Wednesday, 28 February 2007
What I love about NT studies (and what is true here is perhaps true of any academic discourse) is way in which meticulously detailed study of the texts, using all of the technical skills that one possesses, many years of hard work, the full range of scholarly resources - all this can result in the ability to say things in a relatively simple and straightforward way, such that people who have not studied the texts in the same detail can nonetheless grasp the issues and understand the implications of what one has said. Much of my teaching is a combination of (a) saying a few things simply, in such a way that the group can understand what I am claiming and why it is important and (b) showing how those few simple statements are in fact rooted in detailed work with the primary and secondary sources. Whether I succeed is a moot point. But as an illustration consider these two posts on the Synoptic Problem. One is written by Brandon Wason, and gives detailed information on the way that Luke has used Mark. The second is by Mark Goodacre (who like one of his mentors, Michael Goulder, seems to hold much of this kind of detailed information in his head) describing the Synoptic Problem in 8 Easy Steps.
Furthermore, I think that good preaching combines these two elements. I often think that those who know the most and have worked the hardest, preach the simplest. Complicated preaching is often the result of inadequate understanding and/or preparation.
Monday, 05 February 2007
I have had the clipping to this link for a while now, but for those who haven't see it...
MP3 recordings of the Durham NT Seminar in 2005 are available from the Durham website. The focus is largely on Romans 9-11 and other Pauline texts, but a highlight is clearly the recordings of an extensive conversation between Jimmy Dunn and Tom Wright on Jesus and Paul. Here are the listings for the two terms worth of recordings, but note not all of the sessions were satisfactorily recorded.
Dr. William R. Telford
"Has God Rejected His People?: Jews and Judaism in the Thought of Paul (Romans 9-11)"
Professor John M.G. Barclay
"Philo and Paul on Election and Grace (Legum Allegoriae 3.77-96; Romans 9.6-18)"
Note: Due to technical difficulties, Professor Barclay's actual presentation was not recorded, though the discussion that followed was captured.
An English translation of Philo's Legum Allegoriae. Scroll (about 1/3 of the way) down to XXIV. (77) to begin reading the relevant material.
Professor Robert C. Hayward
"Jewish Perspectives on Paul's Statements about Israel in Romans 9"
Dr. R. Walter L. Moberly
"Jeremiah and the Potter (with a View to Romans 9)"
Rt. Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright
"Further Thoughts on Romans 10"
Gary Griffith (final year postgraduate)
"A Smorgasbord of Grace: Paul's Use of Charis in 2 Corinthians 8-9"
Professor Francis Watson (University of Aberdeen)
"Scripture and Self-definition in Romans 9-10 and the Damascus Document "
Professor Watson's handout.
An English translation of the Damascus Document.
Dr. Richard Bell (University of Nottingham):
"Paul and the hardening of Israel"
Dr. Wendy Sproston North (formerly of Hull University)
“'The Jews' in John’s Gospel: Observations and Inferences"
Professor Loren Stuckenbruck (University of Durham)
"Does Romans 9.1-5 have an 'afterlife' in 9.6ff?"
Professor Joel Marcus (Duke University Divinity School)
"Crucifixion as Parodic Exultation"
Dr. Angus Paddison (University of Gloucester)
"Karl Barth on Romans 9-11"
Professor John Riches (formerly University of Glasgow)
"The End of the Law in Galatians: Readings in the HIstory of Interpretation"
Professor Philip Esler (University of St. Andrews)
"Reflections on Romans 9-11 in the light of Conflict and Identity in Romans (Fortress, 2003)"
Wednesday, 01 November 2006
SBL have just sent out notification of the availability of this resource which fills a major gap by providing free online access to the Pseudepigrapha in the original languages. This is the project description from the website:
For some time it has been evident that scholars of early Judaism and early Christianity need better access to the texts of the Pseudepigrapha in their original (or extant) languages and with a critical apparatus. In many cases critical editions are prohibitively expensive or out of print, and scholars without access to a large library have been hard pressed to find them.
