Biblical studies stuff from this week (links & quotes)

David Instone-Brewer of Tyndale House has created an impressive new toolbar for biblical studies and translation.

NT Gateway lists the last three or four updates to the review of Biblical Literature. (Lots of good books.)

Ben Witherington III gives a good brief summary on the New Perspective on Paul

Christ Tilling, “The more I read Paul and try to understand how he used scripture, the more convinced I am that his reliance on the Prophetic narrative of exile and restoration needs greater emphasis. . . .

Joel Willitts posts has a new proposal on the Antioch incident. Part I & Part II. It’s not who you eat with, or what you eat, but where you eat. Lots of other good stuff on Euangelion.

On Jesus Creed, RJS is guest blogging a series on The Language of God by Francis S. Collins, Head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This book describes how Dr. Collins, an outspoken evangelical Christian reconciles his faith with his science. The series begins here.

BONUS: Kruse Kronicle has many interesting posts this week (too many to list).

BELOW break – longer quotes:

  1. Jame’s Crossley briefly describes his study of “sinners.”
  2. The Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary by citing vows for women in Numbers (Brant Pitre)
  3. What did Paul mean by fulfilling the Law? (Loren Rossen III)
  4. Bart Erhman Wall Street Journal interview

[See quotes below]

    Who are the modern exiles? (OT Story):

    Ancient Israelite responses to exile and diaspora, as reflected in the biblical texts, can provide the building blocks for rethinking the role of the Hebrew Bible in informing the modern Christians theological enterpreise (Smith-Christopher 2002, 6).

    My question is what is the difference between exiles and diaspora?

    The Gospel of Thomas (and Philip) – Hypertext Interlinear of Coptic edition with intro and commentary – are available on Metalog. (You can also download a PDF of the English version of the text with introduction and notes as well as a Coptic dictionary and grammar. They even have a 4 minute video critiquing the Da Vinci Code.) (Don’t worry, I don’t believe Thomas is canonical, but it is a helpful resource, and you should at least be aware of it.) Thanks to Deinde for the heads up. Deinde is a great resource.

    1. Jame’s Crossley briefly describes his study of “sinners.” (Wed 12 March)

    The chapter upon which the article is based looks at virtually all the different (and relevant) words for sinners in the the relevant texts in Gk, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac. The term(s) can be used in a number of ways (e.g. those deemed non-observant, those deemed beyond the covenant, generally wicked, gentiles and so on) and they will (probably) be punished eventually. But what is overwhelmingly clear is that whenever socio-economic status is mentioned they are wealthy and usually wealthy in a particularly nasty sense (1 Enoch is a particularly good example of this). The idea that ‘sinners’ was a term used for the general populace just cannot be the case. In the synoptic tradition (John, interestingly, drops the term) notice that sinners are associated with tax collectors, notorious for being rich and unpleasant. This, I suspect, is part of the conflict.

    2. Brant Pitre defends the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary by citing vows for women in Numbers

    Now, what this means is that if a young Jewish woman–say, Mary, in this instance–took a vow of sexual abstinence, and her legal husband–in our case, Joseph–heard of the vow and said nothing, then the vow stands, and she is bound to keep it. This provides a solid historical basis for Joseph and Mary having a perpetually virginal marriage: indeed, Numbers is very explicit in the final verse that if the husband changes his mind “and makes them null and void after he has heard of them,” the the sin will be upon him: “he shall bear her iniquity” (Num 30:15). One can easily imagine a situation where some husbands would think better of deciding to accept such a vow! But as Matthew’s Gospel tells us: Joseph was a “righteous man” (Matt 1:19), and obedient to Torah. If Mary took a vow of sexual abstinence–and her words “How can this be, since I know not man?” in Luke are evidence that she did (Luke 1:34)–and if Joseph accepted this vow at the time of their wedding, then he would have been bound by Mosaic Law to honor her vow of sexual abstinence under the penalty of sin. [Full details in Pitre’s post.]

