Paul’s Conversion/Call, a Session of the British New Testament Conference

As the BNTC programme is announced (see, I am pleased to announce that yet another interesting session has appeared; the Paul seminar and the Acts seminar are joining together in the second session to discuss ‘Paul’s Damascus Road Experience’:

Barry Matlock (Sheffield) will be treating the issue from the perspective of Paul’s letters

Tim Churchill (London School of Theology) will be handling Luke’s portrait in Acts.

Loveday Alexander will be responding to the papers.

I am deeply saddened that I will be missing this very interesting session because it conflicts with the Hermeneutics session that I am giving a paper in.  So, for those of you who would rather hear me over Loveday Alexander (…anyone?…anyone?…), my paper is entitled:

‘Worship and Phronesis: Paul’s Questioning of his Jewish Privileges and the Promise of a Cultic Hermeneutic (Phil. 3.2-11)’.

Well, I will tell you that I was chatting with Jimmy Dunn over coffee and I asked him why no ‘New Perspective’ proponent has written a good commentary on Philippians.  Even those that have some sympathies for aspects of the NPP (e.g., Bockmuehl and Hooker) seem to slip into a Lutheran reading at Phil. 3.2-11.  Dunn replied, ‘Read my new book [The New Perspective on Paul] which treats that very pericope as a final ‘newly published’ chapter!’  Well, I read the whole thing and I think Dunn does a very admirable job within the system of reading the NPP proposes.  I also admire what elements the NPP has brought to Pauline interpretation, but I think there is much left unexplored in Phil. 3.2-11.  I think….well, I guess you’ll just have to sign up for the British New Testament conference to find out what I think… :)  But, if you end of going to Loveday’s session, record it for me, will won’t you? :)

Markus Bockmuehl at Tyndale Conference (9 July)

It has been mentioned in a few Tyndale announcements that Prof. Bockmuehl will, in fact, be presenting at the NT Tyndale Study Group (9 July, 9.30AM), but the title of the paper has just been announced.  It is as follows:

“Peter, Paul and Simon: Peeling an Old Chestnut in the Pseudo-Clementines”

Other scholars presenting will include Mike Bird and Tomas Bokedal.

An Afternoon with Charles Cranfield–Nijay’s visit

My colleague and friend BEN BLACKWELL paid a visit to the NT scholar C.E.B. Cranfield on Monday and chatted with him for a couple of hours. Yesterday was my turn. Overall, I found Prof. Cranfield to be very warm and welcoming, though he certainly is not restrained in his criticisms of certain scholars and particular ways of interpreting Paul.

Here are some questions I asked, and summaries of how he responded. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.

1. Professor Cranfield, do you have any (new) thoughts on the ‘Romans Debate’ (i.e. why Paul wrote Romans)?

Cranfield explained, not unsurprisingly, that the letter is intended to be an introduction of Paul to a church he had not known in person (that is, on site), but that he was intending to visit soon. In the letter he sought to offer an ‘outline’ of his theology. Were there actually problems in the church? Yes (see 14-15), but that is not the primary reason for the letter. ALso, Cranfield mentioned that Paul would also have been pre-emptively addressing concerns that came from ‘Jewish communities hostile to Paul’. Again, Cranfield holds a traditional position that Rom. 1.16-17 bear the main theme of the letter.

2. What should Pauline-scholars-in-training be reading?

Cranfield was very critical of those who eschew older academic works and prefer only literature that has been written in the last few decades. In fact, Cranfield’s list of people to read begins with the Greek fathers. He repeatedly mentioned John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril, and Thomas Aquinas. Then, Cranfield went on to praise both Calvin (Cranfield belongs to the United Reformed Church) and Barth. Incidently, when it comes to pauline soteriology, Cranfield considers himself to be a thoroughgoing Calvinist with the one correction of Barth’s view on election.

On a level of being ‘learned’ in theology in general, C. also claimed that every theologian should be well acquainted with Shakespeare as he was able to pack in his lines of poetry with such deep reflections on theology and the human condition. One of his favorite lines comes from RICHARD II, where Shakespeare writes: ‘World’s ransom, blessed Mary’s son’ – Cranfield used this as the basis of a final exam for a theology course where he write these words at the top and then simply added: ‘Write as many scriptural texts that support portions of this line’. What an exciting challenge!

