Category Archives: Biblical Studies Resources

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement explores the events, people, and writings surrounding the founding of the early Jesus movement in the mid to late first century. The essays are divided into four parts, focused upon the movement’s formation, the production of its early Gospels, description of the Jesus movement itself, and the Jewish mission and its literature. This collection of essays includes chapters by a global cast of scholars from a variety of methodological and critical viewpoints, and continues the important Early Christianity in its Hellenistic Context series.

Christoph Heilig has an essay in it.

The table of contents is available on the publisher’s website.  In what follows, rather than attempting to persuade you to either read this volume or ignore this volume, I will simply provide a few excerpts from this volume.  And then you can decide for yourself, after seeing the table of contents, whether or not it is something that interests you and fits your research needs.

I will say that if you’re a student of the early church, this is a very valuable and helpful work.  But, again, I think you should inevitably decide for yourself.  Here are some of the things suggested herein:

Hezser

  • This study will focus on literary and tradition historical aspects of the Gospels’ presentation of Jesus’s disciples. Which strategies, models, and motifs are recognizable and from which cultural contexts are they derived?   (p. 71)
  • An important aspect of the Gospels’ representation of the disciples is the emphasis on their inferiority to their master. (p. 79)
  • In comparison to the relatively small circles of students associated with rabbis, twelve disciples would have constituted a crowd. In rabbinic narratives usually only two or three students are mentioned by name, despite the fact that some general statements refer to the “many disciples” of R. Aqiva or other prominent rabbis.  (p. 83)
  • Sociologists have pointed to the significance of the “perceived popularity” of an individual: the more popular a person is considered to be, the more friends and adherents that person can gain in the course of time. (p. 84)

Richards

  • New Testament scholars often accept as a given the assertion well stated by the Jesus Seminar: “The concept of plagiarism was unknown in the ancient world. Authors freely copied from predecessors without acknowledgment.”  When looking at our Gospels, this assertion seems prima facie true, perhaps lending to its common acceptance. If however plagiarism was known (and condemned) in antiquity, then we are justified in asking if the Gospel of Matthew, for example, is guilty of plagiarizing the Gospel of Mark, i.e., Was Matthew a plagiarist?  (p. 108)

Keown

  • An Imminent Parousia and Christian Mission: Did the New Testament Writers Really Expect Jesus’s Imminent Return?  (p. 242)
  • This essay will explore this claim from the perspective of Mark and Paul. (p. 242)

Heilig

  • This essay will discuss the question of how recent trends in Pauline studies—the emergence of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (in the following: NPP)—have influenced the perception of the two foundational figures of Paul and Peter in relation to the historical question of how it came to be that Gentiles became an important part of the early Christian movement.  (p. 459)
  • In what follows, we will thus have to pay close attention to both how Wright’s and Dunn’s shared assumptions influence their interpretation of Paul and Peter regarding the “Gentile problem” and how they differ in their assessment due to specifics of their individual interpretive frameworks.  (p. 463)
  • On the one hand, there is no indication that Peter had ever changed his view on a Gentile mission since his encounter with Cornelius. There is in particular no reason to assume that a real change of mind occurred after the meeting in Jerusalem.  (p. 483)

Naturally there are a whole array of other essays which could be excerpted but these four scholars have written the, to me, most interesting of the contributions to the volume.  Hezser’s in particular is really a fascinating work, laced with amazing facts and details.  Richards’ is perhaps the most groundbreaking (and potentially the most relevant for modern academia).  Keown’s may be the most well written.  And Heilig’s is, I think, the most learned and erudite.

The other essays in the work all participate in a mixture of fascinating, groundbreaking, well written and erudite.  The whole is worth reading. The four above are worth reading most of all.

You Need a Commentary

Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one for lay people on the whole Bible.

