Insight on Philemon from POxy 1423

I have been thinking about Philemon lately and I was browsing through some documents on the internet and came across a translation of the oxyrhynchus papyri by Grenfell and Hunt (see HERE).  Did Philemon run away having commit some injustice against his master?  Or did he go out to seek mediation for a dispute under appropriate legal guidelines?  Most scholars nowadays lean towards the latter (I think?), but there is some evidence of the commonality of the former.  See this text from POxy. 1423:

‘Flavius Ammonas…to Flavius Dorotheus, officialis, greeting.  I order and depute you to arrest my slave called Magnus, who ran away and is staying at Hermopolis and has carried off certain articles belonging to me, and to bring him as a prisoner together with the head-man of Sesphtha.  This order is valid, and in answer to the formal question I gave my consent.  I, Flavius Ammonas, officialis on the staff of the praefect of Egypt, have made this order.’

New Paul book by Hendrickson

Do you know about the new Hendrickson book Paul Unbound?

It is edited by Mark Given and involves a range of approaches to Paul that go beyond the normal responses.

These are the participants in this project:

Warren Carter, “Paul and the Roman Empire: Recent Perspectives”
Steven J. Friesen, “Paul and Economics: The Jerusalem Collection as an Alternative to Patronage”
Jerry L. Sumney, “Paul and His Opponents: The Search”
Charles H. Cosgrove, “Paul and Ethnicity: A Selective History of Interpretation”
A. Andrew Das, “Paul and the Law: Pressure Points in the Debate”
Mark D. Nanos, “Paul and Judaism: Why not Paul’s Judaism?”
Deborah Krause, “Paul and Women: Telling Women to Shut Up Is More Complicated than You Might Think”
Mark D. Given, “Paul and Rhetoric: A Sophos in the Kingdom of God”

Here, I am particularly interested in Friesen’s piece as well as Sumney and Krause.  As you can see, they have selected the right people for the jobs – it should be an interesting textbook or stimulus for discussion.

Tuckett on Plisch on the Gospel of Thomas

Over at the Review of Biblical Literature, Christopher Tuckett reviews Uwe-Karsten Plisch’s commentary on the Gospel of Thomas. With regard to Plisch’s views on dating the material in the Gospel of Thomas, Tuckett notes:

Plisch is generally cautious and uncontroversial in relation to Thomas scholarship. For example, he opines that the time of composition is probably unknown, but in any case the “author” (or perhaps editor or compiler) has used a number of different traditions; hence one cannot date each tradition on the basis of its presence in the present text of the Gospel of Thomas. The disparate nature of the present text is the result of individual sayings being put together with various principles in mind, but often in relation to “catchwords” linking various sayings on the basis of a common word used. Thus each saying, or tradition, must be considered on its own merits. The origin of the various sayings may be quite diverse: some may be very old, while others may be the result of later editing.


The book I am currently writing on Thomas (What Are They Saying About the Gospel of Thomas?) includes a chapter where I examine different scholarly approaches to dating. Among the scholars I interact with are those who locate Thomas in the late 2nd century, those who locate Thomas in a period that is rougly contemporaneous with the Synoptic tradition, those who argue that Thomas was composed prior to 70 CE (cf. especially Stevan Davies who argues for a date in the 50’s), and then I include a fourth group that consists of Plisch and April DeConick (both of whom argue that there are different discernible traditions). To be sure, DeConick is more optimistic about discerning the different “stages” (though she objects to the use of that term) than is Plisch, but there are some similarities to their approaches, at least when they are compared to the other three.

Overall, I agree with Tuckett when he writes that Plisch’s commentary “is an important addition to the literature on the Gospel of Thomas and will be very valuable for all those doing any kind of detailed work on the text as well as for those with more general interests in the Gospel of Thomas.”

Discounted academic books at CBD…

My loving mother gave me $25 recently to buy a present for myself and I started to browse the discount section of cbd’s website – here are some deals I found:

Udo Schnelle – Apostle Paul $19.99 down from $49.99

Simon Gathercole – Where is Boasting $18.74 – down from $34.00

Paul and Elizabeth Achtemeier – The OT Roots of Our Faith – $8.99 down from 16.95.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor – Paul: His Story – $11.99, down from 24.95.

Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology – Doriani’s Redemptive-Historical Model

Dan Doriani represents the second hermeneutical model in Zondervan’s Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology – “A Redemptive-Historical Model.”  This model follows some of the same interpretive procedures endorsed by Kaiser in the first chapter (on “principlizing”).  However, in addition, Doriani’s reformed model accepts that the narrative of Scripture progresses and that later in the Bible we have important developments that guide the Christian in ways not apparent in earlier stages of redemption.

Doriani begins by affirming the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture.  By drawing attention to these items, especially the sufficieny of Scripture, he wishes to emphasize that his redemptive-historical method (RHT) ‘seeks to trace movements within the canon’ – not extrapolating the dotted line further beyond it (p. 84). In fact, he makes his views clear regarding those who try to go ‘beyond the Bible’

Those who imply that the canonical writers were so constrained by their age and audience that we lack sufficient direction on vital matters say more, in the end, about their view of God than about their view of Scripture.  They deny that the Lord had the capacity to say what he wished before the canon closed.  He lacked the power to overcome local conditions.  Therefore he could never fully state his will before the apostolic age ended (p. 82).

