for a bit less than that.

So, buy it if you will use it!

In a dream world I would have something like both Tischendorf's Vetus Testamentum + Novum Testamentum Octava. You may say I'm a dreamer...

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Advent of God in the Last Days (NOW)

Luke makes use of Joel at a few important moments in Luke-Acts.

First, Jesus tells of the coming of the Son of Man in Luke 21, the coming of He, Himself.  This prophecy by Jesus uses strong astrological language from Joel 2:10-11.

Second, at Jesus' crucifixion similar astrological signs are repeated from Joel 2:10-11, as well as the temple vail being rent in half.  Even here, Joel 2:12-13 is interesting:

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.

Following these signs, a confession of Jesus' divinity is made by an unlikely source: 

"Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”  (Lk. 23:47)
Scandalously, a woman reports this to Luke as his source:

And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.  (Lk. 23:49)

Finally, Luke directly quotes Joel 3:1-5 (English Bibles: 2:28-32) at the advent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:

28“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls."
One scholar says of Joel:

“In describing YHWH’s actions Joel often uses traditional motifs grounded in ancient theophanies [appearances of God on earth], the day of YHWH, the enemy of the north, the sacred mountain, the formula acknowledgment of YHWH,  and the nations’ mocking of YHWH’s people.” 

In other words, in Joel, God is present in a REAL and TANGIBLE way when he acts to defend His people and creation from injustice, and save them from judgment.

My question is: What does Luke mean to communicate when he uses these theophany-rich passages in reference to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

I think the meaning and intentions are clear.  Luke attributes to these two persons of the God-head their due deity.  They are the REAL and TANGIBLE actions of God, because they are God.

In this season of Advent we wait on God, according to the Scriptures.

What's Fair to Ask Joel?

James Crenshaw asks the most pressing question of Joel in the most real way possible, saying:

“…that YHWH is ‘merciful and compassionate, patient and abundantly loyal’…flies in the face of reported facts [yet to seen in Joel 1-2]… [the threat of locusts upon God’s people and creation, and the nearness of the Day of YHWH]…both threats directed against the Judean population originated in its own deity… How dare the prophet appeal to the very one bent on punishing his possession?”

He states that his position will be:

"I propose to entertain the possibility that modern scholars have joined the ranks of Job’s friends in being too quick to associate calamity with guilt in the book of Joel.  The ambiguity lies instead in the divine character as perceived by persons who attributed all events to divine causation.”  

He proposes this, because it seems his method draws Joel out of its context, namely the Book of the Twelve, saying:

“In times of trouble, whether deserved or undeserved, turning to YHWH was the appropriate response inasmuch as he alone could remove the adversity.  Joel’s invitation therefore does not necessarily impute guilt to the unfortunate victims of circumstance.  Perhaps the prophet’s silence on this issue registers his own inability to pinpoint any culpability on the part of the Judeans commensurate with their misery.”

I can't keep from wondering if these questions are fair to ask Joel.  As a "chapter," per se, of the Twelve, is it really of historical-critical accuracy to treat Joel alone?  

I wonder: While it is always possible to ask what Joel’s authorial intentions were, those who stand at a later date and who stand in a tradition that has never possessed Joel as an independent work must wonder if such questions are fair to be asked of Joel?

I appreciate the raw honesty Crenshaw has brought to the discussion, but his method may be leading to some blind-spots.  Nogalski's commentary on Joel, as a recommendation from me, brings sanity and a good method to this question.  He sees Joel as a continuation of Hosea (I would suggest Joel as a continuation of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, according to the LXX order, and the generations of locust in Joel 1), and Joel ending with, still, and unanswered question so far as the repentance of the people of YHWH goes.     

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Number of Locusts, Joel, and the Fourth Generation

Regarding the conundrum of the four stages of locusts in Joel 1, Nogalski says:

“Rather than searching the past, a command is given to recount ‘it’ to future generations, making sure the message is conveyed for four generations… Significantly, then, this dual command refers to the message the prophet wants to convey, not to an event…the number of locusts corresponds to the number of generations who are to be told of ‘it' in 1:3.” 

Therefore, according to Nogalski, the locusts should not be investigated as one historical plague that had a four-stage program of destruction that Joel reports.  Rather, the locusts are figurative (as the Rabbis and early church fathers also read them). They represent the four generations who have been told "[Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors?]  Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."  (Joel 1:2-3)

Interestingly, the LXX has a different order of the first six of the Minor Prophets than does the MT (English Bible also); where Joel is second.  In the LXX Joel is fourth.  According to the LXX reader/theologian/redactor/editor, is Joel the fourth generation?  Amos and Micah make plenty of sense as precursor-generations to Joel.    

