Need Help with Research on Paul and Suffering

Currently in my thesis research I am looking at Paul’s perspective on and theology of suffering. I was hoping any of you out there could offer bibliographic items that are seminal or highly recommended on this. What I have been working with so far is:

Jervis, L.A. At the Heart of the Gospel (2007).

Gorman, M.J. Cruciformity (2001).

Smith, Barry D. Paul’s Seven Explanations of the Suffering of the Righteous (2000).

Harvey, A.E. Renewal Through Suffering (1996).

Bloomquist, G. The Function of Suffering in Philippians (1993).

Pate, C.M. The Glory of Adam and the Afflictions of the Righteous: Pauline Suffering in Context (1993)

Hafemann, S. Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit (1990).

1981 Suffering and Martyrdom in the NT (FS for G.M. Styler)

I also plan on reading some Moltmann.  What else can anyone recommend (especially with a view towards Paul in particular or NT in general)?

Newly Posted Paper Abstracts for Upcoming British NT Conference

On, more paper abstracts have appeared from the various seminar groups.  I will highlight a few:

Jesus Seminar

Justin Meggitt (University of Cambridge)
‘How did Jesus cure?’

Given the historical likelihood that Jesus of Nazareth was believed by many of his contemporaries to have been a successful healer, how did he effect such cures? It has become common in NT studies to avoid such questions by either declaring them inadmissible or providing supernaturalist explanations which would be unacceptable in any other discipline and are not usually considered appropriate when looking at comparable figures with reputations as healers in antiquity. In recent years scholarship has tended to focus increasingly on how Jesus healed the social experience of illness, whilst largely avoiding the awkward question of why recipients also believed that they had been physically cured of disease. It is true that a number of scholars, often when providing justifications for accepting the historicity of the healing traditions, do venture some non-supernaturalist explanations, alluding to possible psychosomatic factors, but these remarks, although often quite central to their arguments, are inchoate, ill thought through, and surprisingly anecdotal. However, by engaging with more recent anthropological literature we may be able to go some way to providing a more plausible understanding of the processes that led contemporaries to make this assessment about Jesus.

In the ‘Use and Influence of the NT’ seminar note:

John Lyons (University of Bristol)
‘What is Reception History and How Should it Affect Biblical Studies in the Academy?’
In this paper an attempt is made to discuss two prominent, but supposedly separate, modes of discourse within Biblical scholarship — ‘Historical Criticism’ and ‘Reception History’ – and to examine the exact nature of their inter-relatedness. The former finds the meaning of these texts in a virtual encounter with an imaginary audience constructed by the scholar/theorist (i.e. the ‘what they meant’ to the kind of audiences envisaged by much of current historical criticism) whereas the latter sees the meaning of these texts in a visible encounter with a real audience (i.e. the “what they have meant” to the specific individuals and groups whose recorded responses form the core subject of much of the history of exegesis). Historical critical approaches will be illustrated here by the account of the person and actions of Joseph of Arimathea in Mark’s Gospel and its meaning for the otherwise unknown audience constructed by historical critical scholars. Reception History will be illustrated by the actual response to the Markan account of Joseph preserved in the Gospel of Matthew. The paper will go on to argue, however, that the role of the scholar/theorist in the construction of the imaginary audiences of the historical critics inevitably means that such methods can only be understood as a specific sub-set of ‘Reception History’, one in which the real response of the contemporary critic is enfolded within and re-categorised as the imagined response of the original audience(s). The paper concludes by discussing how an acceptance of this re-description of our discipline might affect the kinds of academic activities associated with Biblical Studies, here primarily the teaching of that subject to undergraduates.

And, in the Acts seminar,

Dr Steve Walton (London School of Theology)
‘Trying Paul or Trying Rome? Judges and Accused in the Roman Trials of Paul in Acts’This paper asks who is really on trial in Luke’s presentation of the trials of Paul before Roman judges in Acts: Paul or the Roman empire. It has been noted that in the trial of Jesus in the Gospels, especially John, there is an undercurrent of Pilate and the Jewish leadership bring on trial, rather than Jesus. After considering the trial of Jesus in Luke 23, this paper explores the Pauline Roman trials in Acts before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17), Felix (Acts 23-24) and Festus (Acts 25-26) from this angle. I argue that Luke gives a picture of the empire’s servants which is rather more mixed than has been understood previously by both those who argue that Luke is presenting an apology for Christianity to the empire or for the empire to Christians.

Tyndale Fellowship NT Conference (Summary and Review)

This year’s NT study group for the Tyndale Fellowship (Cambridge) recently ended and it was a delightful time in an intimate setting with a good mixture of research students, scholars, and other interested parties.

