A Positive Review from Don Garlington

Today, I got the 1st two 2011 issues of Bulletin for BIblical Research in the  mail (21.1, 21.2). There is a review of my monograph, Worship That Makes Sense to Paul, in the 21.2 issue, written by Don Garlington. I appreciate the positive review and that he seemed to really “get” what the book was all about. My supervisors would be proud :) It is nice to feel a sense of appreciation from “the guild” for your hard work. Don – cheers to you!


Exciting Forthcoming Books from Zondervan

Having recently perused the latest catalog from Zondervan, I got excited about these future releases…

D. Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts (sometime in 2012).

Miles van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Aramaic (maybe just released?) – we used Johns in Seminary, which worked fine, but I suspect van Pelt will really make it easy on the eyes and brain.

Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelism (eds. A.D. Naselli and C. Hansen): perspectives:

-K.T. Bauder: Fundamentalism

-Albert Mohler: Conservative evangelicalism

-John Stackhouse: Generic evangelicalism

-Roger E. Olson: Postconservative evangelicalism

Four Views on the Apostle Paul (ed. M.F. Bird [of course!])  -focusing on Christology, soteriology, and ecclesiology (what happened to ethics, I ask?)

-Schreiner – Evangelical view

Douglas Campbell – Barthian view (of course!)

Luke Timothy Johnson  - Catholic view

Mark D. Nanos – Jewish view

Y0u’ll have to wait until July 2012 for this puppy!


Mourning the Loss of a Humble Giant: C.K. Barrett.

I too want to say a word in honor of C.K. Barrett, who recently passed away at the age of 94.

In seminary, I connected the name C.K. Barrett to his Roman commentary (Black’s), a nice short interpretation and exposition, competent, careful, and sensitive to pastoral issues. I knew that my friend/mentor Ben Witherington studied at Durham with him. When I too was accepted to Durham (almost 20 years after Ben??!), I was excited about being in such an intellectual environment where this legendary scholar taught. To my great surprise, I came to learn that (1) he was still alive, (2) he was in Durham, and (3) he regularly preached in the Methodist circuit, often to congregations between 20-40 people in size (this was 2006).

These small village churches did not really know him as “C.K. Barrett, Lightfoot Professor Divinity,” but simply as “Kingsley.” Everyone who knew him, knew him simply as such. He was a sweet gentleman – exactly that — “gentle.” I heard him preach on two occasions and chatted with him only once, I think. A bit like Howard Marshall, Barrett was not one to talk and talk. But he was a very engaging preacher – even at 90!

Durham certainly carried on its great “Lightfoot” tradition when Barrett retired – first with James (“Jimmy”) Dunn, and then one of my supervisors – John M.G. Barclay. Both Jimmy and John have a deep admiration for Barrett.

I have felt a sense of privilege in getting a chance to meet and even have a brief conversation with such a great man. I will always have a deep respect for Barrett’s research, especially on Paul. In fact, in tribute, I plan on reading and interacting with some of his work in my Colossians commentary.

God be with his family and friends in this difficult time of loss.


WJK offering special promo for “teaching professionals”

One of the “big name” Biblical-Academic presses is Westminster John Knox – they do some really great stuff! Right now, they are doing a special promotion for “teaching professionals: 60% off and free shipping on orders more than $50. I will tell you, that is not a bad deal at all, rivaling the SBL promotions (perhaps even better?).

To get this deal, you must use a special promo code (which I have). If you did not get the email, but you are a “teaching professional,” I would be happy to share it with you. I don’t feel it right to simply publicize the promo code as I would guess it would get (ab)used by the wrong persons. But, if you fit this bill,  and did not already get the email, leave a comment and I would be happy to share it with you. Just leave a comment like: “Hook me up, I teach @….”


Sad News of Nida’s Passing

Many have already heard the sad news of the passing of Eugene Nida, the eminent linguist and Bible translator. I just wish to say that I have appreciated his Greek-English Lexicon of the NT: Based on Semantic Domains (with J.P. Louw). In fact, for my Colossians commentary I am working on, I have set “Louw-Nida” as my default (“go-to”) lexicon for semantic matters, rather than the expected “BDAG.” (I may explain my decision on another occasion.)

In any case, I hope my frequent reference L-N offers a nice tone of appreciation in light of this sad news. May the Lord comfort his family and close friends in this difficult time.

What is the Big Deal about the Land of Canaan?