So if you or someone you know has wanted to get a copy of the collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Here’s what one reader has to say:

[I] wanted to thank you for your commentary set I recently acquired. My daughter Chloe (age 11) and I are using the one on Mark as we read through and discuss the gospel every second evening. It helps shed light on the text without being academically burdensome for us to work through. .. [Y]our comments are pitched wonderfully for anyone wanting to begin serious engagement with the text. It also complements the more ‘scholarly’ works. – Blessings, David Booth

Simon Gathercole at the Ecole Biblique on the ‘Gospel of Peter’

The Tyndale House (Cambridge, so the real one) Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament

This is good news:

The highly anticipated Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament text combines the Tyndale House Greek New Testament with a running list of glosses of every word in the Greek New Testament that occurs 25 times or less.

Published by Crossway, the THGNT Reader’s Edition is the next stage in the work undertaken by the Editor, Dr Dirk Jongkind, and Associate Editor, Dr Peter J. Williams, to provide a text of the Greek New Testament that reflects as closely as possible its earliest recoverable wording.

A New, Free Magazine from Tyndale House (The Real One in Cambridge, UK)

At the end of November we’ll be launching our new magazine, ink, with thought-provoking articles about the language, culture and history of the Bible. If you you’d like to receive a free copy by post (UK addresses only) sign up here, or enter your email address to be notified when we publish our electronic version.

So it’s the e-version for me.

Solomon’s Temple

With thanks to James McGrath for mentioning it-

If You Haven’t Checked out Bible and Interpretation in a While…

Give it a look.  It’s got a new host at a new site and it’s a re-developed page.  Enjoy!

And check it daily.

Biblical Theology of the New Testament

It’s one of the most important NT theology’s ever written (perhaps the most important since Bultmann’s) and it has no, after many years, appeared in translation so that a wider audience can benefit from its brilliance.

Since its original publication in German, Peter Stuhlmacher’s two-volume Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments has influenced an entire generation of biblical scholars and theologians. Now Daniel Bailey’s expert translation makes this important work of New Testament theology available in English for the first time.

Following an extended discussion of the task of writing a New Testament theology, Stuhlmacher explores the development of the Christian message across the pages of the Gospels, the writings of Paul, and the other canonical books of the New Testament. The second part of the book examines the biblical canon and its historical significance. A concluding essay by Bailey applies Stuhlmacher’s approach to specific texts in Romans and 4 Maccabees.

Professor Stuhlmacher completed his two volume theology in 1999 and published it that year.  That’s, for all intents and purposes, two decades ago now.  The English rendering now appearing is based on revised editions coming along in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.

The volume is introduced, and summarized to an extent, by G.K. Beale and also set in its historical context by the same.  The author and the translator also have some things to say about the translation and the process through which it went to arrive in its present incarnation.  Beale’s introduction is really remarkably helpful and the author and translator segments are also very informative.

It may be the habit of some to skip such frontmatter and dive directly in to the text at hand, but readers of this work really should start at the very first page and work through it consecutively.  The argument of the work is progressive and cumulative.

The volume proper begins with a chapter titled ‘Foundations’.  Here Stuhlmacher discusses the task of New Testament theology.  Here he outlines his methodology.

‘Book One’ follows, containing six Parts.  These are

  1. The Proclamation of Jesus
  2. The Proclamation of the Early Church
  3. The Proclamation of Paul
  4. The Proclamation in the Period after Paul
  5. The Proclamation of the Synoptic Gospels
  6. The Proclamation of John and His School

‘Book Two’ is comprised of but one topic: The Problem of the Canon and the Center of Scripture.

The translator affixes a chapter he calls “Biblical and Greco-Roman Uses of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25 and 4 Maccabees 17:22 (Codex S)”.  Then follows an index of subjects, index of modern authors, and an index of Scripture and other ancient sources.

Stuhlmacher’s approach is very engaging.  And a bit unique.  For instead of talking about the problem of the Canon and the ‘center’ of the New Testament at the outset, he leaves that off until he has presented the various theological leanings of the New Testament’s various writers; and then, and only then, does he offer what he perceives to be their unifying or at least common thought.