Joel and Jonah, and Other Perplexing Questions about the Nations in the Twelve

I keep asking who the nations are in Joel 3-4.  Joel 3:5 simply throws it all out of order for me.  Who is Israel and the nations after we are told by Joel that it is those who call upon the name of the Lord who are saved from the Day of YHWH?

James Nogalski says about Jonah:
 "By stressing YHWH’s compassionate character, Jonah 4:2 accuses YHWH, through the discontent of the prophet, of being too soft. [YHWH’s compassion gets in the way of justice, for the prophet]  Further, to make matters worse, YHWH exercises compassion upon the nations… as well as YHWH’s own people.  By satirizing Jonah’s myopic view, of course, the story of Jonah challenges particularistic attitudes that do no take account of YHWH’s salvific work in the world.” 

Noting this and the meristic relationship Joel has with Jonah (and Obadiah), one wonders who the nations actually are in Joel 3-4.  Joel seems to be pretty universalistic in view of the broader context of the Twelve. It seems we don't really find out who Israel is until Acts 7-ish. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Day of the Lord is the Day that the Lord Defends Creation, oh yes, and His People

I have been rather enamored with the message of Joel lately.  Joel is mistook as a prophet only concerned for people's salvation, and not just any people, but exclusively Israel.  Merx calls Joel “fleshly and Jewishly particularistic." Such an interpretation could not be more wrong.  

Joel proclaims the Day of the LORD.  In this day, as Joel 1-4 proclaims, and other similar traditions agree (cf. Is. 44:1-5), creation is intimately involved.

Simkins (1991) says this: “This locust plague [in Joel 1-2] was unlike any plague which had ever previously invaded Judah, for according to Joel, it is to be understood as the chaotic enemy which poses a threat to Yahweh’s kingship and the stability of the created order.”

The locust enemy in Joel 1-2 that implies the beginning of the Day of the Lord (cf. Joel 1:15, "Alas the day!"), like the armies of the nations in Joel 3-4, all pose a threat to God's kingship and his beloved creation. 

Isaiah 44:1-5 says, " “…For I will pour out water on the thirsty land, streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my spirit on you seed, my blessing on your offspring.  They will sprout up like blades among the grass, like willows by flowing streams.  This one says ‘I belong to Yahweh,’ and this on call out ‘In the name of Jacob,’ and this one writes on his hand ‘Belongs to Yahweh,’ and by the name of ‘Israel’ he is named.”   

The categories of nature and humanity are mixed.  The effect of such mixed categories conveys the meaning that there is regeneration of the natural world, and salvation of those in Israel that find their salvation in Yahweh.  As Simkins observes, " Thus Joel proclaims that as the fertility of the land will be restored so also will the people be restored by the outpouring of Yahweh’s spirit.  The salvation of nature and the salvation of the people are the same.” 

So when Paul says, "For the creation waits with eager longing..." (Rom 8:19), and Jesus is said to "through him reconcile to himself all things, whether on either or in heaven" by the cross (Col 1:20), we can take it at its word.  The regeneration of creation (THAT YOU AND I SCREWED UP) and the salvation of God's people is inaugurated in the Day of the Lord (NOW!).  

Therefore when Wolff says so importantly: "When all salvation of Israel is the subject, the fate of the world of nations cannot be left out of the discussion, if one does not want to annul the prophetic tradition." I want to add, "and creation" to "the world of nations."

ETS 2013 in Review

Just days ago many from biblical scholarship arrived home from Baltimore where ETS/SBL/AAR were respectively held this year.

I attended ETS only this year because on Saturday it was my 30th birthday, and I wanted to be home with the family.

Here were some personal highlights:

First, I had the opportunity to moderate a NT general session on Tuesday.  This was a great experience to serve ETS and to meet some fine scholars.  Also, I presented my paper on Paul and metaphor in 1 Cor. 6 at the VERY LAST parallel session time on Thursday.  In spite of the time slot, my paper was attended by a few scholars that knew the pericope of 1 Cor 6:12-20, and great conversation ensued after my paper.

I had the opportunity to meet a few scholars I had hoped to cross paths with.  First, I met Chad Van Dixhoorn.  Chad edited and published the entirety of the minutes that were behind the Westminster Assembly.   

