Excellent Christian Academic Material (Free) on ITUNES-U

So, if you have a long commute/walk to work (as I do) you are always looking for something to listen to on the way – especially anything free.  Well, a couple of days ago I stumbled on a goldmine – itunes-University.  If you have itunes (either for Mac or PC; free downloadable program to listen to music), you can click on the iTunes store and find the itunes-U icon on the top left.  What is it?  Several universities have uploaded lectures, classes, chapel messages, university info, special seminars, colloquials, conference recordings, etc.. – and they are almost all free (everything I have looked at has been free).  Though the university selection so far is not massive, it includes: Depaul, Duke, MIT, Northeastern U, Stanford, Texas A & M, UC-Berkeley, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Yale (among others).  Topics include politics, history, business, literature, media, law, philosophy, art, and religion (and more).

For those of you interested in biblical studies, there are some great downloads. I recommend:

-The Carmichael-Walling Lectures from Abilene Christian University which includes lectures by Abraham Malherbe, Wayne Meeks, and Margaret Mitchell.

– The Kenneth W. Clark Lectures from Duke which include a two-part series from Dale Allison Jr. on The Historical Jesus and the Theological Jesus.

– A NT Colloquium from Fuller Theological Seminary which includes lectures by Robert Morgan on ‘Jesus in NT Theology’

-A series of lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary by D.A. Caron on the ‘New Perspective on Paul’

On a more ‘pastoral’ level, I have also enjoyed some material from Seattle Pacific University which includes discussions on biblical ethics from Richards Hays, an engagement on modern Christianity in a ‘post-Christian world’ by William Willimon, and numerous talks on Scripture (and Jesus, experience, church) by Robert Wall.  Duke has chapel messages, some by OT scholar Ellen Davis, others by theologian Stanley Hauerwas.

Did I mention all of this is free?

If others have found good stuff on iTunes U related to NT/biblical studies, please let me know and I will announce it here (and probably download it for myself!).

2008 British New Testament Society Conference (Durham University)

If you have not already heard, this years BNTS conference will take place at Durham University (September) at St. John’s College. The official website is ntgateway.com/bnts/.

The webpage has recently been revamped (and looks a lot better now!) and the paper titles of the four plenary speakers have been posted:

Professor John M. G. Barclay
‘Two Versions of Grace: Romans 9-11 and the Wisdom of Solomon’
Professor Loveday Alexander
‘The Myth of the Imprisoned God: Classical Intertextualities in the Acts of the Apostles’
Professor Dale Martin
‘Angels, Demons and Paul’

Dr Eddie Adams
‘The Earliest Christian Meeting Places’

_____________________________

These are all very exciting issues and we are privileged to have four speakers since the conference normally has only three.

Also, call for papers is open. Note that, due to the inclusion of a four plenary speaker, there will be no simultaneous short papers. Also, a ‘Catholic Epistles’ seminar group has been added.

Another Great Theological Bookstore! In York (England)!

In a recent post I mentioned a great used bookstore for theological books in Cambridge (England; Galloway & Porter). A comment was made by Andrew Bourne that I should check out another bookstore for theological books in York (which is not far from Durham where I live). Well, it just happened that I was going to York the very next day, and I did make it to BARBICAN BOOKS (not far from the Shambles). Well, Andrew was right! It had quite a good selection of commentaries and some monographs. The prices were not as attractive as I had hoped, but I did find a good deal. I picked up one book – a commentary on Philippians by A. Plummer (1919) for £2. Not bad! Thanks Andrew!

If you are ever in Cambridge (England)…

I am in Cambridge (right now at the Tyndale House) visiting David Nystrom (current PhD student at Cantab; MATR alum of Durham). Yesterday, we went book shopping in the city. After a quick stop at the Cambridge University Press shop (did you know they have the SNTS in paperback?), we went to a very special ship: Galloway & Porter LTD. They have shelves and shelves of clearance price biblical monographs and the like. I picked up three NT monographs for ₤6-8 each! If you are ever in Cambridge, find out where G & P’s is, but be warned – the prices are too good to resist!

The Philippians Debate

Certainly anyone acquainted with Romans scholarship is aware of the perennial problem of determining the purpose of the letter (last will and testament, conflict resolution, practice speech for Jerusalem, ambassadorial letter, compendium of Christian doctrine, etc…).  contrast this with, let’s say, 1 Corinthians: we know how Paul knew of the problems and we basically know what problems they had.  But, what about Philippians?  Though much, much shorter than 1 Corinthians and Romans, its purpose (and even its provenance) is a bit of a mystery.  Is it a warning letter about opponents (3.2ff)?  Is it about community and unity (especially as it is addressed to the church leadership and Euodia and Syntyche are called out)?  Is it mostly just a ‘thanks’ for the gift?  Is it mostly a commendation for Epaphroditus – job well done, but this guy ain’t doin’ so well…?  Is it more or less an update on his situation?  (There seems to be more plots in here than an episode of LOST!)  Morna Hooker has recently floated the idea that Philippians may be a record of Paul’s gospel-message in light of the possibility of his demise  – not unlike some theories about Romans (as she admits).  But, I think that choosing just one of these is myopic and arguing for all at the same time is unhelpful.

