Daniel Kirk, Fuller, and the Problem that Continues to Plague Us (Skinner)

I just finished reading Daniel Kirk’s most recent blog post, which, though written in an irenic tone, spells out fairly explicitly the theological and social divide(s) that exist between him and some of his senior colleagues at Fuller. I am disappointed to hear him say that this upcoming year will be his last at Fuller Seminary. Awhile back I read and reviewed his very helpful book on Jesus and Paul, and have interacted with him several times over the years to express my appreciation for his scholarship.

Of course, I am not on the inside of his situation vis-a-vis the administration and senior colleagues at Fuller, so I don’t know the particulars of the situation beyond what he has shared on the blog. However, as one who was nurtured in the cradle of American evangelical Christianity (and who no longer finds that label a helpful or positive personal descriptor), I continue to be disappointed (though not surprised) by the high profile departures of evangelical scholars who, in my opinion, are: (1) not afraid of the difficult questions; (2) not afraid of the answers that emerge from those questions; and (3) are genuinely committed to dialogue and living in the midst of theological tension. I don’t need to provide a list for you. If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you know exactly which professors I’m referencing.

At this point, it really doesn’t help to lament much more than many of us have in recent years. I guess I can only wish the best, both for Daniel and for Fuller.

New Book: Urban C. von Wahlde, Gnosticism, Docetism, and the Judaisms of the First Century (Skinner)

von WahldeOver the past year or so I have been transitioning into research on the various reconstructions of the Johannine community and how those reconstructions impact our understanding of the ethics of the Johannine literature. To that end, I am currently co-editing a book for Fortress Press with my friend, Sherri Brown on the (mostly implicit) ethics of the Johannine literature, and working up a proposal for an authored monograph on history and ethics in the Johannine community. More on that anon….. Of obvious importance to any reconstruction of the Johannine community is understanding the background and content of the Christological claims being made by the so-called “secessionists” in 1 John. Yesterday I saw that Urban von Wahlde–whose work on the Johannine literature I have very much appreciated–has just published a new book with LNTS entitled, Gnosticism, Docetism, and the Judaisms of the First Century. Here’s a description:

In this book von Wahlde provides an exploration of three distinct cultural and religious backgrounds against which scholars have frequently proposed that the Gospel and Letters of John are to be read and understood.

von Wahlde examines each of these three possibilities in turn, and shows how they may be regarded as plausible or implausible depending upon the evidence available. von Wahlde shows that there are features within the Gospel and/or Letters of John that do in fact suggest that they were influenced either by Gnosticism, Docetism or one of the variant forms of Judaism. However, in each case, while some of the evidence suggests a particular background, von Wahlde shows that it is equally evident that not all of the evidence can be seen to suggest the same background. Through an examination of the origins and purpose of the gospel, and drawing on the conclusions of his well-regarded commentary on the Johannine literature, von Wahlde presents a new way of understanding the Gospel in its wider contexts.

I’m hoping I can convince the peeps at T & T Clark to send along a copy, which I will not only use for my own research but happily review for the blog.

Matt Hauge on Hell (Skinner)

HaugeMatt Hauge is my friend. We actually edited a book together; it was published last year (feel free to buy a copy or three). Anyway….that’s not why I bring him up. A few days back Matt posted this helpful discussion of hell, with specific emphasis on the concept of hell as it works within contemporary American evangelicalism. Check out his post if you get a chance. You should also check out his book on the same subject.

My Review of Black’s The Disciples According to Mark (Skinner)

Black BookA few weeks back I failed to point out that my review of the second edition of C. Clifton Black’s classic, The Disciples According to Mark: Markan Redaction in Current Debate, was published in the most recent fascicle of Biblical Theology Bulletin. As one who tries to keep current in my field, I am nearly always reviewing a book, though I rarely take the time to mention any of them here. However, in this case I wanted to mention the review not only because I regard Black’s book as a work of serious import, but also because it has survived long enough to see a second edition, which I think is a good thing for a future generation of Markan scholars. (Not many of us can say the same thing about our own published dissertations!) When it was first published in 1989 (originally by Sheffield Academic Press), Black’s book was credited with delivering a near death-blow to the agenda and practice of redaction criticism. The content of the original remains the same but this volume includes a lengthy afterword in which Black reflects on developments within Markan research in the 25 years since his important work first appeared.

If you are really interested in the recent history of Markan scholarship, you can read my review here (which may not be necessary), or you can buy the book here (which probably is).

Wayne Meeks: “Renounce the Phrase, ‘The Bible Clearly Teaches'” (Skinner)

Here’s another gem from the Meeks lectures I mentioned yesterday:

So let us renounce the phrase, “the Bible clearly teaches.” And every time we hear it let us immediately be on our guard. Of course, it is a convenient shorthand to personify the Bible as agent, as teacher. St Paul did that when he quoted a text in Romans 10:6 with the introduction, “the righteousness of faith says…” But let us remember that when Paul said that he then proceeded to give that text a meaning that was outrageously different from its contextual, grammatical, plain sense. In our situation, when people say, “the Bible clearly teaches,” instead of, for example, “we can learn from the Bible if we stand within a certain community’s tradition,” or “we can find these ideas in Scripture if we construe Scripture in such-and-such a way”…. When they make the Bible the agent of their assertions, you see—“the Bible teaches,” not “we teach because this is the way we understand it”—when they do that, they are really masking the locus of the authority they are claiming.

52:39 – 53:55 of the Lecture 4 discussed here. (Update: Thanks to Dave Mackinder for pointing out that these lectures were the basis for Meeks’s book, Christ is the Question [Louisville: WJK, 2005]).

Simon Gathercole on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (Skinner)

Here’s a video of Simon Gathercole that’s been making the rounds on the interwebs today. Here Simon discusses the enigmatic text that was released to the public to great fanfare back in 2012. The consensus position among scholars still seems to be that this is a modern forgery on an ancient piece of papyrus. This video is apparently circulating in support of the most recent fascicle of New Testament Studies, which is devoted solely to discussing the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Mark Goodacre, who has been one of the major players in the web-based discussion about the authenticity of this fragment, provides an overview of the recent NTS here.

Wisdom from Wayne Meeks on the Claritas Scripturae (or Perspicuity of Scripture) (Skinner)

Meeks 2“Specialization [within academic disciplines] enhances concentration and control. It makes possible sustained, intense effort on closely defined tasks. But it also often separates us from just those people to whom we ought to be listening and who might need to listen to us. On the other side of the great divide–in popular culture–we have seen developments that also inhibited the free interchange between professional scholarship and lives of Christian laypeople. First, that radical individualism and subjectivism that has been characteristic of the modern, western world, whose influence on the academic ways of knowing we’ve already talked about in earlier lectures. That individualism and subjectivism have also been deeply embedded in the popular ethos perhaps in North America more than anywhere else on earth. So, as the evangelical scholar James Callahan has pointed out, in the 19th century America, the doctrine of perspicuity–the transparence of Scripture–became a democratized affirmation of religious equality. It was a matter of democratic ideals that anybody’s reading of the Bible was as good as anybody else’s. The Bible thus became ‘the people’s book.’ And with that came that suspicion of the expert, which might have been a healthy antidote to that professionalization and compartmentalization I just mentioned, but in practice, leads rather to something close to anarchy in popular interpretation.”

From 29:41 – 31: 09 of Lecture 4 discussed in my last post.

My own experience in the field resonates with exactly what Meeks is describing here.