3. What is the relationship between justification and final judgment according to deeds for the Christian?

Cranfield first noted that Paul’s language of justification is past, present, and future. He did not have a straightforward reply, but accepted that there is a mystery. He does not believe that each deed is tallied and a person is judged solely on the basis of doing ‘good works’. Rather, the judgment question is whether the believer has lived ‘from faith’. At the same time, and I detected the Calvin and Barth in him in this, he felt that he could not be so audacious as to repeat the Wesleyan hymn line: ‘bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own’ – Cranfield said, ‘Being as old as I am, I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about what it will be like to me my Maker, and I don’t think I will be boldly approaching his throne’.

4. [This question was borne more out of my own research interests] Professor, what do you think is the relationship, if any, for Paul, between the Sacrifice of Christ and the the sacrifice expected of Christians (Rom 12.1; Phil 2.17) in life?

First of all, Cranfield queried me on whether or not Paul ever uses the word ‘thusia’ (sacrifice) for the work of Christ. I noted that it does appear in Ephesians (5.2). C. confessed that, though early in his career he defended Pauline authorship of Ephesians, he now does not think Paul wrote it (based on its stylistic peculiarities and its unique theological contributions). I argued with him (how crazy am I) that most commentators even who think Paul did not write it still see 5.2 as stemming from early traditions (e.g. A.T. Lincoln). Also, I pointed out that thought thusia is used of Christian sacrifice in Philippians 2.17, Paul goes on to talk about conformity to Christ’s death in chapter 3. Also, the ‘Christ hymn’ of the earlier part of chapter two focuses on Christ’s obedience unto death specifically as a pattern for Christians (‘have the same mindset as Christ’).

On this point, Cranfield did concede a bit. He said, OK, there may be some basic association. He added, ‘But, I would only make the connection with fear and trembling’. I took the point to heart.

5. [Again, the question relates to my research]: What was Paul’s attitude towards the Jerusalem temple after his conversion?

C. answered, as a Jew Paul would still have had much sympathy for his religious heritage. I also asked if Paul would have felt that the ‘Spirit’ resided in the temple. C. responded that because God is everywhere, there is no reason to think it could not be (but he did not seem absolutely sure about this). He followed up by asking (genuinely), would Paul have known about Jesus’ criticism prediction of the temple’s destruction? I don’t know. Cranfield didn’t have more to say. I wondered if Paul took the statement ‘you are God’s temple’ seriously and that the churches were his temple. Cranfield felt this was going too far; it was a metaphor that emphasized the eschatological and obedience-expecting presence of the Spirit. Ok, I’ll think more on this.

Prof. Cranfield invited me back again for another chat in a few weeks. I think I will take him up on it.

British New Testament Conference (Durham): Update

The Annual British New Testament Conference will be held in Durham this year at St. John’s College.

I have previously announced the plenary speakers (John Barclay, Loveday Alexander, Edward Adams, Dale Martin), but the papers being read are still in the process of final consideration. Some subject seminars have already finalized their group of papers. Currently, the ‘SOcial World of the NT’ seminar has announced their agenda. Session 1 includes a paper by John K Goodrich – a doctoral student at Durham University who is studying with John M G Barclay. John will be giving a paper entitled: ‘The Apostle on Trial: The Political Context and Rhetorical Purpose of Paul’s Judicial Language in 1 Corinthians 3-4′.

I am also very excited about another session in this group which will feature a discussion of a new book project based on Wayne Meek’s First Urban Christians. A new book, based on Meek’s classic, will be entitled After the First Urban Christians (eds. Todd Still and David Horrell). A group of NT scholars will each take a chapter of Meek’s book to reflect on and develop further. The contributors include Peter Oakes, Bruce Longenecker, Eddie Adams, Todd Still, Louise Lawrence and Dale Martin. This project will be discussed at the conference. The book is not due out until well into 2009. For more details of the seminar, see HERE.