The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha is intended to address this problem by publishing on-line, free-access critical texts of the Pseudepigrapha which are up-to-date and academically rigorous. This aim is to be realized by
1) co-ordinating the efforts of scholars who take on the editing of individual texts;
2) providing a forum for peer review of texts as they are developed;
3) developing the technology necessary for the publication of these texts in electronic form; and
4) providing a permanent web-site for the long-term publication of these texts and as a forum for ongoing text-critical work on the pseudepigrapha.
At the moment only the Testament of Job has a fully critical edition, with 1 Enoch and the Testament of Adam in progress. Other texts are simply codings of public domain critical editions. Only Greek, Aramaic and Latin texts are available at the present time. Nonetheless this is an important resource. Fonts are Unicode, but Mac users will need to browse with Firefox (Safari and IE won't work).
Saturday, 16 September 2006
Others have posted at length about this year's BNTC at Sheffield - for a gathering of contributions see Mark's post here. My own conference experience was marked by the usual combination of papers that got my exegetical juices flowing and others that ... well simply didn't. In the former category was the excellent presentation by Peter Williams on the Saturday evening on John's Prologue (not so much farewell as "gosh you seem to have lost some weight") in the latter category the stuff on Philo and Paul in the Paul seminar - all important, I know, but occasionally hard work. The other bonuses were the usual meeting of new people (Michael Bird's 1st time gretting was "Gee you're a big fella") and buying books. Nothing major this time, just filling a few commentary gaps. I am waiting and saving for SBL in November (Jewett on Romans here I come). Oh, and I was also defeated in a ballot to elect a representative from the theological Colleges to the Conference committee, which given that I was arm twisted 3 hours before the meeting because there were no nominations comes as something of a relief.
Thursday, 06 July 2006
The abstracts of the papers being delivered at the Paul seminar of this year's British New Testament Conference have been posted. They are:
Session 1: Paul and Philo
Professor John M.G. Barclay (University of Durham)
'"By the Grace of God I am what I am": Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul'
There is general consensus now that the psychic and pneumatic man in 1 Cor 15 do not derive from proto-Gnosticism. About the relevance of Philo's differentiation between two types of man there is still debate. However, most of those who regard Philo relevant for understanding 1 Cor 15 construe a difference between Paul and Philo, reckoning with the possibility that Paul argues in fact against a Corinthian version of the two types of man anthropology known from Philo. The main reason why this is the case, it is argued, is that the sequence in Philo of the first, pneumatic man and the second, psychic man seems to be consciously inverted by Paul: 'Observe, the pneumatic does not come first but the psychic, and only subsequently the pneumatic' (1 Cor 15.46). In this paper I wish to show, however, that both Philo and Paul adopt the same tripartite anthropology and distinguish between body, psyche and pneuma. Also Philo is of the opinion that the first pneumatic man is subject to degeneration and that, for that reason, the second, psychic man should be restored to his original ideal, the heavenly man. This transition from psychic to pneumatic man is basically similar to that in Paul. Both develop a soteriological tripartite anthropology which aims at man's re-spiritualization.
Session 2: Reception History of Pauline Letters ~(Joint session with Reception History seminar)
Emeritus Professor John Riches (Glasgow University)
'The Reception History of Gal. 6:15'
Dr. Mark Elliott (St. Andrews University)
'Behind and beyond Parker: the key moments and voices in Reformation Romans commentating''
We are indebted to T.H.L. Parker's Commentaries on Romans 1532-1542 (T&T Clark, 1986) in which he deals painstakingly with 11 commentaries proper written between 1532 and 1542. Parker was prepared to state his opinions: Melanchthon was a giant, Calvin is to be praised for his single-minded objectivity(x). There is admiration for Bucer even though he is unreadable. Bullinger is great on theory, less so in practice. Yet, Sadoleto (pace Roussel) is quite mediocre; indeed, as a group, the Catholics seemed to find Romans hard going. They did not use rhetorical tools to explain texts. Perhaps they were looking over their shoulders; after all, Sorbonne and Catharinus censured Caietanâ€™s attempts for being interested in Erasmus NT and the OT Hebrew.