Put another way, the volume asks what it is that Jesus proclaims, the early church proclaims, Paul proclaims, Paul’s followers proclaim, the Synoptics proclaim, and John proclaims.  What are they after?  What is their central belief?

To answer these questions, Stuhlmacher provides both what we in America would call an ‘Introduction to the Writings of the New Testament’ alongside and combined with a ‘Theology of the New Testament.’  That is, there are two volumes in one.  Additionally, his work is also something of a ‘Reception History’ of New Testament studies, providing, as it does, analysis of Stuhlmacher’s predecessors works.  There is, it’s fair to say, a lot going on between the covers.

A closer look at the various Parts of Stuhlmacher’s investigation will provide an open window to his approach.  So, for instance, Part Two, The Proclamation of the Early Church, is made up of three chapters (chapters 13-15):

  • Jesus’s Resurrection from the Dead
  • The Development of the Confession of Christ
  • The Formation, Structure, and Mission of the First Churches

Part Six, The Proclamation of John and his School, is comprised of five chapters (35-39):

  • The Tradition of the Johannine School
  • Johannine Christology
  • Life in Faith and Love
  • The Johannine View of the Church
  • The Significance of the Tradition of the Johannine School

Stuhlmacher’s writing style is engaging whilst managing also not to be plodding or boring.

The three concepts of the gospel, justification, and faith – ευαγγελιον, δικαιωσις, and πιστις – designate the heart of Paul’s mission theology.  Together these three constitute the salvation that he has to preach (p. 346).

Stuhlmacher also provides more detailed exposition in sections of smaller font print (think the sections of Barth’s Dogmatics where he uses larger print for the main argument and smaller print for exposition and analysis:  Stuhlmacher does the same).

The translator also provides not only Stuhlmacher’s original bibliography but after each chapter’s bibliography he also provides a section titled ‘Further Reading’.

Readers can always tell a lot about a scholar by the sources he or she cites and with whom he or she interacts.  Stuhlmacher’s impressive work is actually part of a larger dialogue within German theological circles about central concerns of the discipline.  He interacts herein, then, with the ideas of Bultmann, Gese, Jeremias, Käsemann, and Wilckens, along with scores of other lesser luminaries.

This is an encylclopedic volume of over 900 pages in total.  It is superbly argued, brilliantly translated, incredibly faithful to its Urtext, and virtually a graduate level year long seminar on New Testament theology.  Indeed, it is well suited as a textbook for a course on New Testament which could easily span two semesters of upper level Seminary work.

I enjoyed the first edition German version; I love the English version based on revisions.  To say that I recommend it highly is the understatement of the century.  I recommend it utterly and unreservedly.  It is the sort of volume that those who read it will know more than those who don’t could ever hope to know.   It is an education in itself and a thorough one at that on the subject of the theology of the New Testament.

Get it.  Get it today.  Read it. Use it for coursework.  Assign it to your students.  Require it.  And if they don’t read it, fail them.

The Visual Commentary on Scripture

This is an interesting looking project from KCL and with Joan Taylor involved it surely will be worthwhile as it develops.

The Latest Volume of the ‘Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception’ is Out

It’s certainly very much worth taking a look at.

Can We Trust the Gospels?

The Gospels―Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John―tell the story of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while he was on earth. But how do Christians know if they are true? What evidence is there that the events actually happened? This accessible introduction to the historical and theological reliability of the four Gospels, written by New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams, presents evidence from a variety of non-Christian sources, assesses how accurately the 4 accounts reflect the cultural context of their time, compares different accounts of crucial events, and considers how these texts were handed down throughout the centuries. Written for the skeptic, the scholar, and everyone in between, this book answers common objections raised against the historicity of the Gospels in order to foster trust in God’s Word.

