Paul and the Resurrection-Body of Jesus

I have just been informed that there is an interesting debate going on on the website ‘infidels.org’ regarding Paul and the nature of the resurrection-body of Jesus.  The debate is described as follows: ‘Historian Richard Carrier and theology scholar Jake O’Connell debate whether Paul believed that Jesus rose from the dead in the same body that died, or in a new body, leaving his old body behind to rot in the grave’.

The opening statements and ‘first rebuttals’ have been made.  This should prove to be an interesting discussion about an important subject.  Check it out HERE.

Advertisements

New JSNT December issue – and my first major article!

The new JSNT issue (December 2008) has been posted electronically on the Sage website (http://jnt.sagepub.com/current.dtl). I am happy to say that therein you will find my first article in a major journal (which explores a series of allusions to Ps 78 in 2 Thessalonians 3).

I am experiencing some fear and trembling as my article has been given a place alongside some magnates in this issue:

David A. deSilva
Out of our Minds? Appeals to Reason (Logos) in the Seven Oracle of Revelation 2—3
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 123-155.
John W. Marshall
Hybridity and Reading Romans 13
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 157-178.
Nijay Gupta
An Apocalyptic Reading of Psalm 78 in 2 Thessalonians 3
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 179-194.
Jens Schröter
The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony? A Critical Examination of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 195-209.
Craig A. Evans
The Implications of Eyewitness Tradition
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 211-219.
Richard Bauckham
Eyewitnesses and Critical History: A Response to Jens Schröter and Craig Evans
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2008 31: 221-235

Is Q Still a Hypothesis? Francis Watson Asks the Question…

In our weekly New Testament seminar, it was a pleasure to have our own Francis Watson presenting on the Gospels (as he now is working on a large project involve, especially, non-Canonical gospels).  He chose a very interesting topic with the title: ‘Is Q Still a Hypothesis?’.

The Synoptic Problem is neither an area I am well schooled in, nor is it actually an area that I find interesting.  But, Prof. Watson did a good job of making the discussion relevant to a wider NT audience.  There were rumors that Watson was going to criticize the majority-scholarship opinion that Q was a real document and that we have all but laid out what it involved and how it was used as a source.  Watson, though certainly criticizing Q-ists (is there a name for Q groupies?), was, more importantly, making a point about method.  Watson argued that we have simply taken Q as law and have settled for reading the Synoptics as an open and shut case of Q+Mark+some redaction = Matthew and Luke.

Watson’s goal was to show that a hypothesis is something that needs to constantly be tested against the evidence (i.e. Synoptic texts) and is never really going to be historical fact given the materials we have to work with.  In order to jostle Q free from the high place of security in which it stands, Watson looks at how some Matthew and Lukan passages make sense if we perceive them through the eyes of the Luke-knew-Matthew (and Mark) model.  Again, Watson was not saying he absolutely favored the Luke-knew-Matthew model over the Q hypothesis (though it seemed that he was implying so much).  Rather, it was a methodological concern that we have forgotten that Q is just a hypothetical solution.

One of the overriding concerns with the Luke-knew-Matthew theory is that Luke, then, would seem to be doing some strange and sometimes ‘irreverent’ hacking away at parts of Matthew (like the Sermon on the Mount).  But, Watson points out that in order for a new gospel to be written, it must make its mark in terms of fresh perspectives on the gospel-story, distinctive themes, or insightful alternative comparisons.  Also, Luke does, in fact, have some very different emphases than Matthew, and Watson surmises that this may lie behind such ‘unusual’ editing.  Again, Watson is not trying to argue for Like-knew-Matthew over Q.  Rather, his master-argument is that we need to study each passage of the Synoptics with both of these two theories being tested (and others?), and not just settle for one solution that mostly fits and leaving it at that.

I enjoyed when it came to question time, because I knew Dr. William Telford was going to be there and that he would champion the cause of Q!  And he did!  His concern, similar to Kuemmel’s, was that, if Luke really did have Matthew to work from, why so much editing?  Why so many changes?  He especially pointed out the very different features in the early chapters (birth narratives, geneaology) and the passion narratives.  Why deviate so far?  At this point everyone looked at Watson as if to say….’just walk away.’  But, no!,  he in fact had a reasonable answer.  Even though the content of Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives are strikingly different, the frameworks for them are parallel- a similarity that seems extremely unusual if they did not know either one’s.