There is, I think, a meta-theme that can contain all of these – ‘the faithfulness of God and the plea for a renewed faithfulness to him.’  It seems that Paul can rejoice because of the Philippians because they have been faithful to God and to him.  Even in times of difficulty and affliction, they persevered.  But, a number of issues started to chip away at their loyalty.  Outside opposition became more disconcerting and questions about their religious practices became harder to answer.  Inner factions (or divisive tendencies) began a rift in their cohesion.  And, perhaps the straw that broke the camels back – the APOSTLE PAUL is in prison and almost certainly going to die.  THE GOSPEL AGENDA HAS BEEN COMPROMISED.  The Philippians thought to themselves – what have we gotten ourselves into?  This train has de-railed.  They knew the Christ-story – his suffering, death, and resurrection.  If they believed in him, they could join in following a new Lord of Glory.  But…now what?

Paul’s response was on several levels.  First of all, his imprisonment did not hinder the progress of the gospel-mission.  In fact, it propelled it in unimaginable ways.  Second, there is no PLAN B.  The story of Christ (his suffering, death, resurrection) was still part of the plan.  In fact, it was the plan – but the Philippian believers (as well as Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus) had to not just enter into the story, but re-live it personally huper Christou (for Christ’s sake/on behalf of Christ; 1.29).

Paul’s imprisonment still confirms God’s faithfulness.  Their persecution does not hinder the gospel.  Even the preaching at Paul’s expense does not hinder it!  But Paul continually reminds them that God’s faithfulness is only perceptive to the trained eye (Phil 3.3).  S. Fowl underscores Paul’s repeated use of phroneo in Philippians which refers to the appropriate mindset, attitude, perspective, worldview, outlook, perception, epistemology, etc…  What the world sees as a corpse, Paul sees as a sacrifice (2.17).  What the world sees as dimwitedness, Paul sees as light (2.15).  What the world sees as utterly weak, Paul sees as inexhaustively powerful (3.8-11).

I am sure debates will continue regarding Paul’s opponents (whether real or hypothetical), his attitude towards death, his authorship/transmission of the Christ-hymn, the literary integrity of the letter, the meaning of exegetical puzzles (like the ones whose ‘god is their belly’, 3.19), etc…But, I hope some interpreters will continue to take a step back and try to get an overall picture of the letter.  This is my contribution to the ‘Philippians debate’.

Scholarship on Romans (a short list)

I would like to continue offering suggestions for reading scholarship in Paul’s letters with a view especially towards those who (like me) are looking for a list of the most useful (well-written) pieces. In this book (Romans) in particular, I am sure my list will vary quite a lot from someone else’s. Offer it, here, just as one man’s advice.

Where to begin?

Good question. I know of no really excellent short introductions to Romans, but a few things are on the right track. First, Doug Moo’s Encountering the Book of Romans is well-written and the EBS series from Baker is geared towards students with a very text-book-like presentation. Also, Jimmy Dunn has a short commentary in the ‘People’s Bible Commentaries’ series (2001).

Introduction to Critical Scholarship

Perhaps I don’t even need to mention the frequently cited Romans Debate (ed. Donfried) which contains well-known essays on the background, theology, and structure of Romans from a plethora of important scholars: Dunn, F. Watson, R. Jewett, Bruce, Wedderburn, and more. Also, one might add to this the collection of essays in honor of Gordon Fee entitled Romans and the People of God (eds. Soderlund and Wright; 1999) which is more exegetical and theological in nature, but offers remarks on Romans from a number of eminent scholars. More recently, we have an invaluable contribution by Mark Reasoner entitled Romans in Full Circle which traces the history of interpretation of Romans ‘from Origen to Augustine, Abelard and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, and on beyond Barth, back to holistic, communal, and narrative-based readings in the style of Origen’ – so the backcover summary goes… In any case, a must-read. One may add Das’s new Solving the Romans Debate which argues for a purely Gentile implied reader – well defended argument, but perhaps the title is a bit too presumptuous! Further back in time, consider reading Wedderburn’s The Reasons for Romans (1988, I think) which argues that there is probably no one reason for Romans, but a cluster of purposes. Consider also N.T. Wright’s Climax of the Covenant.