Highlights from the SBL (Tentative) Program 2008 (BOSTON)

As others have already announced, the SBL national conference program book has been posted online at  I took a quick peak at the program and it looks like another great line-up of sessions packed with interesting topics and cutting edge scholarship.  Here are some quick highlights I noticed:

Christian Theology and the Bible
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

Russell Reno, Creighton University, Presiding (15 min)
Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Panelist (15 min)
Kavin Rowe, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Robert Barron, University of Saint Mary of the Lake-Mundelein Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Peter Leithart, New St. Andrews College, Panelist (15 min)
Christopher Seitz, University of Toronto, Panelist (15 min)
Corrine Carvalho, University of Saint Thomas, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (45 min)


Cross, Resurrection, and Diversity in Earliest Christianity Consultation
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Concord and Conflict in Earliest Christianity

James Dunn, Durham University, Presiding
Jerry L. Sumney, Lexington Theological Seminary
Paul and Other Christians (30 min)
Jennifer Knust, Boston University, Respondent (15 min)
Jeffrey Peterson, Austin Graduate School Of Theology
Haggadic Concord and Halakhic Conflict in the First Christian Generation (30 min)
Markus Bockmuehl, University of Oxford, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (60 min)

Pauline Epistles
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
David Charles Aune, Ashland University
Fearing Rightly: Paul’s Treatment of Fear in Romans (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Kyle Wells, Durham University
The Vindication of the Divine and Human Agent in Paul’s Reading of Deuteronomy 30:1–10 (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Jason A. Staples, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
All Israel—What Do the Gentiles Have to Do with It? A Fresh Look at Romans 11:25–27 (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
George H. van Kooten, University of Groningen
Paul among the Stoic Martyrs: Romans 13 in the Context of Contemporary Philosophical Views on the Divinity of the Emperor (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Learning Theological Interpretation from Premodern Exegetes

Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
Revisiting Antiochene Theoria and Historia (30 min)
Discussion (15 min)
David Steinmetz, Duke Divinity School
The Superiority of Precritical Exegesis Revisited (30 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Robert Wilken, University of Virginia
Interpreting the Bible as Bible (30 min)
Discussion (15 min)


Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Discussion of Richard A. Burridge’s Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics (Eerdmans)

Kenneth Newport, Liverpool Hope University, Presiding
Jonathan Draper, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Panelist (20 min)
Jan van der Watt, University of Pretoria, Panelist (20 min)
Richard Hays, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)
Francis Watson, Durham University, Panelist (20 min)
Ian Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary, Panelist (20 min)
Richard Burridge, King’s College – London, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (30 min)


Paul and Scripture
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Paul and His Jewish Contemporaries

Christopher Stanley, St. Bonaventure University, Presiding
Bruce N. Fisk, Westmont College
A Hebrew of Hebrews: Paul’s Use of Scripture in Light of Contemporary Jewish Interpretation (15 min)
Francis Watson, Durham University, Respondent (10 min)
James Aageson, Concordia College-Moorhead, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (45 min)
Break (10 min)
Discussion (60 min)

Papers will be summarized, not read. Copies of the papers are available in advance at the seminar’s website,


Pauline Epistles
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

David Horrell, University of Exeter, Presiding
Emma Wasserman, Reed College
Demons Yes, Powers No: A Historical Critique of the Notion of Sin as a “Power” in Romans (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam
Pistis in Galatians (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
L. Ann Jervis, Wycliffe College
Paul’s Virtue Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Stephen Chester, North Park Theological Seminary
Erasmus, Luther, and the Hermeneutics of Pauline Theology (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Assessing Theological Interpretation

Beverly Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding
R. W. L. Moberly, Durham University
What Is Theological Interpretation of Scripture? (30 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Markus Bockmuehl, Keble College, Oxford University
The Case against New England Clam Chowder and Other Questions about “Theological Interpretation” (30 min)
Discussion (10 min)
John J. Collins, Yale University
Critical Reflections on New Trends in Theological Interpretation (30 min)
Discussion (40 min)


John, Jesus, and History
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Paul N. Anderson, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered (T&T Clark)

Richard J. Bauckham, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History and Theology in the Gospel of John, (Baker Academic)

D. Moody Smith, The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions: Judaism and Jesus, the Gospels and Scripture, (Blackwell)