The book is arranged thusly:

  • 1 What Do Non-Christian Sources Say?
  • 2 What Are the Four Gospels?
  • 3 Did the Gospel Authors Know Their Stuff?
  • 4 Undesigned Coincidences
  • 5 Do We Have Jesus’s Actual Words?
  • 6 Has the Text Changed?
  • 7 What about Contradictions?
  • 8 Who Would Make All This Up?

Each chapter save the 4th asks and answers questions relevant to the issue of the volume: can the Gospels be trusted to deliver accurate information about Jesus of Nazareth and his historical existence.  Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, Williams answers in the affirmative.

The question, of course, is – is he right?  Are the Gospels historical sources?  Williams begin by stating his reason for pursuing this question:

I have long felt the need for a short book explaining to a general audience some of the vast amount of evidence for the trustworthiness of the four Gospels. There are various great treatments of this topic, and each book has its own focus. This one seeks to present a case for the reliability of the Gospels to those who are thinking about the subject for the first time. I could have made the book far longer by giving more examples and references or by considering objections, but for the sake of brevity I have cut out everything unnecessary. I have sought to give enough information for interested readers to check the evidence, but I have generally avoided referring to the literally millions of pages of New Testament scholarship, of which I have read only the tiniest part.

A sensible enterprise and one, it has to be admitted, which occupies rather a lot of people’s minds.  But the question remains to be answered and so Williams launches into his exploration.  Assembling his evidence, he first concludes that folk like Tacitus and Pliny and Josephus lend credence to the basic outlines of the Gospels.  This leads him next to a discussion of what exactly a Gospel is.  Williams accepts a fairly early date for each of the four Gospels and assumes as well that the authors were first generation Christians and thus very close to the events which they narrate in a Bauckham-esque fashion.

These virtually contemporaneous texts, Williams goes on to argue in the next chapter, leads to the notion that they knew what they were talking about when they described events and deeds from Jesus’s life.  Marshaling linguistic and geographical evidence from the Gospels, Williams insists that such material could only come from folk very familiar with the actual landscape and customs of 1st century Jewish Palestine.

Next Williams argues

The Gospels show particular signs of authenticity that have been labeled undesigned coincidences. The Cambridge theology professor John James Blunt (1794–1855) crystallized a form of this argument, and the same argument has been developed more recently by Lydia McGrew. There is not space here to repeat these arguments, which can be read elsewhere, so I will content myself with just a few examples. In an undesigned coincidence, writers show agreement of a kind that it is hard to imagine as deliberately contrived by either author to make the story look authentic.

If that sounds a tad like circular reasoning it may be because it is a tad like circular reasoning.  But Williams has his reasons for following this line of thought and he more than adequately explains it (though he may not persuade many to his view).

The ‘very words of Jesus’ are the topic on the next chapter, the next brick in Williams’ wall of evidence for historicity.  The voice of Joachim Jeremias can be heard if one listens carefully enough.  And to be honest there’s nothing here to argue with.  Williams is completely right to opine

The fact that the Gospels do not have verbatim agreement is not on its own a concern when we consider that the modern rules of bounded quotation did not exist at the time of the Gospels. The view that some, much, most, or even all of Jesus’s teaching was done in Aramaic and is only recorded in a translated form in the Greek Gospels is not on its own a sufficient reason to doubt that we have a reliable record of what Jesus said.

That is completely true.  But the question of the very words of Jesus naturally lead into the question of the reliability of the text of the Gospels itself.  And this is the text critical question and this is certainly something with which Williams is thoroughly familiar.

In returning, then, to the question of the trustworthiness of the Gospel text, it is rational to have a high degree of confidence in the text of the Gospels as it appears in modern editions. These editions themselves indicate where uncertainties lie.

And again, that cannot be gainsaid.

The last two chapters bring the argument to its conclusion- contradictions and imaginations.  Are there contradictions in the Gospels?  And who would make any of the stuff in the Gospels up?  Here Williams is probably on the thinnest ice in terms of his overall argument.  Some will see contradictions where there are merely theological focuses which differ. Some will think the whole Gospel story is made up because they are unhinged Jesus mythicists and no amount of evidence will ever change their befuddled and confused minds.  But in all likelihood Williams has argued well enough to convince people who believe the Gospels can be trusted historically that they aren’t simply operating on wishful thinking.