Also, I was able to have a minute to speak with I.H. Marshall.  That will be a moment I will always remember.

Finally, I went to hear Walter Kaiser speak on preaching Christ back into the OT.  Epic!

Schools of my allegiance were also well represented.

Covenant Theological Seminary:

Robert Yarbrough, of course, this year's president delivered a great address titled: "The Future of Cognitive Reverence for the Bible," served on a panel on Bonhoeffer, and moderated a section on Johannine Literature: Theology in John.

C. John "Jack" Collins presented on the panel concerning the Historicity of Adam and Eve, of course, with some well placed humor.

Robert Peterson presented in a systematic section on the union with Christ with a paper titled: "Indwelling of the Trinity as an Aspect of Union with Christ in Paul"

Brian Aucker presented in the Old Testament Literature section on "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?: Royal and Divine Characterization as Governing Images in the Portrayal of Elisha"

Michael Farley moderated a session on Biblical Worship

Trinity College, Bristol:
Upon further research, though I saw many Trinity College, Bristol folks at ETS, I was the only one presenting/moderating.  C'mon TCB!

Books I purchased:
I was, of course, looking forward to NT Wright's two-volume book on Paul, and his volume of collected essays.  Those now stand on my bookshelf at work.  I also picked up the new COMBINED Septuagint (Rhalf's) and NA28.  Upon my initial glances through the large (2.25" thick) volume, it looks to be what it is, Rhalf's and NA28 smashed together.  I would like to see in the future a more cohesive volume with AT LEAST the same type-face and NOT three-booklets (1 German/ 1 English for NA 28, and 1 for the LXX in Latin).  Many other notable books were also released, including Bird's (Australian) Evangelical Theology, which I will probably pick up with some Xmas $.

The conference was very encouraging.  I am hoping in the near future (that is, brewing in my head right now!) to draw young scholars in ETS together into a tighter community.  This will help us to track with each other, encourage each other, and begin to plan projects that will take place in the near future (I have a few working at the moment)!  Stay tuned and suggest ways this may happen.  ETS has a director in Mike Thigpen who is very open for visionary direction!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Was Joel Xenophobic?

Joel 3:17b [4:17 Hebrew/LXX] is a tough verse of prophecy.

The whole verse says, "So you shall know that I, YHWH your God, dwells in Zion, my holy mountain.  And Jerusalem shall be my sanctuary, and strangers shall never again pass through it."

The apparent xenophobic nature of this verse is unattractive.  One scholar has attempted to locate such a prophecy to a specific time when Israel was confronted by an enemy, I believe, to take the edge off a bit.  Wolff says, in sum, "that doesn't work.  Don't do that!"  I do not believe, after reading Barton's commentary, that he really knows what to do with the statement.   I believe the question in Joel, especially when taken as part of a broad Twelve, is who is the foreigner?  Or put positively, who is Israel?  It is quite vague when one takes time to understand Joel. 

Here I think an extended quotation of Wolff's comment is helpful (1977, Joel and Amos):

“Only the second sentence spells out that, due to Yahweh’s dwelling in the sanctuary of Zion, Jerusalem as a whole becomes a ‘sanctuary,’ i.e., Yahweh’s inalienable possession.  Thus in Jerusalem already chosen as ‘city of the sanctuary’ in Is 52:1… In both these cases [i.e., Is 52:1 and Zech 14:21], as well as in Na 2:1 [1:15], a third statement is associated with this, namely, that no unclean and uncircumcised person (Is 52:1), no merchant (‘Canaanite,’ Zech. 14:21), no worthless person (Na 2:1 [1:15]) will pass ‘through’ the city.  In Joel 4:17 those excluded are called ‘strangers,’ a designation used for foreigners as those who are outside of the cultus.  [Wolff notes: “Consequently, one should not attempt to base a dating on this verse, as does Marco Treves (‘Date’ 153-154).’] Thus Yahweh’s self-manifestation as the God of the covenant is summarized in the assertion that his, as the one present on Zion, appropriates all Jerusalem inalienable to himself and refuses access once and for all to everything pagan.  Thereby is highlighted the salvific effect of the judgment of the judgment on the nations.  When Jerusalem is called a ‘sanctuary,’ this is meant to stress not so much its cultic purity (thus Zech 14:21), as rather its inviolable assignment to the God of the covenant, making it a refuge and a place of shelter for the people of the covenant (cf. 4:16b and 3:5).” 
This quotation reminds one of the prophetic office Joel takes on for God to a struggling people.  His 4:17 statement is eschatological, yes, but also eccesiological, soteriological, etc.  It points to much more than a cultus, a a single nation that is picking on Israel, or impending natural disasters of a historical sort (though, it certainly gives assurance in these times, as the Word of God does today for His people). Rather, it points to God's total plan of redemption.