Felix Just, Loyola Institute for Spirituality, Presiding
Judith M. Lieu, University of Cambridge
Implications for the Study of John (25 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University
Implications for the Study of Jesus (25 min)
Andreas J. Kostenberger, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Implications for the Study of History (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Paul Anderson, George Fox University, Respondent (15 min)
Richard J. Bauckham, University of St. Andrews-Scotland, Respondent (15 min)
D. Moody Smith, Duke University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (25 min)


Pauline Epistles
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Terence Donaldson, Wycliffe College, Presiding
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Antics at Antioch: The Genesis of Paul’s Law-Free Gospel (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Brigitte Kahl, Union Theological Seminary
Peter’s Antiochene Apostasy: Re-Judaizing or Imperial Conformism? (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Christopher D. Stanley, St. Bonaventure University
Paul the Gentile? (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Janelle Peters, Emory University
The Imperishable Crown: Pauline Athletic Metaphors and Head-Coverings as Egalitarian Program (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Second Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making Seminar
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: 2 Corinthians 1-7

Thomas Schmeller, University of Frankfurt, Presiding
Reimund Bieringer, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Looking Over Paul’s Shoulder: 2 Corinthians Evidence for Paul’s Theology in the Making (20 min)
V. Henry T. Nguyen, Loyola Marymount University
Paul’s Theology of the Heart in 2 Corinthians (20 min)
Thomas R. Blanton IV, Luther College
Spirit and Covenant Renewal: A Pre-Pauline Theologoumenon (20 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Break (10 min)
Kenneth L. Schenck, Indiana Wesleyan University
Can the Bruce/Thrall Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:1–10 Account for Romans and Philippians? (20 min)
George H. van Kooten, University of Groningen
Image of God, Idols, and the Temple of God: A Contextualization of 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 within the Corinthian Correspondence (20 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Paul and Scripture
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Paul and Context

Mark Given, Missouri State University, Presiding
Stephen Moyise, University of Chichester
Does Paul Respect the Context of His Scriptural Quotations, and Does It Matter? (15 min)
Christopher Tuckett, University of Oxford, Respondent (10 min)
G. K. Beale, Wheaton College, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (45 min)
Break (10 min)
Discussion (60 min)

Papers will be summarized, not read. Copies of the papers are available in advance at the seminar’s Web site,


Ritual in the Biblical World
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Second Temple Communities

Jason Lamoreaux, Brite Divinity School, Presiding
Hannah K. Harrington, Patten University
What Is the Purpose of Ritual Ablutions in Ancient Judaism? (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jonathan David Lawrence, Canisius College
Images of Salvation: Early Depictions of Baptism (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Daniel Stoekl Ben Ezra, Centre National de la recherche scientifique
Qumran Life Cycle Rituals (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jutta Jokiranta, University of Helsinki
Ritual in the Qumran Movement: What Do We Explain? (25 min)
Discussion (35 min)


Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Sacrificial Rituals, Concepts, and Metaphors

James Watts, Syracuse University, Presiding (5 min)
Christian A. Eberhart, Lutheran Theological Seminary
Sacrifice? Holy Smokes! Implications of Hebrew and Greek Terminology (Qorban, Minhah, Thusia) for a Definition of Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jason Tatlock, Armstrong Atlantic State University
The Place of Human Sacrifice in the Israelite Cult (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Mark F. Whitters, Eastern Michigan University
Taxo and His Seven Sons in the Cave (Assumption of Moses 9–10) (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Dominika A. Kurek-Chomycz, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Spreading the Sweet Scent of the Gospel as the Cult of the Wise: Sapiential Background of Paul’s Olfactory Metaphor in 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 (25 min)
Discussion (30 min)


Second Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making Seminar
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Reconciliation and Atonement in 2 Corinthians

Reimund Bieringer, Catholic University of Leuven-Belgium, Presiding
Christian A. Eberhart, Lutheran Theological Seminary
To Atone or Not to Atone: The Meaning of KPR in the Hebrew Bible and Atonement Concepts in 2 Corinthians (20 min)
Sebastian Duda, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Reconciliation and God’s Victimization in the Death of Christ: Some Notes on 2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (20 min)
Stephen Finlan, Drew University, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Nijay Gupta, Durham University
A New Vision of God: The Power of Cultic Metaphors and Paul’s Call for a Cruciform Epistemology in 2 Corinthians (20 min)
Thomas Schmeller, Frankfurt University
“Anyone Whom You Forgive, I Also Forgive” (2 Corinthians 2:10): Interpersonal Forgiveness and Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11 (20 min)
Jerry Sumney, Lexington Theological Seminary, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Business Meeting (10 min)