Nearing his conclusion, Williams observes

Returning to the title of this book, Can We Trust the Gospels?, I would argue that it is rational to do so. Trusting both the message and the history of the Gospels provides a satisfying choice both intellectually and in wider ways.

For my part, I can easily and heartily say that the Gospels are theologically trustworthy.  They can be trusted to do what they are intended to do: share a theological message.

Whether or not we have ‘veritas’ in them concerning ‘historia’ I’ll leave to the decision of you, dear reader.  Get Pete’s book and give it a charitable read.  It deserves such.

Lukas Bormann’s New Testament Theology

V&R have it

Lukas Bormann arbeitet in Auseinandersetzung mit herausragenden Beiträgen der internationalen Forschung die Grundlinien der Theologie des Neuen Testaments heraus. 

Die Theologie des Neuen Testaments hat die Aufgabe, die Gedanken, Begriffe und überzeugungen, die in den neutestamentlichen Schriften ausgedrückt werden, in ihrem sachlichen und historischen Zusammenhang darzustellen. Im 21. Jahrhundert hat ein solches Vorhaben eine Vielfalt von Fragestellungen und Forschungsperspektiven zu berücksichtigen. Der Gegenstand einer Theologie des Neuen Testaments kann nicht mehr allein als die systematische Verhältnisbestimmung von Gott, Welt und Mensch definiert werden. Bormann berücksichtigt in seiner Darstellung daher vielfältige Impulse zum religiösen Symbolsystem des frühen Christentums.

The table of contents won’t be repeated here because it is available in full at the ‘leseprobe’ tab at the link above.  There readers will also discover various other materials from the book’s opening and you are encouraged to look there before continuing below.

The author follows a sensible procedure when he decides to adopt a chronologically sensitive outline for his volume.  That is to say, he describes the various theologies contained within the New Testament in the order in which they appeared in the history of the early church.  Thus, Paul comes before the Synoptics and the Synoptics come before the deutero-Paulines and the deutero-Paulines come before Revelation.

Not only is the author’s methodological inclination sensible, his prose is precise and thorough at the same time.  For instance of Paul he notes:

Die Verkündigung Jesu von Nazareth war an die Welt des jüdischen Dorfes gerichtet, Paulus von Tarsus aber brachte das Evangelium in die hellenistisch-römische Stadt (p. 118).

Like Bultmann, Bormann rightly sees the preaching of Jesus as the presupposition for the later preaching of the Church and thus integral to the development of the theology of the Christian community.

Bormann also recognizes the ‘reception history’ of the theology of Paul (and the other New Testament writers.  Observing, for example, that

Die paulinische Theologie gilt der Exegese in reformatorischer Tradition als die Theologie des Neuen Testaments schlechthin. Kein anderer neutestamentlicher Autor stellt so differenziert und reflektiert, aber auch spannungsvoll und polemisch dar, in welcher Beziehung Gott, Welt und Mensch zueinander stehen (p. 118).

The importance of Paul as probably the most important of the New Testament’s authors is also recognized by Bormann.  This can be demonstrated by the following example:

Die Theologie des Paulus bringt die Überzeugung der ersten Christen angesichts der römischen Herrschaftspropaganda, der hellenistischen Popularphilosophie und der pharisäischen Auffassung vom Judentum zum Ausdruck: Der gekreuzigte Jesus von Nazareth ist der von Gott aus den Toten auferweckte Sohn Gottes. Paulus verkündigt diese Botschaft als Evangelium für die nichtjüdischen Völker und hält dabei daran fest, dass genau dieses Evangelium von der Schrift aus Gesetz und Propheten angekündigt ist und dem Schöpferwillen des Gottes Israels entspricht (p. 121).