There are three matters in which there is room for complementing Parker's work. There seems in Parker a tip-toeing around controversial and polemical theology and no real account of the awareness of other opposed views. Second, in giving us what 11 commentators had to say on Rom 1.18-23; 2.13; 3.20-28, he does not centre on the passage which must have given the sharpest differences of opinion: Romans 7:14-8:4. Third, in limiting himself to a decade the story of Romans in the Reformation lacks its beginning as well as its resolution. Parker's work is invaluable, but is a spur. In this paper, a review of treatments of Rom 7:14-8:4 and their reception will aim to show more clearly what was at issue between the interpreters.
Session 3: Open session
Mr. Preston Sprinkle (University of Aberdeen)
'Paul and the Law: The Use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 9:30-10:8'
This paper will examine Paul's citation of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 in particular, and the larger argument of 9:30-10:8 in general. Attention will be given to how the Leviticus citation interacts with Paul's exegesis of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in Romans 10:6-8. This passage as a whole has proven to be one of the most difficult in Pauline literature and is crucial for a proper understanding of Paul's view of the Law.
I will first examine briefly the various interpretative options that are popular today, assessing both the strengths and weaknesses of some recent proposals (esp. Francis Watson, Ross Wagner, N.T. Wright). I will then argue that the passage can be best understood when viewed through the lens of the hermeneutics of prophetic criticism. One feature of prophetic criticism is to show that the conditionally of the Old Covenant gives rise to its failure, and in order for God to save his people, he promises to act in an unconditional manner. Leviticus 18:5 captures, for Paul, this mark of conditionally, while Deuteronomy 30:11-14 the unconditional act of God in the Christ-event.
Assistant professor Yon Kwon (Westminster Graduate School of Theology, Seoul)
'Spirit as arrabon and aparche: Pledge or down payment?'
1. The Problem: In Pauline scholarship, arrabon and aparche, two crucial metaphors for the Spirit are typically interpreted as reflecting the eschatological tension between the 'already realized' but 'not completed yet'. However, such a view, essentially based on the 'inner logic' of the metaphors themselves, seems to run counter to the thrust of Paul's arguments themselves. A more 'context-friendly' interpretation seems required.
2. A lexicographical consideration A selection of examples (Greco-Roman, LXX. , and NT) will be examined, mainly to demonstrate the multiplicity of their potential meanings. The metaphors are ambiguous in themselves, so the context should provide the interepretive key.
3. In this main section of the paper, I will examine the role of the two metaphors in context, paying special attention to how they actually help Paul accomplish his argumentative goal.
1) Arrabon in 2 Corinthians 1:22 Paul's main concern is his apostolic integrity, with the metaphor serving as God's pledge of ownership of Paul.
2) 2 Corinthians 5:5 Here the sharply contrastive diction between present and future (visible and "invisible") dominates Paul's argument, rendering the idea of a 'partial fulfilment' out of place.
3) Aprache in Romans 8:23. There is similar contrast between present suffering and future glory, with a heightened accentuation of the 'not yet'. The hope is invisible, but we have the Spirit as God's guarantee for the surety of that 'invisible' glory.
4) The present is a time of suffering with the future still invisible. Listening to Paul's argument, it would be virtually impossible for the hearers to take Paul's references to arrabon and aprache in an 'already but not yet' sort of way. Paul is not mitigating the severity of the present by making the future already present, either partially or anticipatory. He is rather giving them encouragement, stressing the surety of their hope evidenced by the work of the Spirit.
5. Conclusion: Interpreting the 'dialectic' Paul or making Paul 'dialectic'?
Much of this looks interesting, although I know very little about Philo and will want to do a bit of background reading before listening to John Barclay's paper. I had meant to submit a paper proposal myself, but missed the deadline; good job because I already have enough stuff to write over the summer. Oh, and don't you just love the name "Preston Sprinkle"!
