Why Do We Have a New Testament?

According to James Barr, R.H. Lightfoot once claimed that the origin of the New Testament should be sought in the moment the early Chris­tians, under the impression of the first Roman persecutions, lost faith in the survival of their religion. As a result of their fear, they decided to write down their traditions and recollections, in order that these might not be lost or deliberately perverted.  (Cited by NP Lemche in his essay ‘The Old Testament: A Hellenistic Book).

Lightfoot is probably right.  And if so, it’s a good thing that they were driven by the fear of extinction.  History has shown their fear to be misplaced but the result of that fear is itself a historical monument without which the world would be an utterly different place.

Too Long Almost Impossible to Find: Goppelt’s Theology of the New Testament

This English translation of Leonhard Goppelt’s two-volume New Testament theology provides scholars, pastors, students, and interested laity with a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of biblical theology. In these volumes, Goppelt advances the discussion of New Testament theology by integrating it into an entire Bible theology that recognizes the interconnectedness of both testaments. Presenting biblical theology as a dialogue between exegetical and systematic theology, these volumes have much to offer systematicians and exegetes alike.

Available from the nice folk at Logos, soon.

Helmut Koester’s ‘Introduction to the New Testament’

Is available from Logos.  It is a brilliant, brilliant work and if you haven’t read it you have missed an absolute goldmine of scholarship.

introduction-to-the-new-testamentThis two volume collection from distinguished Harvard Divinity School professor Helmut Koester gives readers a thorough introduction to the New Testament, situated within discussion of the surrounding history and culture. Written in an accessible, non-technical style, Koester’s work has been established as a classic of New Testament studies. And with improvements to the translation in this second edition, Introduction to the New Testament is an indispensable textbook and reference for teachers, students, clergy, and the educated layperson interested in a scholarly treatment of the New Testament and its background in the Judaic and Greco-Roman world.

This contribution to the field is unsurpassed.  That’s right, there’s no better Introduction to the New Testament around.

The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts

9780801039621This volume addresses the most important issues related to the study of New Testament writings. Two respected senior scholars have brought together a team of distinguished specialists to introduce the Jewish, Hellenistic, and Roman backgrounds necessary for understanding the New Testament and the early church. The book includes seventy-five photographs, fifteen maps, numerous tables and charts, illustrations, and bibliographies. All students of the New Testament will value this reliable, up-to-date, comprehensive textbook and reference volume on the New Testament world.

Baker have sent along a review copy (for which I’m very appreciative).  And my review of it is here.

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lectures by George Caird Online

I like Mark Goodacre, but the fact that he has mentioned this makes him an even more super-er person.

George Caird’s New Testament Theology lectures from Oxford from 1979 to 1982 [were recently mentioned in discussions on Facebook by Jeffrey Gibson].  I offered to host these files so that others could also hear these lectures from this famous New Testament scholar.  You can find the files for download here:

George B. Caird: New Testament Theology Lectures

At present, that page is simply the list of linked files.  We will have to produce something with a little more finesse in due course, but we wanted to make them available sooner rather than later.  Matthew Montonini has a blog post up on this too.  The files beginning “NTT1” are numbered from lecture 3 to lecture 38, and they date from the academic year 1979-80. The files beginning “NTT2” are numbered by date (in the format year/month/day) and date from the academic year 1981-2.

This is a fantastic resource!  Fantastic!  Caird’s NT Theology is the best since Bultmann’s and his lecturing was legendary.

Thanks Mark, thanks Jeffrey.

Contested Issues in Christian Origins and the New Testament

45434This new volume, by Luke Timothy Johnson,

… takes on some of the most contested issues in the study of Christian Origins and the New Testament — from the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Gospels, through exegetical studies of Luke-Acts and Paul, to questions pertaining to the development of early Christian history, relations with Judaism, the uses of polemic, sexuality, and law.

The folk at Brill have sent along a copy which, I’ve reviewed here.

Two Recent Essays in Bible and Interpretation

lincicumFirst, this by David Lincicum- Reception History and New Testament Introduction

Since the year 2000, well over 25 ‘Introductions to the New Testament’ have appeared in English alone, with at least another dozen in major European languages in the same time period.

thompsonAnd by Tom Thompson a real delight- Why Talk About the Past?

The article by Ronald Hendel, “Oral Tradition and Pentateuchal Narrative” offers me an excellent opportunity to respond with an article which deals with this and closely related topics, an article which I had originally presented as a paper at the 1999 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. It is just this month being published as chapter 11 in my newly released volume of collected essays: Biblical Narrative and Palestine’s History, Changing Perspectives 2, with introduction by Philip R. Davies, in the Copenhagen International Seminar series (Acumen Publishing: London, 2013).