In the end, I can’t say I found Doriani’s essay methodologically that much more different than Kaiser’s.  Both hold that all we need is “in the Bible,” but Doriani does it from a reformed perspective.  Also, Doriani defends the more conservative patriarchical view of men and women.

In the responses, Kevin Vanhoozer pinpointed some serious problems with Doriani’s method.

First Vanhoozer sees him as lacking ‘catholic sensibilities’ (p. 128) – not taking into account the church history – which is really a history of biblical interpretation.  Sticking only to the canon is to assume that we know enough of how to interpret the Bible without the aid of the wisdom of the successes and failures of the saints (and sinners!) of the past.

Another issue involves the nature of the subjects we want to address.  Though the title of the book is Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology, Vanhoozer points out that what Doriani has been focusing on (and Kaiser) are ethical issues (especially women in ministry), but how we get our modern doctrine (such as the deity of Christ) has not been addressed.  So, Vanhoozer ends his critique: ‘How did they go beyond the Bible at Nicaea?’ (p. 132).

So far, I have been very pleased with the excellence of the essays and the responses.  Webb felt particularly slighted by Doriani and his response is quite edgy and somewhat reactive (and for good reason!).  It is almost like overhearing a couple fight – it almost gets a bit uncomfortable, but the discussion is important – how should Christian academics argue?  Too often scholars feel the need to be right because their own theology and (in their mind their) faith is at stake.  They feel that to err on major issues (like the authority of the Bible or the sufficiency of Scripture) is fatal and sends such a bad message t0 the church.  So they push their theological agenda and virtually excommunicate their opponent.  But what is at stake is also how we view the frailty of our own knowledge.  There is also the virtue of academic humility and recognizing that my tradition or school of thought might actually be misguided or have its own blindspots.

Are we left to two extremes?  The overzealous theologian that has to reveal the lies of other theologians and enlighten the world – and the cynical theologian that just wants to voice some thoughts without ruffling any feathers?  How do we find a good balance between these, discovering how conviction and respect, passion and humility, can cooperate rather than compete?

Well, so far I found Vanhoozer to be a very good model of one that gives praise to the other views, but has a firm grasp on his own message, viewpoint, and contribution.  I look forward to surveying his own “Drama-of-Redemption Model” next.

Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology – Kaiser’s Principlizing Model

How do you get from the ancient sacred text to modern life and how to live it ‘according to the Bible’?  This is one of the main questions that the contributors to Zondervan’s Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology had to address.  First up is Walt Kaiser on the ‘principlizing model’.

To “principlize” is to [re]state the author’s propositions, arguments, narrations, and illustrations in timeless abiding truths with special focus on the application of those truths to the current needs of the Church’ (p. 22).

This involves, firstly, finding the ‘focal point of that passage’ (p. 22).  Look for repetition, emphasis, use of conjunctions, etc… Then generalize into propositional principles.  He uses the example of the “ladder of abstraction’ where one takes a story or situation from the Bible and move up the ladder to the abstract principles.  Then move back down the other side to the modern situation.

This method, according to Kaiser, never goes beyond the Bible – otherwise (he says) we would be devaluing sola Scriptura (p. 27).  All we need to know ethically is in the Bible already in the form of principles.  We don’t need to work outside the text theologically.

The difficult example is slavery.  He argues that what we have in the Bible not normal pagan slavery (usually) but biblical debt slavery.  Thus, one became a slave by debt or by criminal action.  This is not the same as modern slavery.  When he turns to Philemon, he argues that v. 16 should be understood to mean that he is no longer a slave.  Kaiser seems to be skating on some thin ice here, I think (see Webb’s rebuttal).

Kaiser is generally afraid that those approaches that go beyond the Bible will cease to look for ethical answers through exegesis.  However, he tends to solve modern ethical problems by minimizing the complexity of the relevant passages and also by coming up with some unusual methods of exposing the meaning in a text (like in the issue on women in ministry).  I do appreciate that his view does not directly translate into: just do what the Bible says.

Kaiser essentially treats all the parts of the Bible the same (as he is intent on not privileging the NT over the OT per se).  So, he is not as interested in a redemptive movement, though he does not deny this.  However, some of his case studies seem like he is forcing the evidence to fit one neat picture.

Of the various views presented in this book, this one is most common among all Christians as it makes a lot of sense and takes little explaining.  However, the danger is that many people try to do the principlizing and come to opposite conclusions (like on women).  Also, who decides how far to go up the ladder?  What is interpretation and what is application?

Many academic readers will demean Kaiser’s position, I think, but the reality is that his is most intepreters’ default position – and most seminaries teach his kind of position.  However, as you read on in the book, the other views also make good points.  Next up is Doriani on the redemptive-historical method.

Need Help! Where can I find….

Where can I find a running list of all the allusions/echoes of the LXX/OT in the NT?  I know that often people turn to the margins of the NA27 – rightly so.  Anywhere else?  Is it in a book somewhere?  Is there a webpage that focuses on this?

Any help would be great!

My specific interest is in Paul’s use of the OT or his allusions/echoes…