Wednesday, 28 June 2006
This was the title of a session I led for the "Going Deeper" programme at Heywood Baptist Church on Sunday evening. About 20 people there and a really good, open atmosphere with loads of interesting stuff to talk about. As I was preparing for it a number of things struck me. One was that my tite was probably unhelpful because (a) Paul doesn't strike me as someone who particularly needed to be loved (although the discussion at the session drew out some of the traces of potential deep insecurity that we find in the letters) and because (b) I am not sure that responsible engagement with Paul's writing's require that he be a nice person, or that we agree with everything he says. The overall argument was that Paul's letters are examples of the ways in which we are called to do theology: creatively, contextually and ever conscious of the capacity of the gospel to deconstruct and challenge our attempts to adequately narrate, describe or proclaim it.
I am teaching a Summer School on Romans next week, so this was good preparation.
I ended the session with part of a poem by R. S. Thomas - the best description I know of what it means to do business with the apostle to the Gentiles.
Wrong question, Paul. Who am I,
Lord? is what yoou should have asked.
And the answer, surely, somebody
who is it easy for us to kick against.
There were some matters you were dead right
about. For instance I like you
on love. But marriage - I would have thought
too many had been burned in that fire
for your contrast to hold.
Still, you are the mountain
the teaching of the carpenter from Nazareth
congealed into. The theologians
have walked around you for centuries
and none of them scaled you. Your letters remain
unanswered, but survive the recipients
of them. And we, pottering among the foot-hills
of their logic, find ourselves staring
across deep crevices at conclusions at which
the living Jesus would not willingly have arrived.
R. S. Thomas, "Covenanters", Collected Poems 1945-1990 (London: J. M. Dent), 406
Tuesday, 06 June 2006
Asks Chris Tilling, along with the usual pretty picture. The problem I have with Chris' own take on the topic is the suggestion that because you can demonstrate that Luke has a concern for historical detail and accuracy at some points (the reference to Riesner and Scnabel to which I would also add Colin Hemer, whose work was formative for me as an undergraduate thinking through these issues) you can conclude that the burden of proof lies in favour of historical accuracy at other points. In my view this is simply bad historiography in so far as it flattens out the different kinds of material in a text like Acts into a single category (that of relatively accurate ist century Greco-Roman historiography), rather than accounting for the extent to which an author like Luke can move between myth and history and merge them in different ways and degrees at different points in the narrative. In other words, I simply don't believe that, for example, because Acts 16 is packed full of local colour and thus historical authenticity (as even Lüdemann recognises), the burden of proof lies in favour of those who want to believe that the Ascension or Pentecost narratives happened pretty much as described.
I am reminded of the cautions given by Ed Sanders in Jesus and Judaism I think to the effect that (a) decisions about historicity should be made on a case by case basis, rather than on the basis of wider conclusions about how good a "historian" a biblical writer might e and that (b) the notion of the burden of proof is rarely straighforwardly stacked in one direction or another.
It goes without saying, however, that decisions about the likely historicity of the events in Acts 2 do not exhaust what an exegete might want to say about that text.
Update: Chris responds sensibly in the comments to this post, and typically (i.e much more funnily) here. I like the picture but object to being called a baby-eating Baptist. I only eat those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and Lord (Oh no, even I am turning into a narrow semi-pelagian now)
Tuesday, 21 March 2006
Some good news! It looks like I will be off to SBL in November. My proposal to the Matthew section has been accepted and so I will be presenting one of five papers there. Here is the proposal summary that I submitted:
Re-reading the Great Commission (Matthew 28.16-20) in Imperial Context
There is general agreement that Matthew 28.16-20 forms the climax to Matthew’s gospel, drawing together numerous key Matthean themes and alluding to several earlier passages in the gospel narrative. It is also clear that what Luz calls the “encompassing scope” of this text is shaped by allusions to the Greek Bible and, potentially, the wider contextual environment of the Roman empire.
This paper uses these three contexts (imperial; intertextual and narrative) to address a key contemporary contextual question. To what extent does the so-called “Great Commission” narrative legitimate complicity or active participation in diverse imperial and hegemonic discourses and activities? After a brief review of the way in which postcolonial critics have interpreted this text, I offer a reading, which provides resources for resistance to such imperialist claims.