I really did  not think I was going to benefit much from this discussion, but I did.  Indeed, it made me think more about issues of authorship in Paul’s letters.  In fact, one might write a paper entitled ‘Is Pseudonymity in Ephesians still a hypothesis?’  One might ask – was it ever a hypothesis!?  What I think we can take away from Watson’s cautionary statements applied, mutatis mutandis, to Pauline authorship, is that we must let the hypothesis of ‘this can’t be Paul writing here’ still be a hypothesis and continue to test authenticity as a theory as well – at every passage and statement.  Some have treated it as an open-and-shut case, but it is still just a theory!  Actually, I don’t think Watson would like my comparison here, but I do think his methodological concern is applicable.

Douglas Moo on the authorship of Colossians

I am excited that I just received my copy of DJ Moo’s new Pillar commentary on Colossians and Philemon (Eerdmans, 2008). Having just begun it, I was appreciative of his careful discussion of authorship.

He explains that the broadest issues involve language (vocabulary and style) and theology. Some rely on the problem of hapax legomena, stylistic tendencies that vary from the undisputed letters, especially syntactical variances. Ultimately, Moo points, out, the problem of language is not conclusive because such variety also occurs within the undisputed letters, we must take into account the tone of the letter (a more liturgical tone bringing with it more liturgical style), and the inclusion of the work of an amanuensis. Again, a final decision cannot really be made based on the style or language of Colossians. Moo, again, notes that topic (and the specific issues related to the false teaching) largely dictate the vocabulary and can account for the unique word choices.

The second area, theology, appears to be more critical according to Moo.  One matter, which Moo considers, is the view of Paul himself in the letter.  Colossians appears to view Paul as having a very special place in the mission of the gospel (Col 1.24-25).  Moo is keen on pointing out this is not a unique sort of thing in that we find something strikingly similar in Romans (see 1.5, 9 and Rom. 15.14f.).  I would add that Paul’s own description of himself as a master builder in 1 Cor. 3.10 seems quite a high view of his privileged position, though of course he is arguing that he is just one servant among a team of many.  Again, Moo argues that the theology of the letter is contingent upon the issues raised in the letter – also a reminder that theological themes vary even in the undisputed letters.

It is no surprise that Moo champions authentic Pauline authorship.  In this case, those who doubt genuine pauline participation in the writing are making the harder argument.  Why?  I would say this because of the personal detail found in the letter that makes it seem like the author (if it was not Paul) was fabricating many details which, apart from what would seem like intentional deception, are superfluous.  Moo, finding it hard to accept the argument that early readers would have recognized this as a particular pseudonymous genre, claims that we have no good evidence that pseudonymous letters were acceptable AND we DO have evidence that early church leaders looked down on so-called forgeries.  Additionally, Moo finds it hard to believe that such a letter with ‘a high moral tone, an emphasis on the importance of truthfulness, and a prohibition of lying’ could be seen to be compatible with ‘an intent to deceive about authorship’ (p. 40).

In the end, and this is me (Nijay) speaking, I think that we cannot label any books of the Pauline corpus as pseudo-pauline or deutero-pauline.  The reason for this is simply because we do not have enough literary and/or historical evidence to make such a firm claim.  The most confident historical claim that we can make, with the evidence we have now and in our time, is a label of ‘uncertainty with regard to authorship’.  Some people think the argument ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not work for historical interpretation.  Why not?  Again, it is a matter of working with the evidence we have and also taking into account the fact that, in many instances in the past, truth is often stranger than fiction.  If we can find a way to explain the theology, style, and vocabulary of a letter while still accepting the person wrote it who did and that we have no contemporaries who deny such a claim, on what basis can we gainsay such evidence?  So much of the argumentation against Pauline authorship, especially of 2 Thessalonians and Colossians, is based on speculation that is meant to fit some of the facts (like ostensible historical implausibilities) and to deny others (such as Paul really being ‘in chains’ at the time of writing as in Ephesians).  Those who argue for authenticity are working with all the real evidence we have, taking the real claims (like sender as sender) seriously, and trying to hypothesize a situation that fits this scenario.

In the end, Moo’s arguments are representative of many evangelicals who, with thoughtful reflection and scholarly circumspection, uphold genuine authorship because there just is not enough evidence to the contrary.  For many, it just comes down to how many little problems make up enough of a big problem to tip the scales.  For me, the scales are not tipped in the case of either Ephesians or Colossians.  That is not because I feel very comfortable with labelling them in a category that fits Romans and Galatians.  If a nay-sayer makes the argument, ‘all things being equal’, the evidence weighs on the side of inauthenticity.  I would respond – all things are not equal!  That is the problem!  We don’t know enough the make a negative decision, so we have to go with what we got!

More Greek games!