In Wolff's quotation:
I hear Acts 1:8 - all the earth is the Lord's sanctuary, the implications of which are made evidently clear in James' use of Amos 9 in Acts 15.  See Revelation 21:9-26 for agreement.
I hear, "promise."  "This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself,"  Peter says in Acts 2:39.   God self-manifests as the God of the covenant.
I hear, Peter's revelation in Acts 10.  "Do not call common what I have made clean." Suddenly all who hear the call to call upon the name of the LORD.  The lines are blurred.  Who's Israel? And who is consequently now simply a Jew?
I hear, finally then, that there could not be an alien in the sanctuary of Jerusalem.  Acts 15 says why.  If Jerusalem is God's sanctuary, because this is where He tabernacles, Acts 15 says such tabernacling is done is accumulation of all believers (Amos 9:11-12).  It is easy to see thus why it is impossible for one who has not called upon the Lord to not be able to pass through.  And why God's land is now the earth, and not one geographic location.
And, much more can be heard once the stereotypical historical-critical "entitlements" (as Barton calls them in a positive light, see Joel and Obadiah, 93) are regarded as secondary.

Jew and Gentile alike are in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Lord roars and is a refuge for His people.  Who will call upon His name?   So was Joel xenophobic? No.  He was Hadephobic.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acts 2: An Early Jewish Theophanic Interpretation of the Day of Yahweh

In Acts 2 Peter (Luke) quotes Joel 3:1-5 (Eng. 2:28-32) in order to make sense of the signs and wonders occurring around the witnesses at Pentecost.  However, for modern scholars this quotation seems to only have muddied things, especially regarding its relation to the rest of Peter's sermon.

One way scholars have attempted to makes sense of Peter's sermon is to say it was a patchwork of two sermons.  That is, Peter quotes Joel 3:1-5 in one sermon, and then a new sermon begins at the point that he begins to talk about Jesus' ministry in 2:22-41.  But might the "mighty works and wonders" in verse 22, related to Jesus' ministry (esp. Lk. 21 & 23), harken back to the wonders and signs in Acts 2:19-20?

M. Weiss says that common to day of Yahweh prophesies is the appearance of God in what is called a theophany.  Luke is clearly concerned about Jesus in his dual-narrative of Luke-Acts; it would seem also that he is concerned to demonstrate Jesus' divine nature; and further that Jesus' divine nature matters even after His ascension in Acts via the work of the Holy Spirit.  Joel 3:1-5 would seem then also to matter in that it appears to be a thesis statement for Acts in its proclamation of the "pouring out of the Spirit" "in the last days."  Luke views what is happening in their midst as the Day of the Lord (cf. Acts 2:17, 20).  M. Weiss says that it is in the Day of Yahweh that Yahweh reveals himself in someway.

I find as I continue to read vast amounts of scholarship, while very often interesting, those who presume to take on a "historical-critical" methodology are much like the interested fellow who really wants to understand how the lawn-mower works, and disassembles the mower completely, and then either leaves his investigation at that stage feeling it is best to do so since he has observed all there is to observe, or he has so deconstructed the mower that he has lost the actual shape of the mower and thus how to put it back together (Some scholars like Christopher Seitz say it doesn't have to be this way).  Keeping the lawn mower together might make more sense and it may convey how it works best when it is assembled.

So, taking a step back from the minutia of the text of Acts to the bigger picture, the question is: Does Luke report a single sermon by Peter, of course unlikely relayed verbatim but faithfully to meaning, or is it a patchwork?  And what does it matter?

If we consider Luke as an early interpreter of the Day of Yahweh traditions (which I feel like I have not seen), since of course he is an active reader of Scripture, and consider the statements of M. Weiss to be accurate, what would this say about Peter's sermon?  It would seem to say that via Peter's sermon Luke is relaying to us a faithful interpretation of the theophanic appearance of God in Jesus Christ, and all that accompanies that, i.e., the rest of the story in Acts.  For Luke, Jesus is inherently the signs and wonders in the Day of Yahweh, and sign and wonders accompany Him indicate the theophany.   Therefore, Joel 3:1-5 would best be understood as not alien to Acts 2:22-41, but maybe an explanation of it. 

