The State of New Testament Studies: Dennis Edwards on Hermeneutics

SNTSDr. Dennis Edwards (North Park Theological Seminary) has written the essay on trends in exegesis and hermeneutics in The State of New Testament Studies (Baker, 2019, coming in November). Dr. Edwards has extensive experience in ministry as a pastor for the Covenant church. He is also the author of the 1 Peter volume in the Story of God Commentary series.

NKG: Dr. Edwards, why are you interested in modern trends and currents in exegesis and biblical hermeneutics?

DRE: More people of color are engaging in scholarly biblical study and I am curious about the impact of that research in the academy as well as local congregations

NKG: Can you give us a description or illustration of how this has changed over the last twenty years?

DRE: What could be called “postmodern hermeneutics” has exploded. Theological interpretation continues to evolve and grow in interest. People of color are bringing fresh eyes to biblical texts, often pushing against traditional (i.e., white European) interpretations. 

NKG: Can you recommend a book or two that has been important in hermeneutics?

DRE: My essay (in The State of New Testament Studies) touches on many different approaches to the Bible, so it is hard to pick just one or two. However, I’ll note that Cain Hope Felder’s Troubling Biblical Waters (1990) began the work of defining African American biblical interpretation. Stephen Fowl (a Roman Catholic) and Kevin Vanhoozer (reformed Presbyterian) have written much on Theological Interpretation of Scripture. A key book in Womanist Biblical Interpretation is Jacquelyn Grant’s White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response (1989). 

NKG: What else are you working on these days?

DRE: Regarding academic work, I’m working on an essay on slavery, an essay on Colossians/Philemon, and a book on race and ethnicity.

NKG: Thanks, Dr. Edwards! I am excited to have your excellent essay in SNTS and I know many people will benefit from it.



The State of New Testament Studies: Mariam Kovalishyn on James

SNTSWe have been working through a set of interviews of some contributors writing for the soon-coming The State of New Testament StudiesToday, I am pleased to bring you a short word from Regent College professor Dr. Mariam Kovalishyn. I have known Mariam for several years and I have admired her work on James, especially her excellent commentary work.

Without further ado…

NKG: Why are you interested in James?

MK: I’ve been in love with the epistle of James for nearly 20 years now, so it was a natural fit. I love the practical nature of the epistle, combined with a deep theology of the goodness of God that calls his people to reflect his image into our world.

NKG: Question #2: Can you give a very brief description of how your discipline (related to your essay) has changed over the last 20 years? (1 short paragraph sentences)

MK: The biggest illustration, perhaps, is that in this volume is an essay on the epistle of James, whereas in the prior volume was an essay on the person of James. In many ways we’ve largely agreed that, whether or not he wrote it, the epistle refers back to James the brother of Jesus, and so have moved on. There is a deepening interest in the influences on the epistle, whether Jesus, or prophetic literature, or Greco-Roman literature. There is also a delightful growing recognition of the theological voice of the epistle.

NKG: Can you recommend a book of influence on James? 

MK: Richard Bauckham’s James: Wisdom of James, disciple of Jesus the Sage — wildly influential in helping people understand how James relates to its source materials and has changed the conversation from looking for precise quotations in the text to seeing how it adapts its materials for its own use.

NKG: What else are you busy with these days? 

MK: Teaching a book study on James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude this semester, so that’s delightfully apropos. Out of my passion for James has been a desire to work on a biblical theology of social justice, as well, trying to look at both why “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” should care about justice and what it looks like biblically. Now I just need to find time to actually *write* my thoughts down…


Paul and the Giants of Philosophy: An Interview with Co-Editor Joseph R. Dodson

PGPIf you follow me on social media, you might know that I am really excited about the new book, Paul and the Giants of Philosophy, edited by Joseph R. Dodson and David E. Briones. I have a short essay in this work, and I have had a chance to read some of the other essays. It is an excellent comparative study, bringing the Apostle Paul into conversation with the moralists and big thinkers of his time. Below is a bit more about one of the editors, Joseph aka “Joey” Dodson (who I am going to hang out with this weekend, as it happens!).

NKG: How did you become interested in the subject of Paul and ancient philosophers?