I argue that recent work on the anti-imperial focus of Matthew’s gospel (Carter et al) is of some assistance in this regard and has particular relevance for our understanding of Jesus’ claim to universal authority in Matt 28.18. However, I also argue that a recognition of the LXX Daniel allusion in this verse invites us to read that claim in the light of the earlier gospel narrative; specifically the Son of man sayings and exousia motif. The command to go and disciple panta ta ethne should not be detached from the claim to universal authority (pasa exousia) that the risen Jesus makes. But such authority is the fulfilment of that which is present in the earthly ministry and future parousi/a of the Son of man. This connection serves to relativise any imperial claims made by Jesus’ followers and remind them that their mission must be characterised by the suffering servanthood of the risen Lord whom they now worship.
This is a development of the paper I gave to our research seminar here at PTE the other week. It will be more obviously exegetically focussed and I need to get down to it over the Easter vacation!
Thursday, 23 February 2006
I am giving a paper this afternoon (to our Partnership Research Seminar) based on some work in progress on Matt 28.16-20. The paper's title is "Mission, Empire and the Son of Man: Re-reading the Great Commission (Matthew 28.16-20)".
The basic thrust of the argument is that, given the complex interweaving of mission and empire in the modern wester missionary movement, and given that Matthew 28 was a key text in the development of that movement (Carey's re-interpretation of its force and focus), there is a need to explore whether this text can be read in ways that do not inevitably lead to either (a) the church's complicity in the western imperialist project (then and now) or (b) the church's construction of its own theological hegemony. The first option is susceptible to the standard postcolonial critique; the second to a more developed postmodern critique.
In the paper I argue that there are two features of the text that suggest that a non-imperialist interpretation is possible. the first is to recognise with Warren Carter et al that the gospel, and specifically this text would have been read by first readers as an implied critique of the Roman imperial project, with the risen Jesus challengiing the claims to universal authority made by the Roman emperor. This takes us some way to addressing (a), but does little to help us with (b). Therefore I go on to argue that we also need to see how the implied reader of Matt 28 is invited to see the risen Jesus in this pericope as the Danielic Son of Man, to whom is given authority as the fulfilment of his earthly ministry and in anticipation of his final coming and triumph. Thus, those who obey his command, must do so fully aware of what that authority does and does not legitimate (cf the ουν̉ of v19). Or, in the words of the conclusion to the paper: "It is not just that the church in mission is unfaithful if it uses the structures of secular imperial power; it is also unfaithful if it claims the absolute authority that belongs to Jesus, for itself and when it wields its own power in a way that is not consistent with the earthly ministry and suffering death of Jesus."
The aim is to use this as the basis for several differently focussed papers over the next year. One on how this affects Baptist understandings of authority; one much more exegetically focussed on the anti-imperial backdrop to the text and its intertextual relationship with Daniel 7, and one on the reception history of Matthew 28.
See, I can talk about the New Testament after all! Whether I do so coherently or intelligently will be better known after I have given the paper.
Wednesday, 18 January 2006
Loren Rossen collects the fruit of his trawl for "dangerous ideas" relating to Biblical Studies. The list raises all sorts of interesting questions about interpretation, scholarship etc. Take a look for yourself here, and see what you (dis)agree with and why.
Monday, 09 January 2006
Well apparently he is one of five people who, according to Dr David Starkey, so betrayed the original message of Jesus that they can be accused of killing Christianity. Here is the brief BBC announcement for the Radio 4 broadcast:
Who Killed Christianity?
The next programme will be on:Tuesday 10 January 2006 09:30
Dr David Starkey argues that five major Christian figures distorted, even betrayed, the Christian faith as envisaged by Jesus. Defenders argue back. 1/5. St Paul.
Unfortunately the BBC website doesn't say who the defenders are (any bets on the Bishop of Durham? Mark Goodacre?). As usual the main problem with the whole idea is the implicit assumption that Jesus invented or proclaimed something called Christianity that later believers could then betray or "kill". Starkey is a good polemicist, however, so I will have a listen tomorrow morning.