William Baird’s Long Awaited Third Volume

9780800699185.jpgbThis is happy news:  it’s available as of March 1.

In this masterful volume—the culmination of his three-volume History of New Testament Research (vol. 1, From Deism to Tübingen, 1992; vol. 2, From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann, 2012)—William Baird continues his insightful, balanced, and accessible survey of the major developments in New Testament scholarship. Volume 3 charts the dramatic discoveries and breakthroughs in method and approach that characterized the mid- and late twentieth century. Baird gives attention to the biographical and cultural setting of persons and approaches, affording both beginning student and seasoned scholar an authoritative account of the evolution of historical-critical study of the New Testament.

The first two volumes were fantastic.  Looking forward to this very much (and have been since Dec 3 when it was first announced).

‘Unbekannte Jesusworte’ Comes of Age

greek-apocryphal-gospels-fragments-and-agraphaIn 1963 Joachim Jeremias published one of the most interesting contributions to New Testament / Early Christian studies when he  published his Unbekannte Jesusworte.  It was a remarkable achievement and as late as the late 80’s when I was myself in grad school it was required reading for our Synoptic Gospels Seminar.

It has come of age.  Rick Brannan has taken the concept so brilliantly executed by Jeremias and improved it.  High praise indeed I realize but completely justifiable- for in the soon to be released Logos edition titled Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha Brannan offers the Greek texts of the ‘sayings of Jesus’ which are found outside the Gospels (in the letters of Paul and other New Testament texts along with extracanonical early Christian literature) along with introductions and translations.  He also provides the more important ‘gospels’ which didn’t make the canonical cut, again in both the original Greek editions and in translation.

Here are a few illustrative snippets:

First, Brannan’s comments concerning the text:


Bezae as well as manuscripts that reflect the Old Latin tradition have this instead of “For everyone will be salted with fire.” Some other manuscripts, including Alexandrinus, include both forms: “For everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt.”

Mark 9:42–49 is about withstanding the temptation to sin. Jesus states that it is better to lose the offending body part than to succumb to sin (43–47). Fire is introduced with the notion of being in hell, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not extinguished” (48), a quotation of Isa 66:24. After this comes the saying about salt. The version in Bezae recalls Lev 2:13, “Also all of your grain offerings you must season with salt; you must not omit the salt of your God’s covenant from your offering,” focusing on the salt and recalling sacrifice. The canonical version instead focuses on the believer and foresees persecution (fire).


As mentioned above, the version in Bezae may be a recollection of Lev 2:13. Evans notes that Ezek 43:24 mentions similar things (salt and burnt offering).


For every sacrifice will be salted with salt. (Mk 9:49 Brannan)

And now the original:


9 πασα γαρ θυσια αλι αλισθησεται.

Brannan’s selection of texts is sensible and it has to be, or at least should be said that these materials are worth reading and understanding both in their own light and for the light they shed on the earliest stages of Christian thought.

Well done, Rick.  Well done.  You have done Jeremias proud.

Isn’t the Church Obliged to Give Money to Anyone Who Asks?

richbeggarSometimes folk have the notion that the Church is a dispenser of welfare to the wider society and that the sole function of the Church is to collect material goods from its members and give them to whomsoever wishes them. But this notion is exceedingly peculiar and is in fact not according to the New Testament where, believe it or not, actual rules are laid out concerning the distribution of charity.

First, from 1 Timothy 5-

Χήρας τίμα τὰς ὄντως χήρας. 4 εἰ δέ τις χήρα τέκνα ἢ ἔκγονα ἔχει, μανθανέτωσαν πρῶτον τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον εὐσεβεῖν καὶ ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι τοῖς προγόνοις· τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν ἀπόδεκτον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 5 ἡ δὲ ὄντως χήρα καὶ μεμονωμένη ἤλπικεν ἐπὶ θεὸν καὶ προσμένει ταῖς δεήσεσιν καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας, 6 ἡ δὲ σπαταλῶσα ζῶσα τέθνηκεν. 7 καὶ ταῦτα παράγγελλε, ἵνα ἀνεπίλημπτοι ὦσιν. 8 εἰ δέ τις τῶν ἰδίων καὶ μάλιστα οἰκείων οὐ προνοεῖ, τὴν πίστιν ἤρνηται καὶ ἔστιν ἀπίστου χείρων. 9 Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, 10 ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, εἰ ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν, εἰ ἐξενοδόχησεν, εἰ ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν, εἰ θλιβομένοις ἐπήρκεσεν, εἰ παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ ἐπηκολούθησεν. 11 νεωτέρας δὲ χήρας παραιτοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, γαμεῖν θέλουσιν 12 ἔχουσαι κρίμα ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν· 13 ἅμα δὲ καὶ ἀργαὶ μανθάνουσιν περιερχόμεναι τὰς οἰκίας, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀργαὶ ἀλλὰ καὶ φλύαροι καὶ περίεργοι, λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα. 14 βούλομαι οὖν νεωτέρας γαμεῖν, τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν, μηδεμίαν ἀφορμὴν διδόναι τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ λοιδορίας χάριν· 15 ἤδη γάρ τινες ἐξετράπησαν ὀπίσω τοῦ Σατανᾶ. 16 εἴ τις πιστὴ ἔχει χήρας, ἐπαρκείτω αὐταῖς καὶ μὴ βαρείσθω ἡ ἐκκλησία, ἵνα ταῖς ὄντως χήραις ἐπαρκέσῃ. (1 Timothy 5:3-16).