Bormann’s discussion of the Synoptics includes explanations of imagery used throughout the history of the Church.  So, for instance, whilst describing the Gospel of Mark he notes

Die Alte Kirche hat den vier Evangelisten in Anlehnung an die viergesichtigen Cheruben des Thronwagens Gottes im Ezechielbuch (Ez 1,10; 10,14) und an die Himmelsgestalten der Thronvision der Johannesoffenbarung (Apk 4,7) als Erkennungszeichen Löwe, Stier, Mensch und Adler zugeordnet (p. 230).

To his credit, Bormann treats materials together which belong together.  So not only does he talk about Paul’s letters in chronological sequence, he also discusses Luke / Acts  together, and I for one am glad that he does.  Too many treat Luke with the Synoptics without ever really taking seriously the Acts of the Apostles, yet these two works clearly belong together.

Lukasevangelium und Apostelgeschichte (p. 293).

Also worth noting is the fact that Bormann also takes seriously the Catholic Epistles and the letter to the Hebrews.  These materials, often, if we are honest with ourselves, tend to receive short schrift in both textbooks and courses on New Testament introduction and theology.  Bormann corrects that error by treating these materials both fairly and fully.

Of Hebrews he remarks

Da Theologie immer auch an eine Kommunikationssituation gebunden ist, in der sich das theologizing/Theologie treiben entfaltet, ist mit der Vielfalt der Adressaten auch darauf hingewiesen, dass sich die Aussagen dieser Schriften nicht zu einer einzigen Theologie der katholischen Briefe zusammenfassen lassen (p. 361).

And

Über den Verfasser ist nichts bekannt (p. 362).

Accuracy and sensibility are the chief pillars of this work.  It is certainly worth a read and more than that it is worth adoption as a course textbook.  Upper level students in American graduate programs in Biblical studies and theology ought to be assigned the volume for two reasons:  it’s very good and its German is fairly simple and understandable.  Students are thus not only provided with a first rate theological work, they are also enabled to further their study of German as a scholarly source for theological work.

And it should be assigned for upper level theological courses in German speaking lands.  For what are to me obvious reasons:

  • students will be able to increase their basic theological knowledge and improve their theological comprehension.
  • students will be equipped by means of the very up to date bibliographic entries to further their study of areas of personal interest.

Following the body of the volume the usual indices provide readers with quick access to sections of the book concerning which they may have specific questions.

This is a tremendously useful volume.  I recommend it without hesitation.

Listen to Doug Knight

Do it.

The Logos Free Book of the Month

Go ahead, why not get it.

Jesus’ Female Disciples: A Discussion with Helen Bond and Joan Taylor

Context of Scripture

Just FYI-

Philip R. Davies’ Last Book Has Now Been Published

New title from Equinox Publishing – “The Bible for the Curious: A Brief Encounter” by Philip R. Davies

Unlike most textbooks, this book has no footnotes, avoids technical discussion as much as possible, and makes no assumptions about religious belief. Its aim is to introduce the contents in a way that engages readers critically, and to persuade them that in a modern secular society this collection of ancient writings can still contribute to the way we think about history, philosophy and politics.

Hardback copies are now in stock, and paperback will be in stock very soon. Learn more about this title on our website: https://www.isdistribution.com/BookDetail.aspx?aId=105235

I CANNOT WAIT to see the published version.

NB- Philip would LOVE that cover.

Commentary Sale

You can pick up a PDF copy of the clearest exposition of the Book of Revelation (layfolk friendly) for $5.  Be sure to include your email address in your Paypal payment.

Yes, $5 is inexpensive for a book on one of the New Testament’s most misinterpreted texts.  But I like you.

A Little Video About Peter’s New Book

Can We Trust the Gospels? Ad from Crossway on Vimeo.

The Metamorphosis of Law into Gospel: Gerhard von Rad’s Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church

That’s the title of an essay by Bernard Levinson available online.  Must reading.