    3. Loren Rossen III – What did Paul mean by fulfilling the Law?

    Most scholars, especially in the wake of the New Perspective, believe that performing the law (in some way) is what Paul had in mind. (1) Mark Nanos (6 votes) thinks nothing changed for the Judean people, that the Torah remained in force, even if Gentiles were exempt from ethnic requirements. (2) James Dunn and Tom Wright (5 votes) are stronger on this point, claiming that the racial/ethnic aspects of the Torah were rendered obsolete, that all believers fulfilled the Torah by following its ethical kernel. (3) Ben Witherington (7 votes) takes it to the next level, saying that the Torah was completely finished, fulfilled by adhering to a new law (“Christ’s law”, “the law of the spirit”) which was about imitating Christ, keeping certain commandments from the past and new ones from the present. In all three cases, the Torah is understood to be fulfilled by performing it, a part of it, or a new model of it in the new age.

    [This was a very good post. It was hard here to pick what to pick out to post here. It’s better to read the whole entry.]

    . . . Sanders has had it right all along: “it was the Gentile question and the exclusivism of Paul’s soteriology which dethrone the law” — and the latter is just as important as the former. This despite Dunn, who complains that Sanders has replaced the Lutheran Paul with “an idiosyncratic Paul who in arbitrary and irrational manner turns his face against the glory and greatness of of Judaism’s covenant theology and abandons Judaism simply because it is not Christianity”. But sectarian converts are often this way — unattractive and hostile about their previous allegiances (Philip 3:4b-11) — and we shouldn’t be trying to mainstream their mindset.

    . . . What about option (3)? Ben Witherington argues that Paul though the Torah was fulfilled by performing a new law rather than a revised or truncated version of the old one. This would be “Christ’s law” (Gal 6:2) or the “law of the spirit” (Rom 8:2) — the “new covenant” (I Cor 11:25, II Cor 3:6) — which consists of:

    (1) the imitation of Christ and his apostles
    (2) the keeping of those commandments reiterated by Christ and his apostles from the past (e.g. some of the ten commandments)
    (3) the new imperatives urged by Christ and then his apostles.

    . . . But Paul later revised it by saying that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6) — again in the exact same context of circumcision. . . Paul’s frame of mind on the subject of “keeping commandments” when he wrote Galatians and Romans is clear: it just can’t be done. That’s why Judean Christians have died to the law in its entirety (Rom 7:1-6). Being under the Torah reenacts the Edenic tragedy (Rom 7:7-13), which means that being under any commandment results in the victory of sin, because that’s precisely how sin succeeds — using any commandment against the holy purposes for which God intended it. Christ, in Paul’s view, came to liberate humanity (though the Judean people in particular) from this mess (Rom 7:24-25).

    (4) Philip Esler (12 votes), answers the question. Paul was saying that Christians had a metaphorical equivalent of the Torah, through the spirit. It’s worth citing him at length:

    “The best the law can provide is love of one’s neighbor, but such love is available through an entirely different source — the spirit. In fact, agape is the first fruit of the spirit. The law and spirit are stark alternatives: ‘If you are led by the spirit, you are not under law’ (Gal 5:18). Paul is speaking of the replacement of the law by the spirit, not the continuance of the ethical aspect of the law in the new dispensation of Christ.” (Galatians, p 203)

    4. Bart Ehrman gets in the news again – Wall Street Journal interview (There’s no shortage of people eager to interview a scholar who loses his faith.)

    Mr. Ehrman, 52 years old, writes that he could “quote entire books of the New Testament, verse by verse, from memory.” But he then had a crisis of faith.

    I describe myself as an agnostic. An atheist declares there is no God. An agnostic says that they don’t know. I don’t believe that the God of the Bible exists, the God who intervenes in history and answers prayer. But is there a superior force in the universe? I don’t know.

    . . . departments of religious studies are notorious for being staffed by people who don’t believe in the traditions that they teach.

    . . . My mom is still a good evangelical Christian woman. We talk basketball rather than religion.

    [Full interview here]

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    One thought on “Biblical studies stuff from this week (links & quotes)

    1. Jin Yang Kim says:

      As you know, the exiles are people who are forced to leave their lands, whereas Diaspora are those who are either forced or voluntary to leave their homes. Even though the two concepts are different in that way, both the exiles and diaspora share a common experience in which they live in the foreign lands.

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