The theme was “Peter in the New Testament” with a view towards the Peter of the NT epistles, the Peter of the Gospels, and even apocryphal perspectives on Peter.

Recognized scholars who offered papers included Richard Bauckham, Markus Bockmuehl, Michael Bird, and Tomas Bokedal.  Other scholars (that I recognized) in attendance included Howard Marshall, Peter Head, Simon Gathercole (for a session or two), Andrew Clarke, David Wenham, Peter Oakes, and Steve Walton, among others.

Richard Bauckham made a contribution and advancement beyond his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by turning his attention to the Mark of the second Gospel.  Though it was a common name in antiquity, our extant evidence shows few Jews went by that name.  Thus, if we surmise that the Gospel-writer Mark was a Jew, that narrows the field as to whether it is the same Mark as we find in other parts of the NT.  This is only one bit of his argument, but a useful one.

Mike Bird gave the public NT lecture on how to conceive of the relationship between theology and Christian origins.  He attempts to use the master concept of ‘New Covenant’ to capture the umbrella theme that can associate a number of important aspects of Christianity.

Markus Bockmuehl reassessed what appears to be a common consensus among interpreters of the Pseudo-Clementines that Peter opposes a Simon Magus, the latter name being a cipher for the Apostle Paul.  Markus has been working hard to deconstruct the common assumption among modern scholars that Paul and Peter were antagonistic.  This was just one small chip at that massive rock of an assumption.  Markus showed that the so-called evidence for linking Simon Magus to Paul in the early church is slimmer than we once assumed (though not entirely absent).

In terms of the themes and tenor of the papers overall, in 1 Peter many of the paper presenters were interested in the ‘theology’ of the letter, whether in terms of the scriptural framework, the origin of the theology of suffering, the theology of proclamation, and (my paper) the rhetorical purpose(s) of the cultic language.  We all felt the papers were helpful, but I think we need to explore further how to mine the theology of a short letter from an author that we have a hard time reconstructing (even if it is Peter).  There are so many more unknowns here than with Paul, I think.

In terms of 2 Peter, all of the papers in this area were on authenticity or reception history of the letter.  That goes to show that this is still a hot issue among evangelicals, even if the wider scholarly society has closed the book on it.  We are in need of more work on this.

As for the Peter of the Gospels, little was said about this.  We could have used more work on this subject.

Overall I had a wonderful time in the beautiful city of Cambridge.  The college we stayed at (Newnham) was glorious.  The food was impressive.  Best of all, it was a good environment for discussion.  I had some chats with David Wenham, Mike Bird, and Howard Marshall.  All from different theological camps, so to speak, it was a beautiful thing to see the unity of purpose and passion for the sake of the gospel.

For those who feel as if the conferences are not ‘on their topic’, keep in mind that diversification is a good thing.  I am studying Paul, and I still got a whole lot out of the conference.  Also, it is fun to go to a conference where the spirit of the gathering is one of worship to God and prayerful reflection.  This, I think, is helped by David Wenham’s pious disposition and humility.  Next year the theme, I believe, will probably be NT ethics.  I hope no Christian NT researcher will feel this too peripheral for their studies!

NT PhD Students and Publishing Articles: A Caveat

If you are doing a NT phd it should come as no surprise that job hunting is a lot easier if you have published an article or two.  I am nearing the completion of my second year, so attempting to catch the eye of potential hirers is on my radar.  I have pondered what from my research to try to publish in journal form.

At the recent Tyndale Fellowship conference (which I will blog about in a few days when I have more time) I received some very important advice from a trustworthy source.  TAKE HEED OF WHAT FOLLOWS…

This gentleman (who will remain nameless so he does not get bombarded with questions) cautioned me about publishing part of my thesis in a journal.  The advice is important because this man is also on a committee that decides to accept or reject theses for a major NT monograph series.  Here is his reasoning.  If you choose to publish in a journal a key part of your research, it lessens the original value of the thesis as a monograph for publication as a book.  It is like giving away the plot of a movie in the trailer.  If you choose to publish a chapter of your thesis, it may make your thesis less marketable and thus unpublishable as a whole!  So, what do you do?  This man had a couple bits of advice

1.  If you do choose to publish a bit of your thesis in a journal, choose a very minor bit – definitely not the ‘key’ chapter of your thesis and not the most original part.

2. Try to publish a part of your research that you weren’t able to fit into your thesis.

Thus, in your ambitions to publish, be careful you do not diminish the publishability of your thesis by offering your thesis in smaller form in an article.  Best to publish on something associated with but not within your thesis research.