 JRD: I became enamored with Socrates and Plato in ninth-grade when Mr. Gilmore lectured on their lives and works. I doubt Mr. Gilmore was familiar with N.T. Wright’s comment about Plato being the “New Testament” for the people in the first century, but Mr. Gilmore said something similar. “Socrates was like the Greek Jesus, and Plato’s books were kinda like the Greek Bible.” Intrigued, I checked out my library’s dusty copy of The Republic. Being one of those too-cool-for-school popular kids (e.g., an athlete, the prom king and most of the other John Hughes’ stereotypes), I remember hiding The Republic between the seats in my truck to keep my friends from seeing it so as not to ruin my reputation. Since I was also a part of an anti-intellectual church tradition, I would also stash the book under my bed to avoid freaking my parents out because their little Baptist boy was reading pagan philosophy. [NKG: LOL!]

It took me a couple of years in college to realize I didn’t have to hide my love for learning and that it was really okay to read ancient philosophers in addition to my Bible. This became all the more the case when I was assigned to write an undergraduate exegetical paper on Paul in Athens (Acts 17), where the apostle himself quotes philosophers and where Luke presents Paul as a “new Socrates.” (It dawned on me: I too was a “spermologos”!) [NKG: editor’s note, spermologos means “seedpicker” = “babbler”; get your mind out of the gutter] Later on I discovered Paul was not the only Jew to employ and integrate ancient philosophy. I started reading the writings of Philo, the Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, and other Jewish works, which in turn lead me further beyond looking at Paul in light of Socrates and Plato to investigating Paul in dialogue with Seneca and Epictetus (for that story, see ).

NKG: This is an academic book (Paul and the Giants of Philosophy, PGP), but the audience in mind is students, pastors, and anyone interested in the New Testament and in Paul. (Dodson edited a more scholarly book called Paul and the Greco-Roman Philosophical Tradition and also Paul and Seneca in Dialogue). Why would you say this kind of book (PGP) is helpful for Christians in general? What can pastors, for example, learn from this study? 

In The Republic, Socrates argued humanity would never reach the eutopia until kings are philosophers and philosophers are kings. I have a similar burden. It is to raise up pastors and Christian leaders who have the mind of a scholar and the heart of a shepherd. Because most people do not have the time or energy for academic works, I desire to take what’s cooking in the ivory tower and walk it down to the church in order to share it with our brothers and sisters doing the amazing work of ministry on the ground. Since placing Paul in dialogue with an influential ancient philosopher has been a burgeoning enterprise in the academy lately, I asked some of these authors to take their work and boil it down for students, pastors and interested laypersons. Similar to what John Barclay says in the preface, I myself learned so many new things about Paul and his theology from reading these essays. Aspects and passages at which I had previous yawned, now – because of these new insights – I gaped. “Wait, is that what Paul meant by faith in 1 Corinthians?!,” “Wow, that really changes how we should apply Romans 14-15 in our churches,” and so on and so forth. To borrow from what my co-editor, Dave Briones, says in the introduction: comparisons (properly done) lead to clarity in understanding the gospel, which leads to more poignancy in preaching to our people and to greater effectiveness in making disciples of them.

NKG: When you are not “scholaring,” what are your favorite hobbies?

I love traveling and watching Netflix with my wife, hiking and hanging out with my boys, drinking coffee and reading poetry with my daughter, and watching sports (especially the New Orleans Saints).

NKG: What are some other writing projects you have in the pipeline or are working on?

 JRD: Well I am not nearly as prolific as you are, but related to this interview, I am writing the “Philosophy” entry for the new edition of IVP’s Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. I have also been asked to write an essay on 4 Maccabees for The Septuagint and Old Testament Apocrypha volume (ed. James Aitken and Bruce Longenecker). In addition to these, I am writing a book on Romans 7 for Lexham Press, a commentary on Colossians-Philemon for Thomas Nelson, and one on Romans for Brill. 

NKG: Thanks for sharing, see you soon! 


The State of New Testament Studies: Mike Bird on Paul in His World

SNTSThe book The State of New Testament Studies (Baker Academic) is coming out in November, edited by Scot McKnight and myself (Nijay). One of the contributors is Michael F. Bird. His chapter is entitled, “Paul, a Jew among Jews, Greeks, and Romans.”