As I am studying and teaching Joshua and Judges this year (which is a serious, but welcome, challenge for a NT researcher!), I have wondered, time and time again, why the promise and acquisition of land is so important to the Old Testament. What makes Joshua so central to the OT? Why is Deuteronomy so fixated on Israel’s land-grant from Yahweh?

There are, no doubt, many answers. Perhaps the most profound one, theologically speaking, has to do with the “incarnation” principle behind it. Note these scholarly ruminations:

Yhwh chose to create humanity in bodily form and thus relates to Israel in a way that involves land and is not merely a matter of the spiritual, moral or theological (Goldingay, OTT1, 512)

Israel’s faith insistently focused on the material, on the real, lived circumstance of life in the world. It is this focus that distinguishes Israel’s faith from many other religions that move in the direction of “spiritual” matters removed from lived reality (Bruce Birch et al., A Theological Introduction to the OT, 176)

Amen and amen.

Justification: Five Views (IVP)

Be on the lookout at SBL for the latest volume in the “Spectrum Multiview” Series from IVP: Justification: Five Views edited by Beilby, Eddy, and Enderlein. What are the “big five”?

Traditional Reformed (Michael H0rton)

Progressive Reformed (Mike Bird)

New Perspective (James Dunn)

Theosis/Deification (V-M Karkkainen)

Roman Catholic (Gerland O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty)

I love these books, produced so well, offering conversational tone (like hearing a lecture) and seeing scholars interact and engage. In the past some of the engagements have been brutal and cruel. I dearly hope to see an irenic spirit in this book. Certainly Dunn and Bird and known for this. This book is officially on my “wishlist”!


A Good Example of “Why Context Matters” – Learning from Bonhoeffer on the Psalms

One can talk about “cheap grace” and “costly grace” in relatively abstract terms and get a sense for what Bonhoeffer is getting at. When one reading his Cost of Discipleship in light of his circumstances (in the 1930′s), though, the matter becomes undoubtedly more “real” and “relevant.” Context matters. I teach New Testament, and I try to help students to get this – whether it is the Gospel of John or Colossians. These writings weren’t written by professional textbook writers for “general consumption.” They came from a context and once we engage some of that, it brings the text to life in new (i.e., fresh) and important ways. I will never read The Cost of Discipleship in a text-book-y kind of way now that I know the context in which Bonhoeffer wrote it.

Moreover, we have Bonhoeffer’s tome on the Psalms – Das Gebetbook der Bibel (1940). It is not that unusual for a theologian to write a book based on Scripture. What I did not think about before is that Bonhoeffer dared (!) to write this book on the Old Testament in light of the fact that the Nazis were hotly determined to devalue and destroy anything “Jewish” – “Old Testament” included. The Reich Church had a way of eliminating anything remotely related to the OT from pulpits and “Christian” literature. I learned from Eric Metaxas that Bonhoeffer got into a fight with the “Reich Bpard for the Regulation of Literature” over this book on the Psalms. He kind of played dumb by pretending it was just “scholar” stuff. Metaxas aptly divulges Bonhoeffer’s real thoughts:

He well knew that all true exegeses and scholarship pointed to the truth, which, for the Nazis, was far worse than a hail of bullets (368).

Eventually he was banned altogether from publishing (see Metaxas, p. 378). Even his great work, Ethics, had to finally be completed by his friend Eberhard Bethge.

I think about the apostle Paul and his letters. Some of his latter epistles were written while in prison (not unlike Bonhoeffer!). John Chrysostom points out that this makes the “captivity epistles” a special treasure for the people of God. How could he express such joy and thanksgiving? How dare he call this Jesus kyrios under Caesar’s own nose?

Context helps. It matters. (and, yes, I think Paul wrote Colossians.)


When I saw Alan Padgett’s new book advertised, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission, I was very intrigued and excited. In the end, as I will try and demonstrate, it was a great idea, but not worked out in the book itself in the best way. I think he is on to something, but I was hoping for a more concentrated, thoroughgoing approach. The book, in the end, seemed more like a series of lectures collected together. While I felt a bit disappointed with the book, there were some important insights into the gender-debate that Padgett brings to the table and from which I learned much.

Essentially, and I am boiling it down very basically,  Padgett is frustrated with the “man-centered” approach to gender relationships in the Church and especially the Biblical hermeneutics involved. Rather than relying on a verse here and there (which he accuses many “man-centered” interpreters of doing), he wishes to look at the Bible closely, critically (from an evangelical perspective?), and canonically. When the Bible is looked at in a broader frame of reference, the Christian reader is compelled, so Padgett argues, to sustain a Christ-centered hermeneutic. What does that mean? I am not 100% sure, but at least it means looking at the example of Jesus.

