I am going to teach a 6-week course on Galatians towards the end of the semester and I am reading a number of commentaries (esp Hays, Dunn, and Moo, as well as a new monograph by Rosner and a short book on justification by Westerholm). One contested issue in the more recent study of Galatians is the legitimacy of using clues within the letter to “mirror-read” the motivations and arguments of the third-party missionaries (or agitators, teachers, etc…). Some interpreters have developed quite extensive theories about the teachings of the missionaries, while others (like John Barclay) are more cautious and minimal.
I was a bit surprised to see Martin Luther himself try out some mirror-reading in his commentary: early in his study of Galatians he imagines the instruction of the Jewish-Christian missionaries in this way:
“You have no right to think highly of Paul. He was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard Him preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. Is it possible for us to be in error—we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has not seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with the other apostles. Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time.” (CCEL, p.9)
Isn’t this remarkably accurate? I think this goes to show that mirror-reading is not a modern phenomenon, and it is hard not to do this kind of thing with such strongly polarized and seemingly defensive/responsive statements from Paul as we see in Galatians.
Today I received in the mail an exam copy of A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, by Mike Burer and Jeff Miller. I know both of the authors and I remember that I took notice of this book when it was first published back in 2008. However, at the time I was a freshly-minted Ph.D. still in the throes of the job hunt, and I wasn’t currently teaching Greek. By the time I finally landed a full time job I had forgotten all about the book and therefore reverted to what I already knew: I required my Greek students to purchase the reader’s lexicon that I used in seminary and graduate school–Sakae Kubo, A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975). I have recently seen several friends and colleagues plug this book, so I decided to order an exam copy. While the concept is clearly similar to Kubo’s useful book, I think Mike and Jeff have improved upon a classic in several ways: (1) the book is bigger and this makes the print larger and much more readable (I have always disliked the font in Kubo’s lexicon); (2) their defintions are updated to reflect the glosses in BDAG (2000), where Kubo was based upon an older version of BAGD; (3) the authors have tagged each word with a threefold system of word frequency in (a) the book, (b) the works of a given author (if the NT book in question is part of a wider corpus), and (c) the NT as a whole.
I think it’s safe to say that I will be requiring this from now on. Nice work, Mike and Jeff.
Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary) has authored a book called Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions (Brazos, 2014). Baker/Brazos has arranged for a “Blog Tour” for this book and I am fortunate to be participating in this alongside a number of evangelical magnates like Dan Wallace, Lee Martin McDonald, Darrell Bock, Mike Bird, David Capes, and Craig Keener – and presumably Craig Blomberg himself!
My focal point is chapter five of the book: “Aren’t Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?” I look forward to engaging Craig on this very interesting question. While I have long appreciated Craig’s work, and I identify myself happily as an evangelical, I happen to be one of the few on this blog tour not of the ETS variety, so that might spice up the conversation!
Please consider following the tour. My post will come on March 25 (Tuesday).
Giveaway: It gets better! In conjunction with this blog tour, Brazos is doing a giveaway for a slew of excellent books. Check out the dedicated website here.
I call this event: Craig BLOGberg Fest 2014!
I’m currently doing some research on the various views of evil reflected in the Gospels of Mark and John for a conference paper I’m writing. In recent days, I have really been stimulated by the work of John Riches on mythology in the NT. I am just beginning his monograph, Conflicting Mythologies: Identity Formation in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (SNTW; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000) and I have also recently read his related article, “Conflicting Mythologies: Mythical Narrative in the Gospel of Mark” JSNT 84 (2001), 29-50. In his article he asks:
[T]he root of this disagreement [over interpretations of evil in Mark] lies precisely in the area of cosmology: what kind of view of the origins of evil in the world underlies, is promoted by, Mark’s story? Is evil ultimately the work of some angelic/demonic power or does it derive from the rebellion of the human will? And: how will God intervene to overcome it? Will he send his son to destroy the dark powers in a heroic struggle with Satan and his cohorts, or will he sent him to teach and to heal, to demonstrate in his own obedience to the divine will the ‘way of the Lord’ (p. 33)?
He goes on to demonstrate that both a cosmic dualist cosmology and a forensic cosmology exist side-by-side in Mark with no apparent attempt to reconcile the two. He goes on to say:
[T]here is a therapuetic function in bringing out, if not into tthe open, then into popular and publicly recited story, the fundamental dilemmas of human societies. All this can, I think, be seen as true of Mark’s Gospel. The answers to the question that profoundly troubles the Judaeo-Christian tradition–whence is evil? unde malum?– are played out against each other in this drama in such a way that the story confirms above all one truth: neither of the prevailing explanations, cosmic dualist or forensic, will adequately account for the experience of the community that has made this story its own (p. 48).
All too often I come into contact with students and friends who approach me with the uncritical assumption that the NT offers a singular cosmology. Riches’ work is a useful reminder that not only do multi-faceted understandings of cosmology appear across the NT, but such potentially conflicting mythologies also appear in individual writings like the Gospels of Mark and John.