Pre-Order My Latest Book (Skinner)

Skinner.HaugeI just noticed that my forthcoming book, Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark (co-edited with Matt Hauge) is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s not set to be out until October, but if you order now, you can have the distinction of being one of the first people to own it. I mean, isn’t that incentive enough? And here’s the thing, it will only cost you $114. What a bargain! If you’re still not convinced, here’s the table of contents:

1. ‘The Study of Character(s) in the Gospel of Mark: A Survey of Research from Wrede to the Performance Critics’ (1903 – 2013) Christopher W. Skinner 

2. ‘History, Theology, Story: Re-Contextualizing Mark’s “Messianic Secret” as Characterization’ Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

3. ‘The Creation of Person in Ancient Narrative and the Gospel of Mark’  Matthew Ryan Hauge

4. ‘God as Healer of Creation in the Gospel of Mark’  Ira Brent Driggers

5. ‘The Characterization of Jesus as Lord in Mark’s Gospel’   Joel F. Williams

6. ‘Characterizing the Non-Human: Satan in the Gospel of Mark’  Elizabeth E. Shively

7. ‘The Narrative Rhetoric of Mark’s Characterization of Peter’  Paul Danove

8. ‘Women in Mark’s Gospel’  Susan Miller

9. ‘“Their Great Ones Act as Tyrants Over Them”: Reading Mark’s Characterization of Roman Authorities from a Distinctly Roman Perspective’   Adam Winn

10. ‘Gentile Characters and the Motif of Proclamation in the Gospel of Mark’  Cornelis Bennema

Of course, this won’t be the last I’ll say about the book, but if you pre-order now, you can ignore all of my future posts on this topic. 🙂

Rod Decker (1952-2014) (Skinner)

Rod DeckerWhen I returned from London yesterday I checked my email and learned of Rod Decker’s passing. (I was a subscriber to Rod’s blog and the news came to my email. You can read his family’s post here.) Several bloggers have already made mention of this, but I wanted to echo the sentiment that Rod was a really great guy and good scholar. I first had the opportunity to interact with Rod back in 2005 when our church hosted Dr. Michael Holmes and Dr. Maurice Robinson for a forum on textual criticism. I had several other opportunities to interact with him at professional meetings through the years. He was polite and engaging during our conversations and I was always really struck by his humility. In addition to the high quality of his character, his scholarship was also top-notch. I mourn his loss and offer my public condolences to his family.

Evil Conference Wrap Up (Skinner)

I have just returned from a stimulating three days in London, during which I presented at the conference, “Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity,” at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham. I was going to spend time this morning writing a wrap-up, but it appears that Steve Walton has already done that. I echo what Steve has written there. Also, thanks go to Chris Keith for the invitation and for putting together such a fantastic lineup. Several people have asked me about my paper in particular, and have asked whether the papers will be published. The proceedings of the conference will appear in the WUNT series, likely in 2015, and will be edited by Chris and Loren Stuckenbruck. (I will happily send along a copy of my paper to those who have asked.)

Witherington, Carson, and Frame on Meaning of Inerrancy (Gupta)

When I was in the library yesterday, I happened to come across the latest issue of JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; 57.1 2014). I don’t normally read JETS, but this issue involved the publishing of papers and a discussion about biblical inerrancy with Ben Witherington, Don Carson, and John Frame, with Tom Schreiner moderating.

The journal issue published the roundtable discussion under this title:

PLENARY DISCUSSION ON BIBLICAL INERRANCY . . . D.A. Carson, John Frame, and Ben Witherington III

It was really insightful to see Ben and Don go round and round on issues and to see where they agree (and they do agree on a few things!) and especially where they differ. It is hard for me to summarize the discussion, but I really enjoyed the engagement. Ben was definitely the odd-man-out in that group, but he handled it with grace and humility.

