Interested in Colossians? I Need Some Volunteers!

While I am writing my Colossians commentary, I want to make sure that what I am writing (1) is accurate, (2), clear, and (3) helpful [especially for pastors, but also for seminary students].

So, I would like to recruit 2-3 volunteers who would be willing to read my drafts (as I write them, I am up to 2 of 5 chapters right now) and give feedback, corrections, and advisement. I already have one PhD student who has volunteered to help me with this (thanks Adam!). Here is what I am looking for: 2 pastors (full-time ministry with 5+ years of experience, no PhD, some seminary training helpful), 1 Professor (with PhD, specializes in Paul), 1 PhD student (specializes in Colossians). I will give you specific instructions about what kind of feedback I would like.

UPDATE: I have received a number of volunteers! Thank you! I do still need the following:

- One more PhD student that specializes in Colossians

- One professor that has a PhD in NT and specialty in Paul

(I do not need any more volunteers from pastors – I have approved more volunteers than I had planned because I am so eager for their feedback, but I can’t handle any more!)

If you are interested, please email me (you can find my SPU email address here), and let me know whether you are pastor, student, or professor and a little bit about yourself.

This will be a huge benefit to me, because it will help me ensure that what I right is accurate and profitable for its purposes.

FYI – the final commentary will be 80,000 to 100,000 words, and I am trying to complete the project by Dec 2012. I will send the first couple of chapters next month and the others to follow as I make progress…

“God in the Manger”: Bonhoeffer on Advent and Waiting

The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

We can, and should also, celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us…I think of you as you now sit together with the children and with all the Advent decorations- as in earlier years you did with us. We must do all this, even more intensively because we do not know how much longer we have.

–Letter to Bonhoeffer’s parents, Nov 29, 1943, from Tegel prison

Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting — that is, of hopefully doing without — will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment….

For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm, but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming….

[In this letter Bonhoeffer goes on to console his fiance Maria, while reflecting on the message of Christmas]

…We shall ponder the imcomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…and then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all of our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

–Letter to Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, Dec 13, 1943

Some books coming in 2012 from Baker Academic

Start saving up now!

Tremper Longman has a commentary on Job coming in August (BCOT series)

The Paideia series will put out two volumes soon- 1 Corinthians by Pheme Perkins and 1/2 Peter by Duane Watson and Terrance Callan.

Craig Keener is going to publish a commentary on Acts in the summer. Oh yeah, it is 900 pages. And only the first volume. On Acts 1:1-4:30. I think if you buy the complete set in advance, it comes with a free back brace. Just kidding – looking forward to this Craig!

Francis Moloney has written a commentary on Mark due out in May (no series?)

Steve Moyise is still working hard making sense of the use of the OT in the NT. This time it is Later New Testament Writings and Scripture.

A crew of Durham grads (and one staffer) have written essays for a book called A Theological Introduction to the Pentateuch. Contributors include Jo Bailey Wells, Joel Lohr, Richard Briggs, Rob Barrett, and Nathan McDonald. I think all of these except Briggs studied with Moberly and, thus, this volume pays respect to his theological interpretation legacy as well as furnishes a short introduction to this important subject.

Finally, Don Thorsen and Keith Reeves (of Haggard School of Theology, Azusa Pacific U) have written a very interesting book called What Christians Believe About the Bible (coming in August). Here is the official description.

Don Thorsen and Keith Reeves combine their biblical and theological knowledge to provide students with an informed and wide-ranging understanding of varied Christian views about the Bible’s nature. This concise introduction not only explores the interpretation of the Bible but also examines the history and theological understanding behind biblical interpretation, equipping students to think critically about their own tradition’s approach to Scripture. It will serve as a useful supplemental text in both introductory biblical studies and theology courses, helping to “fill in the blanks” regarding issues that do not always show up explicitly in a particular discipline.

This is exactly the kind of book I have been looking for for my class on Scripture! There is a huge need for such a book that is balanced and accessible. This could be the one!

