Memorial Service for Christopher Evans

From Paul Joyce of Oxford (through Viv Rowett of SOTS),

There will be a Memorial Service for Christopher F. Evans (1909-2012) on Tuesday 15th January 2013 at 5.30pm. This will take place in the Chapel of King’s College London, in the Strand, and will be followed by refreshments. All are warmly invited to attend.

Professor Evans was one of those giants too few know but everyone knows indirectly. In honor of the man, following is the Guardian obituary in its entirety:

christopher evans obituaryThe Rev Christopher Evans, who has died aged 102, was one of the foremost teachers, and an outstanding investigator, of the New Testament. His brilliant, alert and inquiring mind persisted into extreme old age, enabling him to act as a bridge between the leading scholars of the 1930s and 1940s and those of the early 21st century.

In 1962, Evans became professor of New Testament studies at King’s College London, where he laboured at what was his life’s work, a vast and detailed commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, eventually published as Saint Luke in 1990, long after he had retired. What places St Luke among the greatest of New Testament commentaries is Evans’s magisterial blend of overview and detail. He never loses sight of the key questions about the character and purpose of the gospel; its dominant themes, such as concern for the marginalised, the centrality of the Holy Spirit and the place of prayer in the life of Jesus; and its sources. (Where did Luke get the substantial body of material unique to his gospel, such as the great parables of the good samaritan and the prodigal son? How much did he compose and how much did he find already formed?)

Evans was born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward’s school, which has a proud record of producing distinguished scholars and leaders for the church, such as EW Benson, former archbishop of Canterbury. In the early 1930s, a scholarship took Evans to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, an enclave of high Toryism and high Anglicanism, where he took a first in theology. There, he came under the influence of Sir Edwyn Clement Hoskyns, who introduced English New Testament scholarship to the findings of the German school of “form criticism”, as exemplified in the work of Rudolf Bultmann and Martin Dibelius. This emphasised analysis of the Bible in terms of the literary forms used, such as proverbs, songs and stories. Hoskyns’s combination of searching scholarship and deep personal devotion taught Evans that a critical approach to the scriptures could be the friend, and not the enemy, of faith and discipleship.

After a year at Lincoln Theological College, where he was taught by Michael Ramsey, later archbishop of Canterbury, Evans had a curacy of four years in Southampton, his only experience of parochial ministry. Evans returned to Lincoln in 1938 as a member of the brilliant teaching staff under Eric Abbott, the principal. GB Bentley lectured on ethics, Eric Mascall was responsible for doctrine and JH Srawley taught liturgy.

The college struggled through the war with a drastically reduced intake of students while heavy bombers from the Lincolnshire airfields roared over the cathedral en route for Germany. After six years of teaching ordinands, Evans was ready to move. The bishop of Lincoln offered him the chaplaincy at the teacher-training college in Lincoln. Evans, who in 1941 had married Elna Pasco, with whom he had a young son, Jonathan, agreed and stayed four years.

In 1948, his career as scholar and teacher took a leap forward with his election as fellow and tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he could exhibit his talents in a more formidable academic setting. He swiftly became known as an inspiring New Testament tutor, forming a tutorial “circus” with JR Porter, the Oriel College Old Testament specialist, and Dennis Nineham, the brilliant young chaplain of the Queen’s College, to teach doctrine. With Nineham, Evans gave a memorable series of lectures on the Gospels and the Jesus of history, while not neglecting his pastoral duties.

It was always likely that Evans would be offered a chair; after 10 years at Corpus, he was appointed to the Lightfoot professorship at Durham. However, despite relishing its historic character, he never really settled in the city and the chance to return south came in 1962 with his becoming professor of New Testament studies at King’s College London, where he remained for the next 15 years, teaching and lecturing and continuing his challenging and questioning approach to the New Testament.

In 1977 he retired to a bungalow in the village of Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire, a stone’s throw from the theological college, where he was a frequent and honoured guest. The death of his wife in 1980 was a grievous blow, but he continued to live positively, tending to the students and staff of the college and keeping a host of friendships from earlier days. To one visitor, at age 98 and over a pub lunch, to the inquiry “What’s it like being 98, Christopher?” he replied: “Part of you feels that you shouldn’t be here.”

He is survived by Jonathan, who followed him into holy orders.

The Continuing Erosion of the Rights of Christians

A new ruling by a High Court judge – the first on the issue in nearly a decade – says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.  The judgment – which upholds an earlier decision – means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.  Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.

Who does the judge imagine himself to be such that he can tell Christians what their beliefs are?

The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff as he ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home.

Senselessness and yet more of the creeping erosion of the rights of Christians to practice their faith without government interference.

The Heidelberg Catechism as Anti-Depressant?

Barbara Schenck has written an absolutely marvelous essay on the Heidelberg Catechism as anti-depressant which starts thusly-

Vor Enttäuschung sei gewarnt. Die folgenden Gedankensprünge genügen weder den Ansprüchen einer historisch-kritischen oder systematisch-theologischen Exegese des Heidelberger Katechismus, noch basieren sie auf langjähriger Erfahrung in einer psychotherapeutischen Praxis. Eine zu hohe Erwartung an den Text wird in Enttäuschung enden und womöglich miese Stimmung auslösen.