People often ask me why I bother with the subject of inerrancy at all, and I’d like to say that I am an “inerrantist” in a broader (lowercase “i”) sense, similar to folks like Ben Witherington, John Stott (who hesitated to use the word, but fits within that category), and Craig Blomberg. As Ben argues in the discussion, it is not helpful when it is used to exclude and condemn, but it is helpful when it affirms the trustworthiness of Scripture. Personally, I think we can live without the term, or a “Chicago Statement,” because all that needs to be said at the basic level is “Thy word is truth.” But because people like to explain what that means, sometimes clarifying terminology is useful. I will confess, it has been a long time since I was teaching at an institution with “inerrancy” in the faith statement, but you won’t hear any complaints from me! 🙂

Nine Books I’m Currently Reading (Skinner)

Ok, so I just checked and in my last three weeks of blog inactivity, Nijay has literally posted 14 different times. (I think he’s trying to make me look bad.) During that period I have been a little busy, first finishing exams and then finishing up a paper I’ll be giving at this conference in London in a little more than a week. When I return from London I have a bunch of stuff to post about, but for now, I thought I’d mention a few books that I am reading at the moment as I plan on reviewing them here on the blog. Summer is a good time to catch up on (late) book reviews and other books I have been too busy to pick up. Here are nine I’m currently reading, seven of which I plan to discuss here:

Black Book1.  C. Clifton Black, The Disciples according to Mark: Markan Redaction in Current Debate (2d ed; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012).

I am currently reviewing this one for Biblical Theology Bulletin. I received it awhile back when I was working on my book on Markan character studies and I found it extremely useful for my historical overview of Markan research on the disciples. This is a second edition of Black’s revised dissertation, which was an “instant classic” when it was first published back in 1989. Black’s insightful analysis of the different types of redaction criticism, as well as the failures and successes of redaction critical method remains poignant and thought-provoking. The substance of the original book remains the same, though Black has added a lengthy “Afterword” (43 pages) in which he discusses redaction criticism in the 25 years since the initial publication of his book. I have several thoughts about this book that I hope to share in due course.

Burke Book2. Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013). 

I am currently reviewing this one for Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Tony (whom I have not yet met) has a very good blog named Apocryphicity, devoted to all-things-Apocrypha. If you’ve read his blog, you won’t be surprised by the quality of this book. Those who know me well know that I love to research and write, but they also know that I am a teacher first. That’s why I love getting solidly-researched, well-written books aimed at students. I am not finished with the book yet, but I can already tell you that it’s a great fit for the classroom. I do intend to try it out the next time I have an opportunity to teach a course on the non-canonical literature.

Ehrman.Plese Book3. Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Like the previous book, I am also reviewing this one for Catholic Biblical Quarterly, though I have yet to do more than simply leaf through a few pages. Back in 2011, Ehrman (who is well-known to anyone who might read this blog) and Plese (a leading authority on Christian Gnosticism) published a book entitled, The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations, in which they provided original language texts–complete with text-critical discussions–and translations of non-canonical writings about Jesus. This book covers the same writings from that previous volume but with English-only translations and without all of the scholarly jargon. Like the Burke book, I think this has the potential to be a useful classroom resource. I will say more about this once I’ve had a chance to go over it in greater detail.

Keith Book4. Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). 

I am reviewing this one for Theology. I read (and really liked) Chris’ related book, Jesus’ Literacy , and I have already read the first two chapters of this one. Chris writes that this book is part three of a three-part “Spielbergian” project (my words, not his) in which he deals with various issues and various angles related to the literacy of Jesus (see here and here for the previous two works). I have made no secret of the fact that I think very highly of Chris Keith’s scholarship. He is a creative, intelligent, and productive scholar, especially in light of his age. I look forward to working my way through the rest of the book.

Bennema Book5. Cornelis Bennema, A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014).

This book came to me in the mail awhile back. I have been asked by Fortress Press to provide a review here on the blog (which I will due by summer’s end) and was just asked today to review it for a journal. I have had a chance to look over several chapters (but, if I’m being totally and completely honest), I have only really perused the four or five sections in which Cor interacts with my own work. This is not as utterly self-serving as it sounds. In November I will be on a panel with Cor, Alicia Myers, Steve Hunt, Frank Moloney and others at SBL in which we deal with Johannine characterization. I already know that I have some strong disagreements with Cor, but I also find his work stimulating. One of the strengths of what I’ve already read is that Cor is definitely read up on all of the important research in this area.