UPDATE: not the most profound challenge to Paul. Starkey went for the usual suspects (Paul's views on women, homosexuality, the state) and was properly dismissed by John Milbank (interesting choice!) and Morna Hooker (excellent choice!) - Starkey's habit of quoting from the KJV did not add to one's feeling that he ever really intended to wrestle with the meaning of the Pauline texts in their 1st century context. Of course, had he explored more central issues of christology, election, soteriology etc. he would have made a much stronger case. If Paul does betray Jesus (and I do not believe that such a view is sustainable or ultimately useful) then he does so at the level of theology, not ethics.
Monday, 31 October 2005
After N. T. Wright's seminar, I stayed in for the Manson Memorial Lecture, given this year by Professor John Barclay from Durham. His title was "Paul and Gift-Exchange: A Contribution to Social Ethics". It was an interesting paper, setting Pauline discourse on gifts and giving into the contemporary discussion of these issues in e.g. Derrida and Milbank. Professor Barclay's reading of Paul on such issues is a fairly positive one, but the exegesis of the key texts was sound and the attempt to read Paul in such a way that his ethical/relational discourse can relate to contemporary debates is admirable (cf. David Horrell's more extensive attempt to do a similar thing in his book Solidarity and Difference listed to the left under Recent Books on Paul). Personally, I still wanted to press him on the underlying issues of power that are inherent within any such discourse, but Professor Barclay responded to my question with grace and insight. Once he has finished preparing a critical edition of Contra Apionem, he intends to work on a wider study of Paul's theology of grace gift-giving - this was an excellent taster for that future project.
Sorry this is a few days late, but I thought I would mention that last Thursday was a great NT day. Lunch was with my doctoral supervisor, Tom Wright, now Bishop of Durham of course, George Brooke and Peter Oakes from the "Department" of Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester. Tom then presented a paper to the University Erhardt Seminar entitled "4QMMT and Paul: Justification, Works and Eschatology". It was a boiled down version of an article that will appear in a forthcoming Festschrift for E. Earle Ellis. The main proposal of the paper was helpfully broken down into 4 main propositions:
1. The context for 4QMMT, especially section C (we used Vermes' composite translation for the seminar) is covenantal and eschatological.
2. The halakhic precepts referred to in that section are to be understood as the boundary markers of God's eschatological people: i.e. they denote who is already in the covenant and will thus receive eschatological vindication rather than the means by which some get into the covenant
3. Paul held a version of the same basic covenantal /eschatological scheme but replaces "works of the law" with faith as the central boundary marker of God's covenant people.
4. Therefore Sanders was right to argue that the issue in Paul's justification language is not how one gets in, but what identifies that community which will receive ultimate eschatological vindication.
The discussion, as you might imagine, ranged widely. I wanted to know how such a reading of the "works of the law / faith in-of Christ" texts in Paul (Romans 3; Gal 2-3) connected with Tom's commitment to the subjective genitive reading of the latter (further conversations will be needed here at some stage). I was especially interested to note that Philip Alexander, who as far as I can make out knows pretty much everything there is to know about ancient Judaism, sees no real problem with Tom's view that some 1st century Jews still understood themselves to be, in some senses "in exile" - he thinks it is a topos that appears in a number of places in rabbinic texts and within more contemporary Jewish movement. There was also some discussion about whether the references to "the end of days / end of time" in 4QMMT are to be understood as future or realised eschatology.
If you want to follow it up you can read a rough translation of 4QMMT here. The seminar has made me want to goo and read that text again in Hebrew and read up on some of the other articles which explore the relationship between 4QMMT and Paul.
Saturday, 03 September 2005
A full day: seminars in the morning and short paper in the afternoon and evening p[plenary followed by an enjoyable evening with colleagues tasting the joys of Scotland (see Jim Davila's pictures when he posts them).