Christian Theology and the Bible
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: The Identity of Jesus

Kathryn Greene-Mccreight, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Presiding (5 min)
Richard Hays, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
N. T. Wright, Durham Cathedral, Respondent (15 min)
Garrett Green, Connecticut College, Respondent (15 min)
Katherine Sonderegger, Virginia Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
Ephraim Radner, Wycliffe College, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (55 min)


Pauline Soteriology
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Grace in Pauline Theology

Ann Jervis, Wycliffe College, Presiding
John M. G. Barclay, Durham University
“I Will Have Mercy on Whom I Will Have Mercy”: Paul and Other Jews on Grace in the Desert (40 min)
Cilliers Breytenbach, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Abundant Mercy and/or Abounding Favor: Reflections on Paul’s Gospel (40 min)
Break (5 min)
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary
Response to Barclay and Breytenbach (20 min)
Discussion (45 min)


Pauline Soteriology
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Gift and Transformation: Agency and Grace in Pauline Theology

J. Ross Wagner, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding
Alexandra R. Brown, Washington and Lee University
Divine and Human Agency in the Corinthian Correspondence (20 min)
Stephen E. Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland
Grabbing and Being Grabbed: Gift, Transformation, and Formation in Paul (20 min)
Murray Rae, University of Otago
Enabled by Grace: A Theological Account of Human Agency (20 min)
Stephen Westerholm, McMaster University
“Splendid Vices”? The Untransformed Moral Agent in Paul (20 min)
Susan Eastman, Duke University, Respondent (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Need Some Advice…

I am about the write a short section in my thesis on the Apostle Paul’s conception of the work of the Holy Spirit.  I know that that is a huge topic, but I am mostly looking at it from the perspective of the instances where he uses it in relationship to cultic metaphors: Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3.16; 6.19); also worship in Spirit (Phil. 3.3) – that sort of thing.

Does anybody have suggestions as to what I should be reading?
Here is what is on my list to read:

Fee – basically everything he’s written; but especially God’ s Empowering Presence

Scott, Ian – Implicit epistemology in the letters of Paul: story, experience and the Spirit

Philip, F. The Origins of Pauline Pneumatology

The Festschrift for James Dunn

Lull, D., The Spirit in Galatia

Fatehi, M. The Spirit’s Relation to the Risen Lord in Paul

Levison, J. The Spirit in First Century Judaism

Also I plan on looking at all the articles on the Holy Spirit in the IVP Dictionaries (especially Dictionary of Paul and His Letters; and the Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, Anchor Bible Dictionary, New Interpreter’s Dictionary) – what else?

Are there major studies I should be consulting?


Yesterday I received my copy (for review in European Journal of Theology) of Greg Beale and D.A. Carson’s (eds) Commentary on the NT Use of the Old Testament (Baker/Apollos, 2007).  Here are my initial thoughts.

+ It looks slick and that always helps.  You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it looks this nice, it is inviting and really draws attention to itself.

+ The scholars for this are really good evangelical guys who know their stuff – Ciampa, Beale, Blomberg, CarsonThielman, Weima, M. Silva.  Very impressive.  I know it is meant to be a very unified evangelical approach and so that means no Richard Hays, Joel Marcus, Steve Moyise, Francis Watson, Morna Hooker, N.T. Wright, James Dunn, etc… But, I am a bit surprised that no women found their way into this ground-breaking project.  For instance, Karen Jobes blurbs the book, but she could easily have done 1 Peter (see her oft-cited BEC volume).  Or, Linda Belleville (who would have been a good choice for 2 Corinthians).  Marianne Meye Thompson might have been good for the Gospel of John.  With these three options I gave, no one would feel that they could not provide the highest level of competency and scholarship on the modern state of intertextuality.  OK, I will give the editors the benefit of the doubt and presume they considered such matters and perhaps women they tracked down could not commit to the project.  Still, this does not look good for conservatives.  Consider, at the most recent Institute for Biblical Research committee meeting at SBL, the lack of women in attendance was taken up as a serious matter of concern – this should show that I am not just blowing smoke.