Here the guidelines are quite clear- widows are deserving of help and support from the Church if:

1- they are Christians
2- they are elderly
3- they have no family
4- they are – in essence – alone except for the Church

That’s pretty specific, isn’t it. but doesn’t the Church owe it to just anyone who asks to give them money any time it’s asked for? Again, the New Testament is pretty clear about this:

καὶ γὰρ ὅτε ἦμεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τοῦτο παρηγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω. 11 ἀκούομεν γάρ τινας περιπατοῦντας ἐν ὑμῖν ἀτάκτως μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομένους· 12 τοῖς δὲ τοιούτοις παραγγέλλομεν καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, ἵνα μετὰ ἡσυχίας ἐργαζόμενοι τὸν ἑαυτῶν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

That’s pretty clear too. If people aren’t willing to work, Paul says, let them starve. Nothing motivates work like hunger and the belief that the Church owes it to the world to feed the lazy and indolent is simply unscriptural.

But does all this mean the Church should turn its back on the needy? Certainly not. But it does mean that the Church should set boundaries and limits to the distribution of its resources so that those AUTHENTICALLY in need are those who are helped and those who can, and should, provide for themselves and their families are made to do so.

The rub, of course, is to determine who TRULY is in need. And, further, what NEED itself is. For instance, needs include food and clothing and shelter. Needs do not include air conditioning or cell phones or Nike tennis shoes. Yet many act as though if they spend their money on cigarettes and beer the Church should buy food for their children. This is, to be blunt, both shortsighted and selfish of them and if the Church does in fact provide the gap created by such acts of selfishness it finds itself enabling the very kind of behavior it should abhor.

Help the needy. That’s the Christian ethic. What Christians, and Churches have to do is to define ‘help’ and ‘needy’ in terms of Scripture and not in terms of culture.

James Dunn: The Gospel and the Gospels

dunnHow did the ‘gospel’ preached by the first Christian missionaries become the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?   What about the other Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Thomas? Are they also ‘gospel’?   Should Christians recognize more than the four New Testament Gospels?  If so, how would that affect our understanding of Jesus’ mission?  If not, why not?

Those are the issues Jimmy Dunn will address during his Laing Lecture this February.  Full details from the London School of Theology here.  Happily

After the success of last years live stream, this years event will also be live streamed at this website. The video feed will begin at 7.30 on the day of the event.

Sad News: The Death of Rene Kieffer

Tommy Wasserman has the obituary of a New Testament scholar recently passed away.

René Kieffer, Professor emeritus of Uppsala University, has passed away on 8 January at the age of 83. He was born in Aumetz in France and raised in Luxembourg. After studies in Paris and Germany he felt a call to become a priest and theologian in the Dominican order in Paris. This process started with eight years of studies in philosophy and theology. Because of his interest in the Bible, Kieffer was sent to the École Biblique in Jerusalem for two years of special education in order to become a professor there, but he felt isolated in this environment and longed for a pastoral work.

And more.  May he rest in peace.

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 Story of the Conservation of Codex Alexandrinus

The British Library has a really good essay on the subject, posted just today, here.

alexandrinusThe British Library is committed to making available online as many of its medieval manuscripts as possible. But to do so requires considerable work behind the scenes, not least on the part of our dedicated team of conservators. We recently published to our Digitised Manuscripts site images of the whole of the New Testament portion of Codex Alexandrinus, the oldest complete Bible; and here is described the background to that achievement. …

The digitisation process took two days, and was strictly monitored by a conservator and a curator, ensuring that each page was reproduced in the best possible way without in any way endangering the manuscript. We hope that you enjoy the results!


The Latest Research On the Text of the New Testament

By the inestimable Larry Hurtado.