Myers Book6. Alica Myers, Characterizing Jesus: A Rhetorical Analysis on the Fourth Gospel’s Use of Scripture in its Presentation of Jesus (LNTS; London: Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2014).

OK, I have to be honest and say that I haven’t even looked at this one yet. Like the previous book, I just received this in the mail so that I can read up for our November session at SBL. I recently had the chance to meet Alicia who is moving to Campbell University, right down the road from where I teach. I will likely provide a review of this one closer to November, but I did want to mention it.


Crump Book7. David Crump, Encountering Jesus, Encountering Scripture: Reading the Bible Critically in Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013).

I agreed to review this one for Biblical Theology Bulletin, but I am not really sure what to say or think about it. This book is different in focus and content from the volumes I typically review and I’m just not sure what to do with it. Crump wants to look at the Scriptures through a Kierkegaardian lens while giving a nod to issues like authentic faith and Scriptural authority (issues I am a little tired of discussing in public), all while questioning the value of the historical critical method. It’s been an *interesting* read thus far. Tune in and I’ll say more once I’m done.

Finally, I’m also reading the competing 8. Ehrman and 9. Bird (et al) volumes….but don’t worry, I don’t plan to review either one here on the blog. There’s much too much of that going on in the blogosphere right now.

Teach the Text of 1 Corinthians with Preben Vang (Book Review by Gupta)

Vang TT 1 CorI am excited to following the earliest releases of the new commentary series from Baker called “Teach the Text.” This series focuses on directing pastors and Bible teachers regarding the interpretation, basic message, and potential illustrations for biblical texts. The late Dick France did a fantastic job on Luke. Recently, the volume on 1 Corinthians was released (authored by Preben Vang).

I am not going to go into a detailed discussion (see my discussion of the series here).I will briefly mention that “exegesis” is kept to a minimum, because the purpose is to keep sections succint and focus on (surprise, surprise) teaching the text. So, three key sections are included in each chapter: “theological insights,” “teaching the text,” and “illustrating the text.” Along those lines, there are lots of great photos and images of art for inspiring illustrations. Here are a couple of interesting things I found in Vang’s work

On the ever-controversial “headcovering” passages (ch. 11), Vang does a great job navigating these waters. He takes the view that female headcoverings signaled married status and it was getting confusing in the church (which met in homes) whether or not women had to wear their marital coverings as they did in public. Vang argues that the house-church patroness could be unveiled in her own home and show off her wealth. Her friends (who were probably also wealthy) could remove their veils at church. But what about other women there at church? For Vang, this could easily create social divisions in the church. Not sure if Vang has enough evidence in favor of this view, but this is possible.

I am more impressed with his discussion of “head” imagery in 11:3

God is the head of Christ because Christ bears the mark of exclusive relationship to God. Christ is the head of the Christian man for the same reason, and the husband is likewise for his wife…A women should cover her head; the veil is her sign of exclusive relationship to her husband. Taking off her veil suggests that her relationship to her husband is less than exclusive (148)

This is an angle on this text I have not heard before. Food for thought.

On a later text (1 Cor 15:50-58), Vang writes this in his “Theological Insights”

Christian discipleship is not empowered by a new set of rules to follow or commandments to obey. Rather, the believer’s continuous motivation to imitate Christ is his or her ongoing participation in Christ’s victory over evil. Resurrection guarantees that this victory will be ultimate. (221)

I want to give an important caveat to pastors about using this commentary series. While it is extremely handy (and I look forward to collecting more), consulting these is not meant to replace personal study of the Bible for preaching and teaching. I would suggest (1) personal exegetical study of the text, then (2) consulting helpful reference works (dictionaries, lexicons), then (3) detailed exegetical commentaries (like Fitzmyer, Thiselton, Fee), then (4) a good theological commentary (like Chrysostom, Calvin, Hays), and then (5) Vang for clarification, fresh ideas, and to make sure you got the central theological ideas. Sure, if you are asked to preach tomorrow, you might have to go straight to #4 and #5, but please make personal, careful, deep, close reading of the text your first step (with much prayer).

Back to Vang – the study of 1 Corinthians is an interpretive minefield and I wondered whether Vang could pull it off – and he did! This is a very impressive work that demonstrates careful reasoning at the historical, literary, and theological levels.