I have a large lawn.  My mower works best when assembled.  It's a riding mower.  I just changed its oil and put a new air filter on it. Works great!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Doxology of Research

Many ask why I am pursuing a PhD, and what it is about researching that I love.  Here is an example of what I love and why I feel called

Today I am reading the entries on Joel in the Ancient Christian Commentary Series.  

Pacian of Barcelona, a 4th century bishop, writes on (what the editor calls) "The Surgery of Forgiveness."

Another disease is added to the original cause and a new wound inflicted, and all that is contrary is , all that is dangerous is drunk.  Under this evil especially does this brotherhood toil, adding new sins on top of old faults.  Therefore it has burst forth into vice, and more grievously still, is now racked by a most destructive wasting disease.  What then shall I now do, I who as a priest am compelled to cure? It is very late in such cases.  But even so, if there is any one of you who can bear to be cut and cauterized, I can still do it.  Behold the scalpel of the prophet: "Return," he says, "to the Lord your God and together with fasting and weeping and mourning rend your hearts."  Do not fear this incision, dearly beloved.  David bore it.  He lay in filthy ashes and had his appearance disfigured by a covering of rough sack-cloth.  He who had once been accustomed to precious stones and to the purple clothed his soul in fasting.  He whom the seas, the forests, the rivers used to serve, and to whom the bountiful land promised wealth, now consumed in floods of tears those eyes with which he had beheld the glory of God.  This ancestor of Mary, the ruler of the Jewish kingdom, confessed that he was unhappy and wretched. 
             -ON PENITENTS 8.2
 This word speaks to the closeness of the Lord.  And it speaks to how deep one may feel they are in the pit or how far one assumes they are from the Lord, the scalpel of forgiveness is the hand of the Lord to the deep and the far one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Good Book for a Good Cause pt. 2: Some highlights from Sweeney's review

Earlier I posted that Sweeney had written a review of Max Turner's festschrift.  Here are a couple highlights from the review, and Sweeney's recommendation.

Two chapter's stood out to me regarding their potential for an immediate contribution from academia to the church.  Of course, I am unsure beyond Sweeney's review how well these chapters were executed.  But here is Sweeney's words on them:

First, Mark Strauss explores Jesus and the Spirit in the Gospels as a test-case for when systematic theology can aid a biblical theological investigation that has reached its textual limits.  The relation of biblical and systematic theology continues to be a hot topic:

In “Jesus and the Spirit in Biblical and Theological Perspective: Messianic Empowering,
Saving Wisdom, and the Limits of Biblical Theology,” Mark L. Strauss initially provides
brief summaries of the role of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptic Gospels, with
focus on Luke, and the Gospel of John. The common feature he finds in the four Gospels
regarding Jesus’ relationship to the Spirit is that the Spirit functions as the essential
empowering and revelatory agent for Jesus to accomplish his messianic task (272).
Following this, Strauss undertakes to bridge biblical and systematic theology in exploring the role of the Spirit in relation to the humanity and deity of the incarnate Christ. He notes that this question cannot be answered through exegesis alone, for the texts of the Gospels were not intended to answer the issues that arise from philosophical and theological questions about the incarnation. In this regard, biblical theology must give way to philosophical and speculative theology.

Next, Graham McFarlane explores the activity of the Spirit in the believer's life and its integral part of reconciling us to one another.  The relevant contemporary focus of this essay is especially eye-catching:

Graham McFarlane’s “Towards a Theology of Togetherness—Life through the Spirit”
offers reflections on a theology of human togetherness or at-one-ment in the context of
global lack-of-human-togetherness (sin). In so doing McFarlane reflects on the ongoing
reconciling role of the Spirit in the work of Christ on the cross in contemporary context.
The Spirit’s role in atonement includes believers’ reception of power to become children
of God, enablement to live by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, gifts, a realizable eschaton, and the gift of true forgiveness. 
 I am excited to read these potions soon.  Also, the notable contributions of Richard Bauckham, James Dunn, Conrad Gempf, D.A. Carson, among others, are works I look forward to reading.

A Good Book for a Good Cause

Over on RBL, James Sweeney reviews a new book entitled: The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology: Essays in Honor of Max Turner.  