Note: You can find these forthcoming-release titles here.

Winter Quarter at SPU – new guided study on Gospel of Mark by Laura Sweat

This past 13 weeks, during the autumn quarter here at Seattle Pacific University, I had the honor of guiding our community through a study of Joshua and Judges. What a blessing that was! I learned so much and had some great interactions with commenters, students, staff, and faculty!

Well, I am very exciting that my NT colleague Laura Sweat (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) will be the faculty guide for the winter quarter and we will be studying the Gospel of Mark. I have decided, to coincide with this study, to focus my UFDN 1000 “Christian Formation” course on the theology of the cross with emphasis on the Gospel of Mark and the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Also, I am going to teach a study on Mark for our Sunday School at church. I look forward to gleaning from Laura’s insights. You can learn more about Laura HERE. You can see the schedule of readings HERE. Folks have said that these guided readings (like a mini-commentary, published in weekly portions online for free) work well for church or dorm Bible studies.

2012 St Andrews Galatians Conference

A few years back Pope Benedict XVI had declared June 2008-June 2009 the “Year of St. Paul.” Well, 2012 will nearly rival that year in terms of interest in the enigmatic apostle! In May (2012) there will be a big meeting based on Romans 5-8 at Princeton Seminary.

Also, St. Andrews (Scotland) will be hosting a conference on “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians & Christian Theology” (July 10-13, 2012).

The keynote speakers at the St. Andrews conference include Richard Hays, N.T. Wright, and Oliver O’Donovan. You can also expect to hear papers from folks like Beverly Gaventa, Lewis Ayres, and Bruce McCormack. While I have never attended one of these “..and Christian Theology” conferences at St. Andrews, I do have two of the published volumes based on the conference essays (on John and Hebrews) – both outstanding resources for study and cutting edge engagements. I am so jealous that I will not be able to attend this very exciting event. But I will be eager to hear reports and read the published papers in due time.

Of Heaven, salvation, and worldliness (Bonhoeffer and the Apostle Paul)

I am making good progress on my Colossians commentary – I am turning in 40,000 words to the editors by Dec 31  just on the introduction and chapter 1 of Colossians! It has been an exhausting delight!

Anyway, one of the central issues of Colossians is Paul’s concern that the troublesome philosophy is putting people’s heads in the clouds, whereas Paul was trying to “ground” them deeper in Christ.( At some point soon I will do a series of posts on my reading of Colossians.)

So, it has been interesting for me to be reading Bonhoeffer’s Letters & Papers from Prison (for a variety of reasons) while I work on the commentary. Did you know, while Bonhoeffer famously had an infatuation with the Sermon on the Mount, he also regularly turned to Colossians when he wrote and preached precisely for the same reason Paul was concerned: believers around Bonhoeffer spent too much time dwelling on “Salvation” and not enough time investing in dealing with “sin” all around them? In a prison letter to Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer wrote some reflections on Biblical interpretation and theology:

Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than [the question of personal salvation]? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the OT at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything…? It is not with the beyond that we [should be] most concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropological sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of the creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (May 4, 1944 from Tegel)

Later on Bonhoeffer suggests to Eberhard that perhaps there is a need for a “worldly” hermeneutic. Not one that is worldly in the sinful sense, but one that focuses theology on the life of the “here and now” world. If Bonhoeffer were alive today, I think he would say, “Ah, I think this is being done – they call it “missional theology.” What do you think?

Three Interesting 2012 releases from IVP Academic

I was flipping through the IVP Spring 2012 catalog and saw these three forthcoming releases that look interesting

Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (eds. S.E. Porter and B.M. Stovell) – the five views are

-Historical-Critical/Grammatical (Craig Blomberg)

-Redemptive-Historical (R. Gaffin)

-Literary/Postmodern (F. Scott Spencer)

-Canonical (R. W. Wall)

Philosophical/Theological (Merold Westphal)

This looks to be a fascinating engagement, but some of the names of the views are unfortunate (aren’t all of the views “Philosophical/Theological”; also I would assume Blomberg would designate his own approach as “Redemptive-Historical,” though perhaps not quite in the same way as Gaffin; similarly, would Gaffin not lean towards a grammatico-historical approach?); this is one case where it is probably not an either-or, but both-and (except the canonical approach would certainly be at odds with the first one, and you could not label the first two “postmodern” I presume).

