Great Biblical Scholars Write for Catalyst

I found out about a periodical aimed at young theological students called Catalyst.  They offer articles from an evangelical perspective within the United Methodist Church.  The articles are very short and are geared towards the uninitiated student – the most basic information on a subject.  These work well for earnest laypeople or college and seminary students.

When I began to peruse their back issues I was amazed at the number of world renowned biblical scholars they brought on to write pieces (and not all Methodists, as I gather).  Here is a sampling (not all are well-known scholars, but some are certainly excellent topics and overviews).  Check out especially McKnight, Gorman, Watson, and Bauckham.

Joel Green on recent Gospels and Acts commentaries

D. Christopher Spinks on Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Brian Brock on his book Singing the Ethos of God

Joseph Dongell on the New Perspective on Paul and Wesleyan Theology

Brian Walsh on Thinking like a Christian

Michael Goheen and the Bible as story

Scot McKnight on the authority of the Bible

Michael Gorman on embodying the cross

Brian Russell on the need for the Biblical languages

Andrew Clarke on Church leadership

Terence Fretheim and God and the power of Vulnerability

Mark Horst on the Lindbeck/Frei School of Theology

Carey C. Newman’s assessment of Wright’s quest for Jesus

Christopher Wright on OT ethics

Craig Keener on Christ and Christian Missions

Joel Green on Scripture, Theology, and Hermeneutics

Francis Watson on Christian confession and Biblical scholarship

Richard Bauckham on the relevance of Revelation

Kevin Vanhoozer and Overinterpretation

LAST CALL: We need someone to write on Jesus and Wright…

I am trying to get together a series of three documents that offer brief summaries of N.T. Wright’s views on Paul, Jesus, and Biblical Theology.  I am writing on Paul and I have worked out who is doing Biblical Theology.  I am looking for someone to tackle Jesus and the Gospels according to Wright.

The goal is that it will prep people for Wheaton Conference (April 16-17, 2010) where Wright’s theology and hermeneutics will be discussed by top-rank scholars.  So- please post a comment alerting me of your interest in helping us out.

I hope to post the documents on my blog (probably as a link to a scribd doc) in early March.  That will put them in use for about 6 weeks in the run up to the conference.

More on this later…

NLT Mosaic Holy Bible

In seminary, I had a church history course with Garth Rosell – one of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s finest professors.  He has such a winsome spirit and has a passionate heart for seeing God’s people grow.

Anyway, at one point he commented how we Americans are obsessed with collecting Bibles.  You have a Gideon’s Bible someone gave you, your Bible from confirmation or Sunday School or whatever.  Your “Study Bible.”  But then you wanted something with more zing so you got the Serendipity Bible or the Spiritial [fill in noun] Bible.  Oops – you don’t have a variety of translations.  Gotta get a few more Bibles.  Did you hear about the Word Study Bible….and on and on and on.  Rosell lamented how we have an abundance of Bibles while Christians throughout history have hungered for God’s Word and so many have been without.

So – when I heard about the Mosaic NLT (Tyndale), I was skeptical.  I am going to be teaching a Christian Formation course next year and I wanted to have my students use something that would give their Bibles something to aid in their character-building and in their communion with God.

I tend to shudder at most cheesy “spiritual formation” Bibles, but I also did not want to simply throw at them a study Bible with academic notes.

In comes the Mosaic NLT.  It has a running text of the New Living Translation – uninterrupted!  That means that you can read Scripture along without notes and “reflections” and fad-ish sidebars.

What makes this Bible special is the lengthy front-matter.  It is a “mosaic” of devotional thoughts and sermons and reflections from such diverse people as William Shakespeare, Horatio Bonar, Lauren Winner, Clement,  J.R.R. Tolkein, Peter Abelard, excerpts from the Book of Common Prayer, Brian McLaren, and a variety of modern everyday people.

These Mosaic bits (that form a whole which glorifies Jesus) are grouped in weekly readings; and the weeks are meant to follow (roughly) a traditional church calender.  It is done in a way that almost any church tradition (mostly mainline I am guessing) can use it.

My favorite aspect of the Bible is the use of Christian art from the Bread and Fish mosaic (4th century AD) to modern art (and everything in-between).

Rather than giving my students a “chicken soup for the soul” kind of devotional Bible, this allows a host of voices from all of Christianity (globally and temporally) to speak into the lives of Christians.

Lest one think this is all words of wisdom from spiritual gurus and not from bona fide academically-trained Christians, I was encouraged to see these people’s excerpts:  Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer, Albert Einstein (?), J.I. Packer (of course), Miroslav Volf, and Kallistos Ware.

Also….the word of Sufjan Stevens makes an appearance…

Anyway, I don’t think this needs to be the 10th Bible you own, but I am both a fan of the NLT and I think the idea of a Mosaic of readings and artistic impressions is useful.

If you do buy one, as my students will probably be required to do, perhaps you can give away one of your (probably many) old Bibles to someone that doesn’t have one.

“Remembering Martin Hengel” – A conference

The 2010 New Testament group of the Tyndale Fellowship summer conference has selected the theme “Remembering Martin Hengel” on the basis of which a number of scholars will be giving papers in honor of the great German historian and theologian.

Observe some of the papers:

Andrea Kostenberger – “The Use (or Non-Use) of John’s Gospel in Historical Jesus Research: Neglect and Possibility”

Richard Bauckham – “Eyewitnesses and the Gospel of Mark”

Donald Hagner – “The Parting of the Ways Once More”

Steve Walton – “How Mighty A Minority Were the Hellenists?”

