Michael Bird’s ARE YOU THE ONE WHO IS TO COME?

Mike Bird, who is now exiting Scotland and going back to Australia, has really risen in the academic ranks due to his amazing productivity, incisive reading eye, and passion for biblical theology.  In recent years, he has done quite a bit of article and book writing on Paul, but in this book, Are You the One Who is to Come? (Baker, ’09), he addresses ‘The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question’ (which happens to be the subtitle).

The essential issue Bird is addressing is whether the disciples and early church understood Jesus as messiah on their own and/or in later reflection on the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, or did Jesus himself actively  give them reason to believe this (which could include verbal profession, though it should not be limited to it).  It is the supposition of many historical Jesus scholars that Jesus-as-Messiah was a doctrine or attitude developed by his followers without direct linkage to obvious self-profession.  Bird sets out to trace the understanding of Jesus as Messiah to….(surprise surprise) Jesus himself!

There is no need to rehearse every aspect of the book.  Suffice it to say it is well-designed, well-researched, and once in a while you get Bird’s typical wit and tell-it-like-it-is sass.

Here are some choice or central quotes:

…several sayings and deeds of Jesus suggest that he understood his role and activities in messianic categoires (p. 78)

AND

…messianic ideas, symbols, and scriptural echoes were attached to Jesus’s activities (p. 78)

AND

When we come to messianic hopes, biblical and postbiblical, we see that functions and roles are often more important than a single title. (p. 35).

AND

…Jesus possessed an acute sense of his own authority and purpose that clearly edged into the direction of messianic categories.  This is all located in a certain underlying story — a story told in action, word, and symbol– concerning the arrival of God’s kingdom and the transformation of Israel (p. 115).

This is a very impressive piece of scholarship, to say the least.  I fear that some may immediately discount Bird out of bias over the topic, but, if given a chance, his arguments are very cogent.  Thanks, Mike.

Chapter One – Z’a MOVING FROM BIBLE TO THEOLOGY

I was pleased to have gotten in the mail my copy of Zondervan’s Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology in the COUNTERPOINTS series (eds. S. Gundry and G.T. Meadors).  I eagerly read the first chapter.  Essentially, the book deals with how we go from the contextualized comments, stories, laws, and commands in the Bible to the proper theology and ethics for our own context and time.

In the Introduction, Meadors offers the rationale for the volume and an overview of three levels of teaching in the Bible:

1. Direct teaching – directly applicable

2. Implied teaching – from stories, and relevant (though not direct) situations

3. Creative constructs – from the totality of the biblical revelation.

The views in this book will take various approaches to combining and interpreting these levels (I assume).

Two other things worthy of note, based on the intro.

1. ‘Counterpoint series volumes usually provide views that have become rather fixed representatives on a given subject.  This volume, however, is providing an entree into a subject that is currently emerging.’ (p. 14 note 5).

2. The original title of the book was something like ‘Beyond the Sacred Page’ which, though poetically pleasing, was probably not the best option for clarity of topic on first glance.  Thus, I think that they chose wisely in going with a more transparent title.  Personally (and this is me and not Meadors talking), I think ‘Moving Beyond….’ is quite risky and they might have just said ‘From Bible to Theology’.  The ‘Beyond’ unnecessarily makes it seem like one must get away from the Bible to do theology.  That is certainly not what Z intended, but once one cracks the book, their good intentions and appropriate attitude towards the topic is lucid.

Again, I am excited to get into the various chapters and follow the debate.  I will certainly try to keep you posted on my thoughts.  If you teach hermeneutics of any kind (related to the Bible, of course!), you might want to peek at this one at SBL.