Though I am not a woman and I don’t know what it feels like to be in a field dominated by ‘the other gender’, I am a minority and I remember being at the British New Testament Conference last year in Exeter and thinking – this is a lot of white people and I wish there was a bit more diversity – I kind of stick out (as an Indian).

Overall, I imagine Beale and Carson thought that they collected the expert scholars on the subjects involved (and they did a pretty excellent job).  Still, I wonder and hope that they really thought through this issue.

On a personal note, I know several of the authors of these chapters, and I do not doubt their desire to support all underrepresented groups in education and teaching.  Still, multi-authored works with this kind of homogeneity seems a bit off – maybe it comes from my having lived in Massachusetts for five years!

Well, all things considered, I anticipate that I will be impressed by the commentary, and I trust the theological leadership of Beale and Carson.  Keep an eye out for my coming review (when you purchase a copy of the European Journal of Theology or request your library to order it!).

NIDB – is it better than the ABD?

The NIDB is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is a five-volume set (two currently released) from Abingdon (2006-?) which supposedly covers every major person, place, and topic in the Bible with an emphasis on theological concepts and based on the NRSV.  It is/will be written by 900 scholars from 40 countries and across a wide range of denominations and christian affiliations.  What is distinctive about it is that it is geared towards the pastor/rabbi – and the presentation of the book is very neat and inviting.  It is, obviously shorter than the Anchor Bible Dictionary, but it also contains end-of-article bibliographies.

Is it better?  In this topsy-turvy post-modern world, who’s to say what’s ‘better’ :)  Let’s just say, for the audience it is aiming at, it is a real gem.  On a personal note, I noticed that the contributors are quite diverse, but there are a decent number of evangelicals – something a bit rare in the Anchor series in my recollection.  The ABD tends, I think, to be more historical-critical (which is great).  The NIDB tends to be more ‘theological’ (which is also great).  So, its good to have both!

I just received the second volume (letters D-H) in the post today.  Before I share with you my thoughts on the second volume, let me give you a sampling of the first one (A-C).

In A-C we have such topics as

‘Abraham, OT’ T. Fretheim

‘Acts of the Apostles’ B. Gaventa

‘Afterlife’ Alan Segal

‘Altar’ Bruce Chilton

‘Anthropology, NT’ Jerry Sumney

‘Apocalypticism’ C. Rowland (THIS ONE IS REALLY GOOD)

‘Authorship, NT’ P. Achtemeier

‘Body’ Joel Green

‘Christology’ Larry Hurtado

‘Colossians’ J.D.G. Dunn

‘Corinthians, First Letter to the’ A. Thiselton

‘Covenant’ John Goldingay

‘Cross’ Michael Gorman

NOW, the 2nd volume is D_H and also contains a good number of interesting articles including

‘Death of Christ’ J.B. Green

‘Education, NT’ Rainer Riesner

‘Ephesians, Letter to the’ Max Turner

‘Eschatology of the NT’ Dale Allison

‘Faith, faithfulness’ J.D.G. Dunn

‘Forgiveness’ S. Westerholm

‘Fulfillment’ Warren Carter

‘Galatians, Letter to the’ Marion Soards

‘Glory, glorify’ Carey Newman

‘Gospel, Message’ M. Eugene Boring

‘Grace’ S. Westerholm

‘Healing’ J.B. Green

‘Hebrews, Letter to the’ D. deSilva

‘Holy, holiness, OT’ Jacob Milgrom

I will report more as I interact with this great reference set more and more.

I welcome comments from those who own either or both volumes and have thoughts.


I have noticed a burgeoning interest in the post I made earlier on the FS for Alan Segal and Larry Hurtado entitled Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children which covers the broad topics of Christology and community in early Judaism and early Christianity. In the next several days I will blog about particularly interesting chapters.