The volume is edited by an all-star crew: Marshall, I. Howard, Volker Rabens and Cornelis Bennema. Here is a summary of the contents and some of the equally amazing contributors.  This appears to be a festschrift that could rival the latest presented to I.H Marshall (see my review of Marshall's festschrift here). 

Description: This volume gathers writings about the Spirit and Christ by notable scholars including Richard Bauckham, D. A. Carson, James Dunn, and many others. Covering topics that are relevant for the worldwide church today -- the life-giving work of the Spirit, the Spirit in Luke and Acts, the gift of the Spirit in John 19-20, pneumatology and justifi cation, community life through the Spirit, and more -- the twenty essays included will be a welcome resource for scholars and ministers. The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology is also a fitting tribute to honoree Max Turner, whose outstanding scholarship has focused on pneumatology and Christology.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012 pp. xx + 367. $60.00 

Turner's contribution to my area of research, Acts, etc., has been important.  I am glad therefore that this volume is getting attention.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Joel as an Apocalyptic Liturgical Text

It is readily recognized that the author of Joel, who Joel is, and when Joel was written (though the majority of scholars believe a post-exilic era) are particularly diffIcult issues to pin down.  Compounding the issues are the respective placements of Joel in both the MT and LXX appear most likely to have literary concerns in mind above chronological concerns.  The mention of "the Greeks" is only mildly helpful since the presence of Greek trade in the Levant is documented as early as the 8th century.  In other words, "the Greeks" do not need to automatically indicate a post-exilic era (contra Collins, 7).  Of note, also, both the Babylonians and Assyrians are absent. The locusts plagues do not specifically help since they could be a metaphor of other nations, or if they are in fact actual locusts, the documented occurrence of locusts plagues in the Near East is more frequent than a one-time event.  And who is the "northerner"?  Another nation? The locusts? Or, reference to divine beings?  Not sure...

So, Joel is confounding on many fronts.

What is sure is the Day of the Lord.  The universal effects upon all in this day - upon, Israel, the nations, EVEN Creation.  And the universal call to repentance in light of this day.

R.B. Dillard proposes in light of these difficulties, and this one surety, the possibility that Joel is either itself a liturgical text intended for corporate lament, or at the very least a specific example of one.

Three reasons are noted by Dillard:
1) "the people [of Israel] were often summoned to a fast at a sanctuary (Joel 1:13-14; 2:15-17)"
2) "where they would present their complaint to God in prayer and remind him of his past mercies (Joel 1:2-12, 15-20; 2:1-11)"
3) "and receive an answer of weal or woe from God (Joel 2:12-4:21 [3:21])"

Dillard continues, "If the Book of Joel was intended to serve as part of a liturgy as the temple, the difficulty in dating the book is all the more easily understood.  Repeated liturgical use would call for a composition that could be used on many different occasions, whether natural of military disaster threatens.  Specific historical references would narrow the range of events to which the text could be applied or for which it could be used liturgically."

Such an approach to Joel, as Dillard notes, also helps one understand why no specific sin of Israel is named in reference to their plight.  Sin is present, and even Creation mourns over it (contra Collins, 15).  But it is either assumed, and/or not named for a more universal use in liturgy.  ALSO, its universality is eschatological. 

In light of later use in the canon (broadly speaking), both Paul and Luke appeal to Joel, specifically 3:1-5 in reference to BOTH Jew and Gentile.  Could they do so within the semantic range and authority set by Joel if the pronouncement of sin was not open-ended, and pronouncement of the Day of the Lord was not universal (in contrast to, say, Hosea)?  Note: in Acts the Jews at
a certain point are no longer "the people," but the Jews - that is, another nation.  The relevance is clear in Joel.  Could it be that Joel is an apocalyptic liturgical text?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation Day 2013, Luther, and the Reform of Publishing

It happened the other day that I received gratis a copy of a newly published study bible.  As a bibliophile, I was at first struck with incredible excitement.  It was a new book, a new bible, and the notes in the bible were written by many of my mentors and friends! However, this excitement soon turned to contemplation.  First, the practical.  I already have a bible I use often.  Second, the issue that concerns this 2013 Reformation Day reflection. 

I picked up my newly un-sealed bible and for a moment spoke with my colleague about receiving it (he had received a copy as well, and with similar jubilation and contemplation).  I expressed my excitement, but then I was that guy.  I pointed out the elephant in the room.  I asked him, “Do you ever believe that the publication of more and more study bibles is too much? Do you think it could be a temptation to greed?”  He responded that he had also wondered the same.