Today we had another ‘games’ day in Greek class and I chose another game that I thought would be interesting, fun, and review the right material.  It is called kindunos – JEOPARDY!  I designed the game in ways similar to JEOPARDY (J), with categories such as ‘nouns’, ‘verbs’, ‘translations’, ‘vocab’, ‘word jumble’, and ‘wildcard’.  For each of these categories you could choose questions that varied in difficulty from 1pt questions to 2pt to 4pt.  Thus, when a team member who was less confident or skilled was ‘on the hot seat’, he or she could go for an easier question.  It really worked out well.
I did NOT do the format of ‘the answer must be in the form of a question’.  Also, after the question chooser had a chance to guess, the answer was no up for grabs to other teams.  I did not have a good way to decide how to know who ‘buzzed’ in next, so we just did it with one question per team (4 teams of 4 people).

This worked out well because we were able to review a lot of information in a fun way.

Why do I have so many sessions of Greek where we ‘goof off’ and play games?  Well, I am an advocate of learning Greek through multiple means.  We sing, play games, read, etc… My Hebrew teacher used a vantriloquist dummy whose name was ‘Eli’ and Eli didn’t speak English.  Eli would try to tell us stories, and our Prof., Dr. Overland, would have us come up one-by-one and translate.  This kind of reinforcement is crucial to retaining languages.  So, if you try kindunos let me know how it goes!

Notes on PhD Thesis Writing

I have made it a practice to write book reviews (for journals) on as many NT PhD-thesis published monographs as I am able to because it teaches me how to think and write on that level.  Some that I have read are very good and well-worth being published.  Others, sadly, are not up to par.  I am trying to keep notes on the do’s and dont’s of thesis writing, to learn from others’ successes and mistakes.  Here are some notes.

1. Be clear about your original contribution – it is not enough to ‘freshly’ approach a topic.  What does that mean?  You need to be very lucid about how you are advancing the scholarly conversation on the issue you are pursuing?  Is it in new ancient evidence or a related text?  Is it in the methodology you are using?  Be very forthright about this, because I read so many studies thinking, ‘this is not much more than a summary of scholarship with some interesting comments thrown in’.

2. Stay on course – Again, a temptation of many, including myself, is to tangent off and talk about all sorts of interesting stuff that is related or may be impacted by the thesis.  This has a place perhaps at the end of the thesis in a ‘the way ahead’ section, but resist the temptation to rabbit trail.  There is no need to liven up your thesis by wrapping it up in all sorts of tenuously related issues – everyone expects your thesis to be boring.  Welcome to the real world.

3. Form is as important as Content – I tell my supervisor, ‘how can you read these dull and complex theses day in and day out?’  He just smiles, but I know he really loves it when he gets a thesis that states clearly the thesis idea and executes it according to plan.  This involves a very good clear abstract, a well-worded ‘plan of the thesis’ section in the introduction, and lots and lots of good end-of-chapter summaries and summaries between major sections.  When I am reading a thesis, it is often not at one go.  I read it over weeks and maybe months.  A good summary halfway through or so is worthwhile.  I recently read a thesis that had a detailed (100 page) ‘exegetical’ section.  At the end of it, I thought, ‘what in the world was this needed for?’  The reader should never have to ask that question!  Start a major section by saying, ‘because the overall argument of this thesis involves XYZ, we must study ABC to see if DEF helps us understand XYZ..’  Then, at the end of the section, again, a summary – ‘We have looked at ABC in relation to XYZ because it aids in DEF…’  Is this redundant?  YES – from the author’s perspective.  But, often a reader needs these kinds of links and reminders.

4. German quotes – OK, we are required to have international breadth in our research, so we must cite and interact with German and French lit.  But, do we need to quote the German without an English translation?  My question would be, why?  The only reasons I can see why we would quote the German is because (1) we feel the wording of it is very important to the argument or (2) the German is rhetorically more appealing (i.e. a good sound-bite).  There are those, I guess, who feel if a reader does not know German, he/she is out of luck.  That’s just snobby, in my opinion.  Are we saying we don’t want MA and undergrads to read our published theses?  Are we that elitist?  Well, I think we can have it both ways if we do this:  Keep the German quotes in, but have an appendix in the back that has English translations of all German quotes.

OK, well I will have more thoughts (or rantings), but these are the ones fresh in my mind.

Peter Kreeft, Evil, and the Lord of the Rings

A commenter on an earlier post drew my attention to the Maclaurin Institute which is a ‘learning context’ for all sorts of theological interests.  They hold lectureships and have speakers from various disciplines come to present a piece of research.  These lectures are downloadable (in audio) and one particular speaker caught my attention: Peter Kreeft.

April 4th, 2003 – Peter Kreeft
10 Uncommon Insights About Evil in the Lord of the Rings

I am a fan of some of Kreeft’s work and I look forward to listening to this.

For more lectures from various theologians including Richard Hays and Stanley Hauerwas, see HERE.