Commentaries

Well, there are probably more commentaries on Romans than there are on any one book in history. So, I will be very selective!

Philology: Cranfield’s ICC is still a standard for excellence in word studies and comparison with ancient sources, thought Fitzmyer (Anchor) is also good on this.

Theology: Kaesemann is one of the most influential interpreters of Romans and his work has a great impact on scholars in the field even still. I would also include Dunn’s two-volume WBC here as well as N.T. Wright’s New Interpreter’s Bible commentary.

Social Issues: Here, though not a commentary, I would draw attention to F. Watson’s latest revision of his Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles (2007; see below). Also, Jewett’s new Romans for the Hermeneia (and Dunn).

Other: I have also found useful P. Stuhlmacher’s Paul’s Letter to the Romans which is a collection of essays that form a commentary-like book, and, Leander Keck’s Romans for the small Abingdon series. I eagerly await S.E. Porter’s short commentary on Romans for Sheffield Phoenix (July 08).

Monographs

I am sure there are many great published theses out there, but I find so many of them myopic and overly dense.  Call me picky, but I only offer here a few

J. Ross Wagner, Herald of the Good News: Isaiah and Paul in Concert in the Letter to the Romans (2003).  Articulate and basically persuasive on the idea that Paul intentionally joined together with the prophet in thinking through and dialoguing with God’s people.

Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles (2007) – Important revision of his well-known monograph that deals with Paul’s attempt to consolidate a common Christian identity between Jewish and Gentile Christians who are in conflict in Rome.  Watson sees this unification taking place over and against allegiance to the synagogue.  Though not exclusively focused on Romans, the majority of Watson’s tome is directed towards it.

Stephen Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (2004).  A book both witty and surprisingly exhaustive on matters pertaining to Paul and the law without being exhausting!  He covers Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley in 80 pages and then moves on to Wrede, Schweitzer, Montefiore, Schoeps, Sanders, Kuemmel, Stendahl, Bultmann, Wilckens, Drane, Huebner, Raisanen, N.T. Wright, Dunn, T. Donaldson, Cranfield, Schreiner, Thielman, Seifrid, Laato, Thuren, Martyn, and J. Becker!

To what end ‘theological exegesis’?

I have, for sometime now, wondered whence this ‘new school’ came that promotes ‘theological exegesis’.  It interests me because some of my favorite NT scholars (Joel Green, Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, M. Bockmuehl; M.J. Gorman) endorse this agenda (now represented by a journal – the Journal of Theological Intepretation).  But, what is ‘theological exegesis’?  I actually had an opportunity to ask one of the above mentioned scholars about this and he said that it was not a very concrete discipline with clear parameters and tools.  I was happy, then, to get something quotable from an article I stumbled upon.  These are the words of Stephen Fowl

‘The practice of interpreting scripture theologically is determined by the purposes for which Christians are called to read and embody scripture.  Theological interpretation of the Bible is not determined by any particular method but by the goal of growing into ever deeper communion with the triune God and with others.  This means that as Christians and Christian communities struggle to interpret and embody scripture in the contexts in which they live, they will be judged successful to the extent that they faithfully live and worship before God’ (‘Knowing your Context’, Interpretation 2002: 45).

I think this new school of theological exegetes stems from a concern that NT scholarship has lost its steam  -enter Bockmuehl’s Seeing the Word.  As this school grows in size and influence, more pressure will be put on commentary writers to answer tough questions about modern application and modern contextualizing of the scriptural message.  This is already seen in the Two Horizons commentary series, though I don’t quite feel like the ‘commentary’ portion is that different than other series’ such as Pillar or NICNT; consider the thoroughgoing theological exegesis of Gordon Fee regardless of what series he is writing for!  Truly a ‘scholar on fire’ (a term used in the FS for him ed. by Soderlund and Wright).  I am happy with the contributions of those who promote ‘theological exegesis’, but I am still waiting for a bit more clarity on its manner of approach before I see it as ‘the way forward’.  I am happy, though, that such scholars in this camp hail from places such as Princeton, Yale, Durham (England), and Oxford.  It, perhaps, has never been easier to be an evangelical hoping to find a voice in the larger dialog.   I am particularly fortune to be at Durham where we have at least three scholars involved in ‘theological exegesis’  – Francis Watson, Walter Moberly, and Stephen Barton (my supervisor).  They certainly do not agree on everything.  But, one gets a sense that at our weekly NT seminar, it is because of people like these that the Q & A is not just about the ancient world.  Is it coincidence that many (if not all) of those who are in the ‘theological exegesis’ camp are also heavily invested in issues of New Testament morality and modern gender, political, ecological, and sexual ethics?  I think not.