Tips on Building Your NT Commentary Collection

When I worked at Christian Book Distributors and Hendrickson Publishers, I got great discounts on academic books of all kinds, but I ended up spending quite a bit on commentaries (which I do not regret). Most (in fact almost all) seminary students cannot afford to buy several commentaries, so I have seen people like Don Carson make a list of the best reference resources if you only have one commentary to buy per NT book. Here I humbly offer my favs.

NB: As for the all-in-one commentary of OT/NT, I am partial to the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (ed. Dunn and Rogerson). You get great balanced sane comments from some of the best exegetes. For evangelicals you can hardly do better than the New Bible Commentary (IVP). Both have been helpful to me. On occasion I consult the Oxford Bible Commentary, especially on Paul’s epistles. For the Oxford commentary, Bauckham does Revelation, Judith Lieu on the Johannines, Rainer Riesner on James, Jerome Murphy O’Connor on COlossians, Dunn on Ephesians, G. Stanton on Galatians, John Barclay on 1 Corinthians, Loveday Alexander on Acts, and Lester Grabbe on Leviticus (among many others).

So, here goes…I will try to limit my recommendations to 1-2 commentaries per book of NT.

Matthew – I have found Hagner’s WBC to be top-notch in terms of detailed analysis and theological insight. I have not had time to interact with R.T. France’s new NICNT commentary (2007), but I imagine it rivals Hagner.

Mark – I confess that I have not worked much in Mark, but Morna Hooker’s BNTC work has been very useful to me. Also, Craig Evans has done the latter half of Mark for the WBC (2001) and I trust his work is sound and cogent.

Luke – One need not look further than Bock’s work (Baker), though Joel Green’s NICNT (1997) is really impressive theologically as he has done so much research on the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus according to the Gospels.

John – I have always been a big fan of Don Carson’s Pillar commentary, but Bauckham is working on the NIGTC which I think will be the one to top them all. For Jewish and Greco-ROman contextual comparison, definitely check out Keener’s two-volume from Hendrickson, but it is probably too expensive to just go out and buy.

Acts – I have long felt that there are no really good works on Acts commentary-wise, partly because we need a good 3-volume commentary that can really dig in and nothing like that has appeared in commentary form. In terms of what is out there, I am quite happy with Witherington (1998) and I like Richard Longenecker’s Expositor’s volume on Acts. I am excitied about Loveday Alexander’s forthcoming commentary, but the Black’s series is not known for length. Nevertheless, I think it will achieve much. [Incidently, I had a chat recently with Steve Walton who is working on the WBC of Acts; he recommended Beverly Gaventa’s short commentary on Acts for the Abingdon series as a must-have]

Romans – Dear me, this is tough. Despite the protest of some, I think Dunn has offered a great lengthy detailed study that is all around sane and worthwhile even for those hesitant about the New Perspective. To balance Dunn out, perhaps Moo is useful. Of course you should make a trip to the library to consult Barth, Kasemann, Wright, Barrett, and Jewett.

1 Corinthians – hands down Gordon Fee (NICNT). To supplement theologically Richard Hays (Interpretation) and Thiselton (NIGTC) who also will give great history of interpretation and hermeneutical issues.

2 Corinthians – here, as with Acts, I think we are still awaiting a magisterial commentary. In terms of what is out there, Murray Harris (NIGTC) and Hafemann (NIVAC) make the greatest contributions all around. I wish someone in the apocalyptic-interpretation-of-Paul family (Lou Martyn, Doug Campbell, John Barclay, Beverly Gaventa, Charles Cousar, etc…) would write a good commentary on 2 Cor. because of how one deals with the language of death in the earlier chapters. Oh well. Make due with Harris and Hafemann… BTW – David deSilva will be working on 2 Corinthians for a new series and that should be quite useful.

Galatians – For detailed exegesis I would probably consult R. Longenecker (WBC), but he does not interact with the New Perspective much. Actually, Richard Hays has a Galatians commentary in the New Interpreter’s Bible Series (Vol. 11) which is not detailed, but really excellent on theological interpretation. I look forward (long down the road) to NT Wright’s Two Horizons commentary.

Ephesians – Here Andrew Lincoln (WBC) and Peter O’Brien (Pillar) are especially good. IF I could only get one, I would go for WBC. We expect an NIGTC volume eventually from Max Turner – that will set a new standard, I think!

Philippians – There are so many good commentaries here. I would say I am repeatedly drawn to Fee (NICNT), but for a briefer guide try Bockmuehl (Black’s). On theological interpretation, definitely interact with Stephen Fowl (Two Horizons).

