Required articles for grad class on Philippians – an update

The “textbook” for our Philippians exegesis class is actually a series of essays and articles that the students will read (alongside Bockmuehl’s excellent and concise commentary)

I break the weeks down into passages, and articles deal either with that passage or are connected thematically (if that can be managed)

Phil 1:1-11

(1) Peter Oakes, “Jason and Penelope Hear Philippians 1:1-11,” in Understanding, Studying and Reading (1998)

(2) J. Hellerman, “Brothers and Friends in Philippi: Family Honor in the Roman World and in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians” BTB 2009.

Philippians 1:12-26

(1) N. Gupta, “I Will Not Be Put to Shame: Paul, the Philippians and the Honorable Plea for Death” Neotestamentica (2008)

(2) L. Ann Jervis, At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message (Eerdmans): the Philippians chapter

Philippians 1:27-2:11

(1) N. Gupta, “To Whom Was Christ a Slave (Phil 2:7)? Double Agency and the Specters of Sin and Death in Philippians’, HBT 32 (2010): 1-16.

(2) N.T. Wright, “Jesus Christ is Lord: Philippians 2.5-11″ in Climax of the Covenant (Fortress)

Philippians 2:12-3:1

(1) P. Holloway, “Alius Paulus: Paul’s Promise to Send Timothy at Philippians 2.19-24″ NTS 2008

(2) Ross Wagner, “Working Out Salvation: Holiness and Community in Philippi,” in Holiness and Eccesiology in the NT

Philippians 3:2-21

(1)-(2) The two appended essays in R. Hays’ Faith of Jesus Christ:

- “Once More: PISTIS CHRISTOU” (Dunn)

- “Pistis and Pauline Christology: What is at Stake?” (Hays)

Philippians 4:1-23

(1) S. Fowl, “Know Your Context: Giving and Receiving Money in Philippians,” Interpretation 2002

(2) G. Fee, “To What End Exegesis? Reflections on Exegesis and Spirituality in Philippians 4:10-20,” BBR 8 (1988): 75-88.


So – that’s it. I have another article on Philippians coming out in 2011 (JSNT), but too late for my class. I may still have them read the yet-to-be-published version, but it is a bit technical and dry, so I might spare them!

Thank you to all who offered advice – I truly value your input and at least 2 on this list I was unaware of previously. So, much appreciation!


On the crafty serpent of Genesis 3

While Christians traditionally associate the Edenic serpent with Satan or a demonic character, many OT scholars have pointed out that this comes from later interpretation and fits only awkwardly in the narrative of Genesis 3. Some have pointed out that it would be at cross-purposes with the trajectory of the narrative to have evil-personified already in the garden even before the first human sin. So, some OT scholars simply argue that the serpent has no ill-will or evil motive. While I appreciate the narrative-focus and I respect the due circumspection, I have been unsatified with leaving the serpent as an innocent conversation partner.

Recently I read a different view put forward by Bill Arnold. He hypothesizes (acknowledging a serious lack of concrete evidence, but appreciating any theory that may fit the context) the serpent may have been the pinnacle of the animal-creation process (3:1a) in search of a suitable helper for Adam. “Since the serpent was “more crafty” than all the rest, he must have been the most likely candidate as a helping partner for the man, which may further explain the serpent’s ability to speak, reason, and engage the woman in dialogue (she did not seem surprised). As the animal most like the man and therefore the best candidate as his companion, the serpent may therefore be motivated by resentment of the woman” (pp. 63-4). This may be, Arnold wonders, why the serpent approaches the woman first, in hopes of “proving” his superiority to her.

Again, we don’t have a lot of clues to know what the make of this, but I certainly think it answers a lot of questions.

See Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary)

Matthew’s Greek

It is an unfortunate commonplace in classrooms of seminaries and Christian colleges to hear that Matthew improved and corrected the ugly and unintelligent Greek of Mark. As a teacher of Greek, while it is true that Mark seems to deviate from what we artificially consider the “standard” rules of Koine Greek, it is a bit simplistic to pretend that we can label Mark’s education level by his Gospel. For example, I have heard Greek teachers say that, unlike English, in Greek word order “doesn’t matter” or that there are not rules for word order. That is ridiculous! While there may be some flexibility and variety, and while the construction of sentences is significantly different, we should observe that that may only be our perception of the language or rules.

Anyway, I stumbled across a nice essay by Richard Beaton (Fuller) that questions whether we can label Matthew’s Greek as more “polished.” Beaton tips his hat to Bacon’s suggestion that it may be, rather, a desire on Matthew’s part to align it more with “synagogue Greek,” having to do more with style than education (Beaton, “How Matthew Writes,” in Bockmuehl and Hagner, The Written Gospel, pg. 120).

On my desk: A very LARGE commentary on John

Today, Thursday, is the one day of the week I do not teach. So, it is called my “sanity day.” I get a chance to work on some conference papers and articles, and even (hopefully) to do some blogging. So here I am. And, an added bonus, there was a large package from Eerdmans today. What could it be? Was it several books?

It was J. Ramsey-Michaels’ NICNT on the Gospel of John. As some of you know, I will be teaching John next summer at Asbury and so I am pleased to have another good resource.

A detailed review will be coming in time, but here are some first impressions.

1. It is HUGE – a whopping 1094 pp. (Moo’s Romans is nearly 100 pages shorter)

2. This commentary is 17 years in the making!

3. He mentions,regarding his influences in his Johannine commentary preparation, “To my surprise I found Rudolf Bultmann’s commentary the most useful of all, a work widely admired for all the wrong reasons” (p. xi)

4. Approach: on the obsession with determining the “background” of 4G: “”Background,” to my mind, is better assessed in relation to particular passages than in generalities” (xi).

5. The introduction is intentionally brief (about 40 pages).

6. I read a sampling of the commentary and I was impressed at some of the insights that Michaels’ found, particularly regarding 2:19-21. He seems to be particularly good at literary analysis and the logic of the flow of the text.

More to come!

Help me! Articles Suggestions on Pistis Christou for grad students

I will be requiring students to read 2 articles related to the Pistis Christou debate for my Philippians exegesis course. I know of many, many articles and essays on this subject. I am looking for suggestions of short texts (articles/essays/book chapters) that (1) help summarize the debate and (2) together represent more than one idiosyncratic perspective.

I checked out the recent CBR article on the subject, but it was too advanced for my exegesis students who are probably engaging in this debate for the first time. Any other proposals? Favorite and most persuasive discussions? Most basic and comprehensive introduction?

I am open!

(Mike Bird – yes, yes, I have your book…duly noted… :) )

Practically, for Christians, how do you approach reading the Bible…?

This question is often asked by my students. Often, it is not about “method,” though they learn that. It is a practical question about how they should choose which parts of the Bible to read, in what order, and in what depth. Do you read through the Bible in one year? Why? Others advocate reading the Bible more slowly and studying one book of Scripture a month. That is all fine, but how do we KNOW how to approach reading the Bible?

1. Is there some guide IN Scripture (either in example or directive)?

2. Did the early church have a plan?

3. Now that every Christian has his/her own Bible, we are in a very different place than the early church. What is our responsibility?

4. Do you read the Bible differently at different stages in your life as a Christian? (e.g., reading certain parts more when you are a new believer, such as the Gospels; or reading the Bible broadly and quickly to saturate your mind as you are more mature in your faith?)

These are all questions my students are asking, and I honestly don’t have a very “researched” answer. I am fortune enough the study the Bible daily as a part of my “vocation”! However, before seminary, I was a bit haphazard in my method. I often did the one-year Bible, but it was not as sanctifying of a method as I had hoped.

Anyway, I am very open to your thoughts and practices, but I am particularly interested in WHY you study the Bible the way you do (again, practically regarding what books to read in what order, and how broadly and quickly).