Rainer Riesner – “Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels”

Jorg Frey – “A New History-of-Religions School? Martin Hengel’s work on Christology and its Impact on Recent Research”

Seyoon Kim – “The Son of God”


Morna Hooker to give Barrett lecture at Durham

The University of Durham has invited Morna Hooker (Cambridge) to give the second-annual C.K. Barrett lecture on February 16.  The title of her paper will be: “Scriptural Holiness: Paul’s Understanding of Sanctification.”  Last year’s lecture, the inaugural presentation, was given by Richard B. Hays and it was a very happy occasion (as Barrett was present) and the paper was well-received.

Morna is a nice choice as she (informally?) worked a bit with Barrett on her doctoral research (if I recall correctly) and she is a fellow Methodist (as is, of course, Hays).  And her topic is quite interesting – a subject close to the heart of all Methodists and certainly will be of interest to Barrett if he is well enough to be present.  I am sad that I cannot be in attendance for this.  Perhaps I can persuade Morna to send me a copy!  In any case, this lecture is open to the public, so if you are anywhere in England, consider stopping by.  And tell me how it goes!

Interview with Ismo Dunderberg on the Gospel of Thomas (Part II)

400000000000000090356_s4Here’s part two of my dialogue with Professor Dunderberg. I especially appreciate his lengthy answer to my question about prospects for future study on the Gospel of Thomas. Thanks again, Professor Dunderberg!

(CWS) 4. I know that you regard yourself as more of a Johannine scholar, but do you anticipate any further research on the Gospel of Thomas? If so, could you tell us about it? I also know that you recently had an opportunity to examine Codex Tchacos up close (Gospel of Judas). Did you pursue this research in preparation for a book? Are you planning to do more research into similar ancient Christian texts?

 (ID) I’m not working on Thomas any longer, but I am presently working on the Gospel of Judas. My article on this text and ancient theories of “anger management” was recently published in a collection of articles edited by April DeConick. And I’m presently working on an edition and commentary on the Gospel of Judas. For this purpose, I spent a week in Geneva this past December inspecting some of the pages of Codex Tchachos. I’m sorry to tell I had no great new discoveries; the present edition by Wurst and others seems very accurate!

 As I’m now moving back to New Testament studies “proper” from Thomasine and Valentinian studies, I’m now and then asked to give papers on the reception of New Testament texts in the second century. I haven’t done much of this so far but  it seems I should do more in the future.

(CWS) 5. Another research interest that I have and one that I hope to promote on this blog is the historical Jesus. To your mind, what implications for historical Jesus research does the Gospel of Thomas have (if any)? You argue that there is material in Thomas old enough to be illuminating about the life of the historical Jesus. How do these two research interests coalesce in your own scholarship?

(ID) I haven’t conducted any independent research on the historical Jesus thus far; perhaps I’m too much aware of the problem of circularity which is particularly vexing in this field of study? I think there are sayings in Thomas which may “sound like Jesus,” or may stand closer to him than the synoptic versions, but I hardly have anything original to say about that matter–except that I was surprised to see that the Jesus seminar found so little in the non-synoptic material of Thomas that could go back to Jesus.

(CWS) 6. What scholars pursuing research on the Gospel of Thomas (and/or Christian Origins) have you found most helpful for your own work on the Gospel of Thomas?

(ID) First of all, I should mention my two Finnish colleagues, Antti Marjanen and Risto Uro. Not only have I spent hours and hours with them discussing the Gospel of Thomas, but they have also painstakingly read and commented on everything I’ve written about this topic, and have opened with their own work many important perspectives to it, both in methodological issues and in detailed analysis. Riley and DeConick have been very important discussion partners, of course. I’ve always found Elaine Pagels’ research and discussions with her most inspiring for my work (both on Thomas and Valentinians). I should also mention Stephen Patterson, whose work has prevented me from thinking that Thomas was simply put together from bits and pieces derived from the synoptic gospels; Philip Sellew, whose work always opens new perspectives for understanding Thomas in a broader context of antiquity; and Stevan Davies, who has such a keen eye especially on what binds John and Thomas theologically together and on their background in Jewish wisdom theology. Finally, I should mention Tjitze Baarda, whose detailed presentations at SBL and articles warned against any kind of generalizations and false security as to our conclusions about Thomas.

(CWS) 7. To your mind, what area(s) of Thomas research is/are in need of further investigation? If you were going to supervise Ph.D. students in this area, what avenues of study would you suggest?

(ID) There are of course many areas where further investigation might be necessary. One promising path is the increased interest in how the Gospel of Thomas might have been understood in Egypt in the fourth century. What was it in this text that attracted attention among early Christians of this period? Why was it translated, by whom, and to whom? There’ve been initial attempts to analyze the individual Nag Hammadi codices as collections, and such analyses may shed light on this questions. The demolition of strict boundaries between “orthodoxy” and “heresy”, for which many have argued, may help us see affinities between Thomas and monastic literature more clearly than before.

Another big problem, that still needs further clarification, is the genre of Thomas. It is, of course, a collection of sayings of Jesus, but what are hermeneutical ramifications of this genre? Should we continue to try to find a unified theology in, or behind, it? Or should it be approached as a random collection of oracles, as Davies proposed some years ago?

 Due to my interest in the school of Valentinus, I’ve also developed a fancy for interactions of early Christian texts with philosophical traditions. I’ve been one of the editors of a book dealing with this topic, where there are chapters on gospels, Paul, Sethians, and Valentinians–but strikingly, none on Thomas! Risto Uro made some very promising remarks about this issue in his book Thomas (2003). In light of them, it would be worthwhile to explore more systematically whether the Gospel of Thomas was written (or could be placed) in dialogue with philosophers, like Paul or the author of John may have been.