Colossians – Once again, I like Dunn (NIGTC) for his depth on a variety of issues and his care and caution with authorship issues. Otherwise, O’Brien (WBC) is solid on most exegetical matters.

1-2 Thessalonians – There are a number of excellent things in these books. Certainly look at Charles Wanamaker (NIGTC) who is great on the rhetoric of these letters. On theology and eschatology, Beale’s brief IVPNT contribution is good, and on the same issues so is Beverly Gaventa (Interpretation).

Pastorals – I confess that I have not done a lot of work here, but Gordon Fee’s brief NIBC (Hendrickson) is a solid evangelical (paul = author) take on the texts as well as good on theology. I also like Howard Marshall (ICC) for detailed exegesis though he takes an allonymous view (someone other than Paul wrote them). I would also consult Luke Timothy Johnson’s Anchor volume.

Hebrews – without a doubt I endorse David deSilva’s socio-rhetorical work (Eerdmans) for overall consistent interpretation of the letter; in terms of a more detailed analysis, Craig Koester (Anchor).

James – honestly I have done little to nothing in James, but I would trust Doug Moo’s (Pillar) work and also Luke Timothy Johnson (Anchor).

1 Peter – Again, lots to work with here. I definitely recommend Paul Achtemeier’s (Hermeneia) commentary, though it is in a format that is less than ideal and quite expensive. Also, Karen Jobes’ relatively recent BEC commentary is superb all around (and a must-have for pastors). The new work by Joel Green (Two Horizons) is a must-have as well; especially the appended items on theology and identity.

2 Peter – I know very little on this, but Peter Davids seems quite capable (Pillar, I think). Same for Jude.

1-2-3 John – This is tough because I think there is much more to find in the johannine than has been explored in the existing commentaries. I would say Howard Marshall (NICNT) offers trustworthy exegesis.

Revelation – hands down the award goes to Beale (NIGTC). Aune (WBC) has some great stuff as well. The new Black’s commentary by Ian Boxall would be great for preachers who want a distillation.

I’m sure others will disagree with me here or there, but this is my take, whatever it is worth.

Evoking Scripture: An Interview with Steve Moyise

Not too long ago I posted my own review of Steve Moyise’s excellent reflection on scholarly approaches to biblical intertextuality (i.e., Old in New) [see HERE].  I asked Steve if he would answer some questions about his background, current issues in intertextuality, how this kind of research affects the church, and also future directions for the area of study.  He was kind enough to agree to do an interview on my blog.  By the way, I was recently at the Tyndale Fellowship New Testament Conference (Cambridge, UK) and a number of papers dealt with 1 Peter’s use of scripture.  I told some of these students to immediately go out and buy Steve’s book because it is an invaluable resource.  Without further ado, the interview.

QUESTION #1: What got you interested in intertextuality and studying the relationship between the Old and New Testaments?

My interest in OT in NT stems from an interest in biblical interpretation and how the Bible is used to support different ethical and theological positions. I was specifically led to literary theories of intertextuality as a way of exploring how texts interact with one another in the book of Revelation.


QUESTION #2: How biblical scholars refer to what has been traditionally called by Christians the ‘Old Testament’ is a matter of debate – Hebrew Bible, Jewish Scriptures, Old Testament, Scripture, etc… Is there a good term that we can all use, or do you think the diversity of expression is unvoidable?  What do you use?

Though Hebrew Bible is becoming popular, it is misleading to speak of the NT authors using the Hebrew Bible as most of the quotations are drawn from Greek texts. Indeed, some authors (Luke) may not have known any Hebrew texts. In general I prefer Jewish scriptures but I also use OT on the basis that most readers understand the body of literature to which it refers.

QUESTION #3: Could you recommend four books for someone to read to get into the study of the New Testament interaction with the Old Testament (with at least one source dating before 1980)?

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1948- ) marked a turning point in the study of the OT in NT. The pioneers to use this material were scholars like Earle Ellis (Paul), Barnabas Lindars (NT), Krister Stendahl (Matthew) and Anthony Hanson (NT, Paul). For beginners, Lindars (NT Apologetic, SCM, 1961) is still a good read.

The publication of Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (Yale, 1989) by Richard Hays, marks the beginning of applying more sophisticated literary approaches to Paul and is essential to understand the modern debate. A useful critique of this “sophistication” comes from Chris Stanley (Arguing with Scripture, T&T Clark, 2004) who focuses on what Paul’s congregations might have understood. A fourth book is a recent collection edited by Stanley Porter called Hearing the OT in the New (Eerdmans, 2006), which offers a good introductory survey to the modern discussion (I wrote the endorsement on the back).