Give it a thorough reading.  And follow Barbara on the twitter.

The Problem With So Much Church Music…

450px-Zwingli_und_BullingerIs so nicely expressed by Heinrich Bullinger that it bears repeating-

There are many things in this kind of singing to be discommended*. For first of all, many things, yea, the most, are sung contrary to true godliness; neither are all things that are sung taken out of the holy scriptures, but out of I know not what kind of legends, and out of the traditions of men. And those things which are sung out of the scriptures are for the most part so wrested and corrupted, that there remaineth no part of the heavenly sense or meaning. Creatures and dead men are called upon.

Moreover, this kind of singing is commanded; and they sing not of their own accord or good will, but upon constraint: yea, they sing for money, and to the end that they may get an ecclesiastical benefice, as they term it. Only clerks hired for that purpose do now-a-days sing; not the whole church of Christ, as in time past hath been accustomed.

Neither is there any end or measure in their singing; they sing day and night. And to this foolish and ungodly kind of singing, as to a heavenly or meritorious work, there is more attributed than true faith doth allow. A man may well say, that it is that much babbling, which the Lord in Matthew forbiddeth and condemneth as an heathenish superstition.

They sing moreover in a strange tongue, which few do understand; and that without any profit at all to the church. There is heard a long sound, quavered, and strained to and fro, backward and forward, whereof a man cannot understand one word.

Oftentimes the singers strive among themselves for the excellency of voices; whereby it cometh to pass, that the whole church ringeth with an hoarse kind of yelling, and through the strife that riseth about their voices the hearers little understand what is sung.

I say nothing at this present of their music which they call figurative, and of their musical instruments, all which are contained in a manner in their organs, as they term them. I say nothing of their dirges, or prayers for the dead: of which I have also entreated in another place.

But these, and such other like, so occupied the whole time of divine service in the church, that very little or none was left for true prayers, and for the holy and heavenly preaching of the word of God. Therefore for most just causes they that believe the gospel do neither use such singing, neither suffer it in the church of God. And they seem to deal very devoutly, and in like manner most wisely, which bestow the best part of the time, or even the very whole time, of ecclesiastical assemblies in fervent and quiet prayers, and in the wholesome preaching of the word of God, omitting that singing: especially since it is a hard thing so to limit or restrain singing, which otherwise is tolerable, lest at some time it exceed and go beyond the appointed bounds.**

* Bullinger means the music so common then which served only to highlight the talents of the singers and musicians without any concern for the glory of God. Mutatis mutandis, the same could be said of much of the music performed in Churches today. Such music may have a place in the theater, but the Church isn’t a theater and worship isn’t a play or musical or theatrical production.

**The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Fifth Decade, pp. 196–197.

Congress Deserves a Raise as Much as a Pregnant Woman Deserves to Wear a White Wedding Dress

And yet- it seems both happen…  and it’s OUTRAGEOUS.

President Barack Obama gave a New Year’s gift to returning members of Congress, federal workers and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, signing an executive order calling for an end to a years-long pay freeze.

As of March 27, 2013, federal employees will see a half-percent to one percent pay increase, marking the end of a pay freeze that has been in place since late 2010. Congress hasn’t seen a pay raise since 2009.

According to the order, Biden’s pay will increase from $225,521 to $231,900 a year, before taxes. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will see his salary increased to $224,500 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will take home an annual pay of $194,400 after his raise.

For doing what???????  Aggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I hate the government.  I’m not given to profanity, but I have to confess that there are some colorful words swimming around my head right now.

Only the government would reward absolute incompetence this way.  It’s OUTRAGEOUS.  Fire them all.  With thanks to Brian Fulthorpe for pointing it out and giving me an aneurysm.

Yigal Levin’s Report on the ‘Fish Tomb’ Conference

Because accusations have been made that Kloner fled the conference (see the comments) at its conclusion without taking questions (implying that he didn’t wish to or was afraid to), I post this conference perspective by Yigal Levin (who was in attendance).

Yigal offers both a comment on the conference and the  abstract of Kloner’s paper- which too is below, for which I thank him-

The conference was not a press conference but a full-day academic conference on the history and archaeology of Jerusalem, of which I was one of the organizers. Kloner’s paper (presented together with Boaz Zissu) was given as part of a regular session on the Second Temple Period. The full text is available in Hebrew in the conference proceedings, with an abstract in English which I have copied below. There was no discussion time at the end of the session because the conference was behind schedule. Jacobovici tried to yell accusations at Kloner, but since the session chair announced that it was lunchtime, people just got up and walked out. As far as I know, Jacobovici then simply left.

From the perspective of most people in the profession in Israel, the Talpiot cave is really a dead issue – just another not-very-carefully excavated burial cave from that period, which does not add a whole lot to our overall knowledge. There were, however, quite a few interesting papers given, including a look at an Iron-Age underground cistern discovered by Eli Shukrun on the west side of the valley, adjacent the Temple Mount.