Mike and I have worked together on a lot of projects, so I am glad to introduce you to him and his work!

NKG: Why are you interested in the historical Paul in his social world?

MFB: Because Paul is a monumental figure for early Christian history and Christian thought!
NKG: How has the historical study of Paul changed or developed over the last two decades?

MFB: The study of Paul is increasingly fragmented with all sorts of schools, like Apocalyptic Paul, Paul-in-Judaism, New Perspective, Post-Colonial Studies, etc. Also, there are continually new landmarks in biblical studies, such N.T. Wright’s PFG or John Barclay’s PATG, these works usually echo over a period of time.

NKG: What has been one book that has been significant in the study of Paul in his world?

MFB: I would recommend John Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora – great book on the religious and cultural world of Diaspora Jews.

NKG: We all know you are plenty busy! Congrats on your new book The New Testament In Its World (co-written with NT Wright). What are you working on now?
MFB: I am working on New Testament Theology, Luke-Acts, and Mercy in the Ancient World. 

The State of New Testament Studies: Matthew Bates on Old in the New

We are continuing out short interviews with contributors of The State of New Testament Studies (Baker Academic, coming Nov 2019). 

Matt and I have been friends for several years now. We share interests in the apostle Paul, enjoying Portland (which he sometimes visits), and we both spent very little time on styling our hair in the morning. If you want to hear Matt’s soothing voice on a regular basis, check out OnScript podcast.

NKG: Matt, why are you interested in the subject of the NT use of the OT?

MB: Ever since I first became a serious reader of Scripture, I’ve been fascinated by how our NT authors interpreted their scriptures, our Old Testament. On the one hand it is challenging to try to uncover the interpretative mindset and principles of our NT authors as they interpreted. On the other, the theological results are frequently fascinating and rich.

NKG: How has this discipline changed over the last 20 years?

MB: There has been a shift away from seeing “the use of the OT in the NT” as a distinct, isolated sub-discipline of research and a movement toward seeing it within wider frameworks of meaning-making and interpretation.

NKG: Can you recommend an important book on this subject?

MB: Frances M. Young’s Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture is stellar. She shows how “allegory,” “typology,” “the literal sense,” and the like functioned within early Christian and pagan culture in ways that stretch our understanding of what “the use of the OT in the NT” can and should mean.

NKG: What else are you working on?

MB: Keep your eyes peeled for a book that just released, Gospel Allegiance. I’m presently writing a book that extends the core “gospel-allegiance model” I develop there to other matters related to salvation. It’s fantastic stuff! Well, at least I am excited about it.




The State of New Testament Studies: Abson Joseph on Petrine Letters

Dr. Abson Joseph is dean of Wesley Seminary (Indiana Wesleyan University). Before his work as dean, Dr. Joseph taught New Testament at IWU for several years, with speciality in the Petrine Epistles.

NKG: Why are you interested in the Petrine Epistles (1 Peter, 2 Peter)?

AJ: The Petrine letters are formative for the way the church should engage society. It is exciting to look at the way the literature and scholarship on these letters have developed over the years.

NKG: Can you give a very brief description of how this discipline has changed over the last 20 years?

AJ: There is a growing commitment to and interest in engaging the Petrine Letters, though some writers continue to treat the letters with prejudice. The application of new methodological approaches has provided fresh ways to understand the message of these texts.

NKG: Can you recommend two books that have been especially important or discipline-shaping in the scholarship on 1-2 Peter, especially in the last 20 years?

AJ: Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005). Jobes’ commentary is one of the most comprehensive, balanced, and helpful treatments of the text of 1 Peter. She addresses the issues in a critical yet accessible way. Ruth Anne Reese, 2 Peter & Jude, THNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007). Reese provides a helpful treatment of 2 Peter that takes seriously the letter’s (canonical) proximity to 1 Peter while paying close attention to its relationship with Jude.

NKG: What else are you up to these days?

AJ: I am researching the role that hospitality plays in the call(s) to holy living throughout Scripture; and, I am also interested in the Gospel of Mark’s characterization of Jesus.

SNTS.jpgNKG: Thanks, Dr. Joseph! If you are interesting in reading what he has to say about the “state of scholarship” on the Petrine letters, check out the book The State of New Testament Studies.