The topic of this reflection is publishing, its availability to almost all people now, and our responsibilities in light of that.  As a PhD candidate I have entered a world where publication is king!  It can get you on the short lists for jobs, and can define your career in many ways.  It is very important.  However, those who are not PhD candidates, or in broader academia, also face pressure to publish.  The pressure comes through social media outlets and blogs.  WE MUST STAY RELEVANT! The avenues of publication are vast and available to most who would choose to do so. 

Our culture is currently experiencing the largest boom of publication in history.  The rate and consumption of published material in our time is closely analogous to the mid-1500s when Johannes Gutenberg got his printing press up and running.  One of the benefactors of this cutting-edge technology was Martin Luther.  Therefore, rightly on Reformation Day, we will observe some of Luther’s thoughts on publishing his own thoughts.  And we will attempt to more broadly apply to our time what Luther’s personal thoughts on publication might have to say to us today. 

We find Luther’s statements in a letter to Wolfgang Capito, dated July 9th, 1537. Luther informs Capito of his wish not to have his works published.  Luther says, "Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured." (LW 50, 171-173).

One scholar notes five reasons for Luther's "cool" feeling towards publication (E. Wolgast, Die Wittenberger, 1971), which we will use to draw out broadly applied principles (not exhaustive application, however):

1) Luther worried that reading his works might reduce the study of Scripture.
- Our publishing should guide a reader to Scripture and the glorification of God as its primary goal.  It should not detract from these goals (at the very least).

2) Luther realized that some of his writings originated in temporary, restricted circumstances.
- Our publishing should have a reader in mind.  As I once heard it said, “everyone’s challenge is no one’s challenge.”  Also, as an important note, we should be humble in light of the movement of history.  Vanity, Vanity, the teacher says – nothing is new under the sun.  We have to understand that our writing may or may not make a difference in our time, and submissive to the fact that it may have no relevance even a year from now, let alone 100, or 500!

3) Luther changed his attitude toward the papacy. 
-This is an important point.  We should write with humility realizing that we have not realized our goal yet.  We are also not the theologian, doctor, educator, etc., with the spot-on conclusion on any matter.  We are always learning, and we should write with respect to our ever-changing and ever-sanctified view on God, His Word, people, and the world.

4) Luther was convinced that writings by other theologians were more significant than his own writings.
- When we publish we should treat others with deference, and seek to cultivate an environment of respect and love through our publication.  The dialogue we pursue through publishing can only be successful if we hold others’ opinions as greater than ours, and write in a way that expresses such an attitude.  We are other glorifying in our writing.

5) Luther realized that such an edition [of his works noted above in the qoute] would be so expensive that the edition would collect dust in libraries, and only the rich could afford to buy it, while the common man could by no means afford it.
- A lot can be drawn from this observation from Luther.  First, I would say it means we should have a pure concern for publishing, if we are convinced what we write is needed.  Publishing for a living seems ok.  Publishing unnecessarily for gain seems to pervert the purpose.  More allegorically, yet related, we can view any publishing and consumption as investment.  There is always a cost when publishing, even when publishing status’ on social media.  What does your publication “cost” then in a metaphorical sense to others?  What will they pay for what you write (I was tempted to write “say,” but resisted with your cost in mind).   

Concluding thought:
            Via blogs, social media, and not simply journals and books, many more have the opportunity to publish today more than ever.  For many this opportunity can be turned into compulsion.  Our identities can seem to ride on our relevance.  Our Reformation reflection today calls us to contemplate the dissemination of our thoughts to the world.  Is our publishing self aggrandizing? Or, is it God and other glorifying?  Is it for cheap gain? Or, is it for the edification of those who invest in understanding something from our point of view?  Is it arrogant? Or, is it in humble submission to our finiteness (finitude?)? Can we truly say that, if God desired, we would gladly see our books disappear under a pew somewhere to collect dust for eternity – or our status' get 0 ‘likes’ – or, our blog get 0 hits?  I am happy to say that for the study bible noted in the beginning of this reflection that Luther’s principles appear to hold true, and it is now on the reader if purchase of such a volume is necessary, or greed.  A publisher cannot make up the mind of a potential reader, they can only be assured their "conscience is captive by the Word of God."   Happy Reformation Day!