Burial Cave 1050 in East Talpiot, Jerusalem
Amos Kloner and Boaz Zissu

The East Talpiot burial cave was uncovered at a construction site and examined relatively quickly, within a short and clearly insufficient time, on 16 April 1981, as part of excavation permit no. 1050. The archaeological team found that the cave comprised of nine kokhim which contained primary burials (or inhumations – the skeletons lied supine) and eight ossuaries, inserted in antiquity into four of the kokhim. The kokhim which contained the ossuaries also contained some scattered bones of earlier burials. It was clear that the bone collection was not done properly and later generations did not take great care with their predecessors’ remains. The cave belonged to a Jerusalemite family during the second half of the first century BCE and the first century CE.

The cave contained the burials of at least 21 individuals of different ages and it can be assumed that the total number reached up to 26 individuals.

The human remains were badly damaged by the ultraorthodox and by the construction workers, and when the ossuaries were finally inserted back into the kokhim on top of the inhumations, they were placed without knowledge of their original locations.

In the opinion of the present authors, all of the hypotheses and proposals that were made recently, connecting the cave findings to early Christians, to Joseph of Arimathea, to Christian apostles, or to a community of Jewish-Christians – are unsubstantiated.

Today With Zwingli: Honoring His Teacher

One of the people who exerted significant influence on Zwingli’s early thought was Thomas Wyttenbach.

wyttenbachWyttenbach was born at Biel, or Bienne, sixty miles west by south of Zurich, in 1472, and died there in 1526. In 1496 he was matriculated at Tuebingen, made M.A. there in 1500. In Basel he lectured from 1505 to 1507, when he became people’s priest in Biel and was to the rest of his days identified with that place. He showed his independence and his defiance of ecclesiastical authority by marrying in 1524, and from that time on his troubles were incessant. He was deprived of his position, and just when he had increased need of money he found himself without any, and till the end of his days was miserably poor. But though in dire need he pleaded the case of spiritual freedom and kept up a gallant fight. His exertions won over many to the Reformation, and while he lay dying his heart was gladdened by the thought that his beloved native city was about to be numbered with the other Reformed cities of Switzerland. He and Zwingli were frequent correspondents, yet only one letter has been preserved, viz., a long one by Zwingli on the Eucharist, dated June 15, 1523.  It is addressed “to his dear preceptor and brother in Christ at Biel.” Zwingli sends him a greeting as “his dear preceptor” in a letter to Haller, December 29, 1521.*

Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

Salvere iube nostro nomine amicum nostrum Trempum, Sebastianum, Valerium, medicos, hunc corporum, illum animorum, Thomam Vitembacchium, charissimum praeceptorem nostrum, si quando ad vos concesserit, et omnia boni consule.

All of us remember the teachers / Professors who exerted a powerful influence on us.  This is only proper- because all of us stand on the shoulders of giants, and only see as far as we do, because we do.

*S. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland.

Der Zerfall der Institution Familie ist ein viel größeres gesellschaftliches Problem als die Gleichstellung homosexueller Partnerschaften mit der Ehe

Die Politik sollte sich viel mehr mit den Folgen von Scheidung für die Kinder befassen als mit der Einführung der „Homo-Ehe“. Diese Ansicht vertritt ein führender Zivilrichter Großbritanniens. Sir Paul Coleridge (London), der eine Stiftung für den Erhalt der Ehe gegründet hat, sagte der Londoner Zeitung The Times, nur 0,1 Prozent der britischen Bevölkerung sei von der „Homo-Ehe“ betroffen, aber über 99 Prozent vom Zerfall von Ehe und Familie. In ihren Erhalt müsse investiert werden. Der 63-jährige Jurist war 30 Jahre lang Familienrichter, bevor er im Jahr 2000 an das höchste Zivilgericht, den High Court, berufen wurde. Der konservative britische Premierminister David Cameron will religiöse „Trauungen“ von Homosexuellen zulassen. Gegen den Gesetzentwurf, der „Ehe“ neu definiert und im Januar ins Parlament eingebracht werden soll, regt sich Widerstand von Kirchen und Religionsgemeinschaften sowie einer Gruppe von Unterhausabgeordneten aus allen Parteien. Die anglikanische „Kirche von England“ soll von der Regelung ausgenommen bleiben.

Via, with much, much more, which do read.

Congress: You’re Idiots- If You Love America, Resign Today

Just get out. Leave office. You’re incompetent, inept, useless, and wicked.   You created, yourselves, the present crisis.  And you don’t have the sense to fix it.  Get out.  Quit.  There’s not a one of you worth the minerals you’re made of.  Oh, and I’m not paying for your stupidity.

Following is my letter to my Representative and Senators:


You created the present crisis and now, inept, you cannot resolve it.  You have made America the laughingstock of the civilized (and uncivilized) world.   Please resign.  Today.  Do the country you claim to love a favor, and tell your colleagues to do likewise.

Very, very sincerely, and really furiously, and I mean every word