Taking John 13 as a key text (with a marvelous cover image depicting the famous footwashing scene), Padgett points out that Jesus himself took a humble and submissive stance towards his disciples. Padgett is happy to call this “servant leadership,” but he wishes to acknowledge that, while it is not an objective sort of role of submission, it appears to be one subjectively. In that sense, he makes reference to two kinds of “submission” in the Bible.

Type 1: “involuntary obedience to an external authority” (38)

Type 2 (T2): “voluntary submission to another person out of humility, compassion, or love”  (39).

Basically, Padgett argues that  T2, “voluntary self-submission, is a general principle for all Christians, not just women or slaves” (40). While some complementarians may be quick to turn to Household code-texts and argue for a one-sided kind of authority and submission, a strong feather in Padgett’s cap is 1 Cor 7:4 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” I had never thought about the importance of this verse in particular for the gender debate. However we conceive of the interpretation of 1 Cor 11 and 14 (or even the PE for that matter), we must reckon with the implications of what Paul writes here.

Going back to mutual self-submission, Padgett notes Gal 5:13 which calls all believers to be slaves to one another (similarly 1 Cor 10:24). Here summarizes his whole argument on p. 48

Mutual self-giving love is another type of submission that all believers are meant to enact toward one another. This role is one that is grounded in the character and moral wisdom of Christ Jesus.

After this general and backgrounding discussion, Padgett goes on to interpret a number of key Pauline passages on women and submission. Nothing in this is really all that new, but I did appreciate his work on 1 Tim 2:2:13-15, because complementarians make such a big deal out of the “creational” models in this verse, esp of Adam being born first. What Padgett wisely points out is that Adam is not privileged merely by being born first, but in particular because “Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression” (2:13-14). If interpreters are to hold the first statement (about creation order) as universally important for woman’s submission, surely it must apply to the next part – the deception of woman. What Padgett notes, though, is important. There was a time when theologians argued for man-centered leadership and authority because women were ontologically inferior. Those days are gone. Now, it is not about the substance of the woman that makes her incapable of being the authority or even co-leader, in the eyes of complementarians. It is simply a matter of “roles.” However, this makes the “role” selection seem arbitrary.

So, how does Padgett understand 1 Tim 2:13-15? The “Adam” of the text is not “man” in general, but the sound doctrine of Paul and Timothy himself (96). Being made first involves, in this text, “a metaphor for having older, sounder doctrine–being more mature in the faith” (98). The point of this passage is that, ” ‘a woman’ should learn in silence and not take up authority over men by teaching in church. Such a woman learner is to be in complete submission to sound doctrine and to the ministry of Timothy, not to men in general” (99). This makes good sense in context.

While this is all well and good, I think Padgett gets more and more side-tracked in his enthusiasm to talk about anything and everything related to the topic of gender and power. He even confesses that one of his chapters (on headcoverings in 1 Cor 11) is a “detour” from his argument. [Editor! Take up thy pen and rebuke!]

The final chapter, supposedly bringing his “canonical” findings to bear, was rather more like a short conclusion. This brings me to my major criticism: the book was so promising, in the introduction and some of the early arguments. I felt that it just kind of lost its way. In the end, there were some serious questions left unanswered:

-What is the difference between service and submission?

-If we talk about a servant leader being submissive (type 2) to his subjects, what is the essential quality of his authority? Put another way, what makes him/her a “leader”?

-What made Jesus, even in John 13, “Lord and Teacher” even while he was making himself slave/subject to them? (John 13:13). How did he maintain a position of both submissions and leadership in his own role?

-Can two people express Type 2 submission to each other and yet one also still be required to offer Type 1 submission?

Having these questions does not make me doubt my egalitarian position. I came to that conclusion a long time ago. Still, as far as Padgett’s model and approach is concerned, I find these lingering questions too problematic for his proposal. Again, it is not that he has wasted his time. He has opened up a way of reconceiving some of the core issues involved in the debate. I wish it were a more technical work, perhaps followed later on by a “popular” distillation.

Do I recommend it? It will not become a standard tool on the egalitarian end, nor a point of serious concern for complementarians. It does bring issues to the surface in a fresh way, but for now perhaps that is all.