The Paul seminar worked with 4 papers. The first on identity in Ephesians 2. The second was a theological hermeneutical reading of 1 Corinthians 11 and the material there on gender and headship. A further paper on the Haustafel in Ephesians was followed by the pick of the bunch (in my view; all the papers were strong) namely Stephen Chester's consideration of the relation between justification by faith and participation in Christ in Luther's commentary on Galatians. See the abstracts here.
After a break there was an excellent short paper by David Horrell, picking up the concerns of the Bauckham volume, The Gospels for all Christians and using them to explore the legitimacy of the notion of the "Pauline" church. The paper was a wonderful example of what a short paper should be: a simple but interesting question, explored clearly, without too much detail, but with significant implications. The event was made even better by David's ability to handle the numerous latecomers into the session, requiring several false starts, summaries of previously read paragraphs, and summaries of those summaries. It was all handled with aplomb - David must be a great lecturer to listen to on a regular basis.
We then had a plenary discussion around the "State of the Discipline". Many have concerns about the small numbers of students doing biblical topics at A'Level (although from the statistics it was clear that NT fares better than OT here) and thus the smaller numbers choosing bible as their focus at degree level and of course at research. A number of explanations for this phenomenon were offered and a few strategies for dealing with it. However the comment by Darrell Hannah at the end, to the effect that in the end the only thing that sustains the biblical studies discipline is the church and therefore we should attend, as a guild, to the ways in which our scholarship relates (or rather seems not to be relevant) to the churches and its leaders - it was this point that resonated with me. I would only add to it that, in the present context of ministerial training, even those preparing for ordained ministry do very little Bible, have little opportunity to learn languages (obviously a pre-requisite for graduate work) and often come to College with very low levels of biblical literacy. I don't have a solution, but the problems are real.
The evening paper (following a wonderful conference dinner) was also excellent. Chris Rowland helped us to think about William Blake and the NT. Lots of pictures and interesting stuff about Blake's hermeneutics, arising, it seems, out of his being a part of wider radical and millenarian Christian movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
And then to bed .... well no! To an enjoyable gathering with colleagues around bottles of Cask strength Speyside; Balevenie, Highland Park and Tobermory. Was in bed by 1.00 a.m., so not the latest session I have known, but, as usual, great fun.
This morning we have a joint seminar between Paul and Social World discussing 3 new books on 1 Corinthians, and then a final plenary on the Epistula Apostolorum.
Oh and I have bought 15 books!
Friday, 02 September 2005
Other than meeting up with friends and book buying, the main conference programm began yesterday evening with a paper from Richard Burridge on "A Biographical Approach to New Testament Ethics". The session started 40 minutes late, which was not really fair on Richard, but he cracked through a wide range of material and offered us an overview of the basic argument of a forthcoming book on NT Ethics. The basic argument (as I understood it - there was wine with dinner!) was that (a) NT ethics should begin with Jesus; (b) that therefore the genre of the gospels as bioi needs to be taken seriously; (c) that as a result it is problematic to abstract the teaching of Jesus and derive ethical maxims from it, instead one must take seriously the deeds of Jesus as also having ethical significance; (d) when this happens one realizes that Jesus both taught a rigorous ethical program's and lived a life which welcomed those who explicitly failed to live up to that programme: in other words, Jesus didn't live up to the saying that "Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor 15.33); (e) Early Christianity (Paul was the example given) by placing christology at the heart of its ethical discourse thus shows a consistency with the initial ethical significance of Jesus.
There was much more in the paper than this summary can do justice to, but I hope it gives something of the flavour. For those who aren't convinced by Burridge's earlier work on the genre of the gospels, the issues may be more complex than the paper suggested. But personally, I found the reminder that the ministry of Jesus is crucial for contemporary ethical reflection a helpful reminder, and one, of course, that connects closely to aspects of the anabaptist / Baptist tradition in which Jesus' teaching about non-violence (for example) is placed front and centre of what it means to stand in a Christian ethical tradition (not that Burridge touched on this issue at all).
Paul Seminar this morning, with some short papers this afternoon (including a discussion on the "State of the Discipline" in 45 minutes. Tonight's paper is by Chris Rowland on William Blake and the NT.