QUESTION #4: Why did you decide to write
Evoking Scripture?  What are you trying to get across?

My main point is that the subject lends itself to a variety of approaches and each sheds light that others miss. In the various case studies, I aim to demonstrate this while delving into the various literary and theological presuppositions that often have a considerable influence on scholarly writing. If there is one point that I want to make, it is that no one approach has all the answers. In principle, there is no reason why one shouldn’t focus on the author, the reader or the text itself. As long as one recognizes the limitations of each approach.






QUESTION #5: On a different level, it is interesting that some missionary organizations and translation societies go to a people group that has previously not had the Bible translated into their language and produce only the New Testament (thinking they want to give the world the New Testament, because, for time’s sake, it is the core of the gospel and much shorter than the Old Testament).  How does it affect the literary-theological (setting aside the ability to better understand the historical background) interpretation of the NT for people who do not have the OT?  Is it still understandable?  What exactly is at stake with no Scripture to Evoke?  What is lost?  (I am not asking you to critique these translation societies, but to engage in the question of what is lost when a reader cannot detect the Scriptural themes and cues).

I believe the recipients of the NT documents had varying levels of scriptural knowledge (Stanley’s point) and so a good deal of understanding is possible. The authors often quote a text and then explain how they wish the readers to understand it. But having said that, it is undoubtedly like hearing only one half of a phone conversation. For example, there is a sustained engagement with Abraham in Galatians 3-4 and Romans 4. It is hard to understand what readers would make of this if they have never heard of Abraham. I once described this as concentrating on only the loudest instruments of an orchestra. You would get the “tune” but miss the subtlety that makes it the composition that it is.

QUESTION #6: What are you currently reading (even for fun!)?

For fun, I read detective novels – lots of murders and unseemly behaviour. For academic reading, I have 3 monographs to review over the summer. The topics are Jesus and the Gentiles, the use of Deut 30 in Rom 10, and the tradition history of Isa 6:9-10.

QUESTION #7: For students interested in moving into the study of the Old in the New or biblical intertextuality, can you recommend (broadly) some underexplored issues?

Work that seeks to combine Hellenistic and Jewish modes of persuasion (rhetoric) would make a valuable contribution. I have recently reviewed Strazicich’s book on Joel’s Use of Scripture and the Scripture’s Use of Joel (Brill, 2007) and many other books could similarly be studied. There remain important questions about the nature of the LXX textual tradition and the textual criticism of the NT. Stanley’s question of what a typical house church in the first century would have made of quotations/allusions is important.

QUESTION #8: As a scholar, what has been an area of study you have been interested in and read literature in, but have not had the time to publish in?  Put otherwise, what are your secondary or tertiary interests?


The answer to this is probably governed by the modules I teach at Chichester University, such as Jesus and the gospels and the NT Church. I wrote an introductory book on the former with Clive Marsh but might do something more academic on Mark in the future. A good text book on the different forms of church in the NT would be valuable but I don’t think I am the person to write it.

Is Jimmy Dunn an ‘evangelical’??

I came across an interesting ‘scholar profile’ in Epworth Review (2000) of James D G Dunn (written by friend Graham Stanton). One of the things Stanton briefly discussed is Dunn’s relationship with evangelicals. He asked Dunn if he is an evangelical. Dunn neither denied being one nor claimed the title. Dunn, as the article made clear, abhors labels like ‘evangelical’. That does not mean he does not have any common interests. He ended up phrasing his response in terms of how ‘welcome’ he would be among evangelicals. He said that the evangelicals on the most conservative side are quite hostile towards him. But, he said that he would probably feel welcome among the faculty at a place like Fuller.

I have much respect and admiration for Prof. Dunn and my few conversations with him have been pleasant. When I told him I was interested in cultic metaphors in Paul, we ended up talking very practically about what this means for the life of the church and the view of ordination and priesthood (Dunn is very concerned with the modern clergy/laity divide in many denominations). I am disappointed with conservative evangelicals who treat Dunn like a heretic. Many of these people, I fear, are doing damage to the church by attacking a man who takes the Bible very seriously and orders his life according to the gospel in the best way he knows how. If the evangelical academic community is so heavily critical of Dunn, why do they keep training up seminary students who go and study at Durham (like me 🙂 )!

So, is Jimmy Dunn an evangelical (according to American standards)? Probably not (or if so, at the very outskirts). But I think he should be treated as a great model of the scholar who wants to see the church conform to the gospel. He should be treated, I think, by evangelicals as a kindred churchman.