I like the idea of each writer looking at the same text: Matthew 2:7-15. This one is coming in June.

Dictionary of Old Testament Prophets (ed. J.G. McConville and M. Boda) – coming in June as well. It is 1000 pages and offers 115 articles.

A Week in the Life of Corinth (Witherington). Sometimes I have heard people criticize Ben for over-producing when it comes to putting out books. I grew up with Ben and I have had many good interactions with him. While I do wonder where he finds the time to do all his writing, I know one thing: he is a good storyteller. This book offers a creative historical-fictional account of “Nicanor” who is a Corinthian business man that encounters a tent-maker named Paul. It is a short 168 pages, so I think (if it has the narratival and literary quality I expect) that it would serve well a course on Paul, and especially a course on 1 Corinthians. Its coming in May.

There you have it – IVP always gives me goodies for my reading list!

Parallel Lives of Jesus: A Guide to the Four Gospels (Review)

When it comes to introductions to the Gospels, what comes to mind? Blomberg? Stanton? If you think about it, there isn’t a whole lot that professors have found eminently helpful for classroom use. I like Mark Allan Powell’s Fortress Introduction to the Gospels, but it is beginning to feel a bit old.

You really don’t want anything too exhaustive, as it will bog the students down in critical literature and limit interaction directly with the text. I would commend to you Eddie Adams’ new Parallel Lives of Jesus: A Guide to the Four Gospels (WJK, 2011). Adams, known for his work on Paul, has taught a gospels module a number of times and, feeling the need for a succinct introductory volume, took the step to write one himself! Something many of us consider doing!

Eddie has been much influenced by his colleague Richard Burridge and is persuaded (as am I) that the Gospels fit into the basic category of ancient biography called Lives -hence the title of the book. The four gospels are united by the desire to tell the story of Jesus. Each one, as a narrative, looks at Jesus from a different perspective. They are “parallel lives of Jesus.”

What this means in terms of an introduction to the Gospels is that Adams prioritizes a narrative reading. In the two introductory chapters he gives a simple overview of how scholars have approached the gospels, and then goes into a discussion of narrative criticism. He discusses

-narrative voice and viewpoint


-textual structure


-Narrative techniques (flashback, flash-forward, foreshadowing, inclusio, intercalation, irony, intertextuality)

-Narrative time

-Narrative space


Adams also addresses events, characters, and settings.

In four more chapters, Adams works through each Gospel from a basic narrative perspective, showing how each Evangelist constructed his story, and which themes are developed. The last six chapters briefly compare six events in the life of Jesus by setting the four gospels side-by-side: the baptism of Jesus, the feeding of the 5k, the walking on the water, the transfiguration, the death of Jesus, and the empty tomb.

It is important to underscore the fact that Adams intention is not to study the redaction of the texts (i.e., who copied and expanded upon or modified whom), but how the stories overlap and diverge as stories with plots, styles, and themes. Adams does a great job of providing the pericopae in side-by-side comparison, and his discussions are short, but insightful.

It is fitting to finish with the summary statement of Adams: “The four Gospels…present us with a singular Jesus multiply rendered. The singularity of Jesus is not compromised by the multiple characterizations but enhanced by them” (p. 189).

Weaknesses? Not really. Perhaps there is the lingering question – how should this be used in class? I think assignments built into the book would have well-served its pedagogical purpose. Perhaps he could have given a couple of models for parallel-narrative comparison, and then offered a series of assignments for further study, supplying the Gospel texts in parallel alignment and then encouraging examination. That is not really a weakness, just a thought! Thanks Eddie!