Today I will cover Paula Fredriksen’s chapter on methodology in the study of Christian origins entitled ‘Mandatory Retirement: Ideas in the Study of Christian Origins Whose Time Has Come to God’ (pp. 25-38). Fredriksen, in this essay, has chosen 4 terms/phrases that she thinks are abused, anachronistic, and/or inaccurate as explanatory words:

1. Conversion

2. Nationalism

3. religio licita

4. Monotheism

Unsurprisingly, F. dislikes the term ‘conversion’ because Christianity was not formally something to convert to (see p. 28). Also, the notion of ‘conversion’ in the ancient world has much to do, according to F., with following a particular group’s ancestral traditions. Paul was wanting his Gentiles-in-Christ to worship Israel’s God, but not to become a Jew or follow Jewish ancestral customs. Though I see F.’s point, I don’t think it is that problematic to use the term ‘convert’. F. prefers the idea of ‘turning’ which she finds to be more biblical (as in 1 Thess. 1.9-10). Conversion, though, is just such a term. Can we use it more loosely than its technical meaning of switching from one religion to another? To me, it is not such a misleading term if, in scholarship, we recognize that ‘Christianity’ was not a formalized religion for some time.

In terms of the use of ‘nationalism’ for religion, F. dislikes when scholars refer to Judaism as too nationalistic. For F., ‘ancient gods run in the blood’ (p. 32). Cult, tradition and gods were ethnic, she argues. She notes that Paul and Israel’s vision was that, at the end of the ages, Gentiles would worship God as Gentiles (and not as Jews). She asks, ‘Is this nationalism or anti-nationalism? How can this concept possibly help us here?’ F. only spends a couple of pages on ‘nationalism’ and though I find here thoughts interesting, I need more on this. What does she make of Paul’s enigmatic statement in Romans 9.6 that ‘Not all Israelites truly belong to Israel’? Again, I am not sure about F.’s concerns.

As far as religio licita, F. offers very helpful points of note for scholars who sort of flippantly throw around the term. First of all, it was not a Roman legal term at all (p. 33). F. observes that it comes from ‘that great ecclesiastical sound-bite meister Tertullian’ (p. 33). F. points out that the Imperial concerns with Christianity was not that it new or mysterious or evil. As F. often relates the ancient concept of religion with ancestral practices, she argues that the real problem for the empire is that these Gentiles as Gentiles still need to fulfill their duties towards their ancestral deities lest the gods get angry and make trouble. She summarizes:

‘cult makes gods happy. If deprived of cult, gods can grow resentful, then angry. Unhappy gods make for unhappy humans’ (p. 33).

This seems a bit too CLASH OF THE TITANS for me, but I appreciate her point: ‘Ancestral obligation, not legal status, is what mattered’ (p. 33). I think F.’s word for scholars is that we need to be more careful in how and why we throw around the term religio licita in the classroom as if it were a matter of beliefs and ‘theology’. We are very much in danger of transporting modern notions of religion into the ancient world. If one visits India today, for instance, religion has much less to do with ‘beliefs’ than rituals and practices (and ancestral customs).

Finally, F. condemns the term ‘monotheism’. She argues ‘In antiquity, all gods exist’ (35). If anything, says F., the closest religions get to monotheism is a strict hierarchy (i.e. henotheism) with one god at the top. She argues that all early theologians ‘envisage a cosmos thick with multitudes of other divine personalities, to whom they refer to as theoi, “gods”‘ (p. 37). I think the debate is really what counts as a god? Are any supernatural beings of the ancient world ‘gods’? What is the minimum criteria for being a ‘god’? WHat do we do with Josephus’ statement in Against Apion 2.193: ‘There ought also to be but one temple for the one God…This temple ought to be common to all men, because he is the common God of all men’?

F. has offered some very incisive critiques of the ways that the above terms are sometimes misapplied or abused, but I don’t think they are all in need of mandatory retirement. What is needed, I think, is more discussion about these subjects with a view towards the ancient context and progress towards an ‘emic’ description of the phenomenon of religion in the ancient world. Nevertheless, this was a very stimulating chapter worthy of mulling over several times.

WHAT’S NEXT? In the very next chapter, Richard Bauckham indirectly issues a challenge to F. on the matter of whether or not early Judaism was monotheistic…