Back in July, I noted the publication of a multi-author work that collectively addresses the many issues and bodies of evidence pertaining to the earliest state of the text of NT writings:  The Early Text of the New Testament, eds. C. E. Hill & M. J. Kruger (Oxford University Press, 2012).  The link to Mike Kruger’s announcement of the volume, which gives the table of contents, is here.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken the time to work through the volume (21 contributions, and over 400 pp.), and I have to underscore how impressed I am with it.  In the following comments, I highlight contributions that I found particularly valuable.  (In a previous posting, here, I referred to my own contribution:  “Manuscripts and the Sociology of Early Christian Reading,” 49-62.)

And much more – which I’m positive you’ll enjoy.

The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction

Donald A. Hagner’s very new book appeared in the not too distant past courtesy the good graces of Baker Academic.

This substantial introduction explores the origin and character of the New Testament writings. Donald Hagner deals with the New Testament both historically and theologically, employing the framework of salvation history. He treats the New Testament as a coherent body of texts and stresses the unity of the New Testament without neglecting its variety. Although the volume covers typical questions of introduction–such as author, date, background, and sources–it focuses primarily on understanding the theological content and meaning of the texts.

Throughout this capstone work, Hagner delivers balanced conclusions in conversation with classic and current scholarship, making this an essential resource for seminarians, graduate students, and upper-divisional undergraduates for study and lifelong reference. The book includes summary tables, diagrams, maps, and extensive bibliographies. 

It’s massive, weighing in at over 800 pages of text plus end-matter.  My (now revised) review is here.

Le Donne Gets Bultmann

Unlike so many who only (foolishly) read ‘about’ Bultmann (usually from the point of view of some feckless unlearned fundamentalist who is barely capable of reading one or two letters of the Greek alphabet and who has never seen a Hebrew text in his life), Le Donne has read, and for the most part rightly grasped, Bultmann’s program  (Bultmann was about a LOT more than simple ‘demythologization’ and the limitation of any attempt to understand him only concerning that issue is both short sighted and skewed).

Give his essay a read and then go and read some Bultmann for yourself.  Start with his sermons (which are brilliant and really moving) and then take a look at his New Testament theology and then digest fully his book on Jesus (which is better than any study of the historical Jesus ever written).  When you’ve done that, read his commentary on John and 2 Corinthians and then his collected essays in Glauben und Verstehen.  Then do yourself the favor of picking up his correspondence with Barth and then with Gogarten.  Finally, then, read his book reviews (because he reviewed books like you wouldn’t believe).

When you’ve managed all of that, then you can consider yourself equipped and capable of commenting on his work.  But not until.  For until you’ve read Bultmann, you’ve not earned the right to have an opinion about him.  But if you go ahead and express an opinion anyway, well, you’ll just be mocked because, in all honesty, that’s what you deserve to have happen to you.

Reading one page of Bultmann and declaring yourself an expert on his theology is like reading one page of Romans and declaring yourself an exegete.  Actually, what you are in both cases, is a dilettante.

Oh Lord, Please, No… Not Another ‘Bible’ Series from the ‘History Channel…

In Spring next year, History Channel will be airing a new ten-part series entitled The Bible.  It dramatizes key narratives from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and it is executive produced by Mark Burnett (The VoiceSurvivorThe Apprentice) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel).  It is produced by Lightworkers Media.  There are short Wikipedia and IMDB entries which will no doubt get expanded as the air date approaches.


We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts. We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”

All this via Mark Goodacre who was consulted for the project.  And though I trust Mark, I don’t trust Hollywood (or as I call it, Hollow-wood) which is just as likely to leave good scholarship on the cutting room floor as it is to include absolute nonsensical rubbish.  So, I’ll be skeptical till given reason not to be.    Why?  Because for every Goodacre on the project we have to wonder how many Jacobovicis there are.  It is the History Channel after all.  Their track record on such projects has been profoundly abysmal.

In my estimation, Bible Films are guilty (of misrepresentation) till proven innocent.  I can’t help it.  I’ve been burned too many times by them.

It’s Here! Nestle-Aland 28 Came Today Via UPS

Again, thanks to the good graces of Bobby K. of Hendrickson Publishers, a copy of NA 28 came today.  I haven’t even unwrapped it yet.  I’m just savoring the moment actually.  Fear not, though, as soon as this post is up I’ll be peeling off the shrink wrap and diving in.

I’ll review it in due course and post the review online for your perusal.

Beale’s Behemoth: The Impending Review

I”ve been working on the review of G.K. Beale’s marvelous ‘A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New‘ for the nice folk at Baker Academic.  it’s coming along nicely but it’s an extremely large, extremely dense (in the sense of being fully packed on every page with intensely demanding material) so it’s taking a bit of time (as one would imagine it should).

I hope to have it done in the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned.  Till then, feel free to take a look at these earlier posts concerning Prof. Beale.