My RBL Review of NCCS John Volume (Gupta)

No this is not a post by Chris Skinner (even though he is the “John” expert). My day job is Pauline studies, but I moonlight reading up on Johannine studies and I was excited to get the chance to review Jey Kanagaraj’s John commentary. It was a little weird reviewing a commentary in the series in which I am producing a volume (1-2 Thessalonians), but I tried to be generous knowing that my commentary will face reviewers as well!

Check my review out here.

Looking Forward to These SBL Sessions (FRIDAY, NOV 21)! (Gupta)

If you hadn’t heard yet, the SBL 2014 program is now online. I am going to do a series of blog posts on highlights, but because the program is getting huge I will do just one day at a time. So, here is what’s going on on Friday. [FYI: I hate to tell you to leave the “Paul and Apocalyptic” session early, but you won’t want to miss Ross Wagner’s paper on the Septuagint! I suggest you have someone bootleg “Paul and Apocalyptic” after 4PM so you can be at the LXX & NT session. :)]


Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination

12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 300 A (Level 3 (Aqua)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Across various branches of biblical and theological study, there is a renewed interest in ‘apocalyptic’. This development is seen particularly in the study of Paul’s theology, where it is now widely agreed that Paul promotes an ‘apocalyptic theology’. However, there is little agreement on what this means. Scholars from different perspectives have, as a result, continued to talk past each other. This special session provides an opportunity for leading Pauline scholars from different perspectives to engage in discussion about the meaning of Paul as an apocalyptic thinker. Indeed, one of the strengths and aims of this event is that different and opposing views are set next to each other. The session will hopefully bring greater clarity to the ‘apocalyptic’ reading of Paul by providing much needed definition to central terms and interpretive approaches and by highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.

Session 1
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Presiding
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Welcome (5 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – VU University Amsterdam
Apocalyptic as Eschatological Activity (25 min)
N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Apocalyptic as Heavenly Communication (25 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism (25 min)
Philip Ziegler, University of Aberdeen
Apocalypticism in Modern Theology (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (15 min)
Session 2
Ben Blackwell, Houston Baptist University, Presiding
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University
The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit (25 min)
Edith Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Apocalypse as Theoria in Paul: A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Paul’s Apocalyptic Epistemology (25 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University
Romans 9–11: An Apocalyptic Reading (25 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham
Apocalyptic Investments: 1 Corinthians 7 and Pauline Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Word of Thanks, Book Promotion, and Adjournment

IBR – Relationship Between OT and NT
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Indigo Ballroom B (Level 2 (Indigo)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Research Group: The Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament
This research group focuses on the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For further information contact Nijay Gupta ( and Creig Marlowe ( and see (click on Research Groups: The Relationship Between the Old Testament and New Testament).

Creig Marlowe, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Introduction (5 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University
The New Testament and the Septuagint (35 min)
Robert Wall, Seattle Pacific University, Respondent (15 min)
J. Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Telford Work, Westmont College, Respondent (15 min)
J. Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)


Institute for Biblical Research
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Room: Room 6 A (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Annual Lecture
The Institute for Biblical Research, Incorporated (IBR) is an organization of evangelical Christian scholars with specialties in Old and New Testament and in ancillary disciplines. Its vision is to foster excellence in the pursuit of Biblical Studies within a faith environment. The achievement of this goal is sought primarily by organizing annual conferences, conducting seminars and workshops, and by sponsoring academic publications in the various fields of biblical research. IBR’s conferences, seminars and workshops are open to the public and its publications are available for purchase. For further information go to

Tremper Longman, Westmont College, Welcome (10 min)
Beth Stovell, Ambrose University College and Seminary, Scripture Reading and Prayer (5 min)
Mark Boda, McMaster Divinity College, Introduction (5 min)
Annual Lecture
Craig Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary
Miracles: Philosophic and Historical Plausibility (40 min)
Robert Webb, McMaster University, Respondent (10 min)
Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Presentation by Baker Academic & Brazos Press
The IBR Reception follows the Annual Lecture and is sponsored by Baker Academic & Brazos Press


Interview with Dr. Michael Gorman Re: “New Covenant” Book (Part Two)

Gorman_lgWe are continuing our conversation about Dr. Michael Gorman’s new book The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant (Wipf & Stock, 2014). You can find the first part of the interview HERE.

Crux Sola: You have talked at length about “cruciformity” in Paul, but have only recently begun discussing the cruciform teachings of Jesus as remembered by the evangelists.

 Gorman: While it’s true that I’ve not written much before about cruciformity in the Gospels and in the teaching of Jesus, that’s primarily because I’ve not written much on the gospels, not because my thinking has changed. My first serious published effort in this area was for the Frank Matera Festschrift published in 2012 and co-edited by Chris. It is incorporated in revised form in this book. But even in my Wesley Study Bible notes on John I had written about the Gospel’s “cross-centered spirituality and discipleship.”

Crux Sola: In the latter chapters of the book you argue that “peace” as a benefit of Christ’s ministry is somewhat overlooked by scholars working on both the Gospels and Paul. To what do you attribute this oversight, and why are you convinced that peace(making) is such an integral component of our understanding of the atonement?

Gorman: Let me begin with the second question. One of the major theses of this book is that what God has done on the cross is not only something from which we benefit but also something in which we participate. One of the most significant images of the atonement, especially (but not only) in Paul and Luke, is reconciliation and peacemaking. If God in Christ is a peacemaker, bringing about peace between us and God as well as within divided humanity, then peacemaking has to be central to Christian identity and mission. Furthermore, if the prophetically promised covenant of peace is not something other than the prophetically promised new covenant, and if that covenant of peace/new covenant has been inaugurated by Jesus’ death, then peace and peacemaking are (again) central to the atonement and to our participation in it. Finally, and similarly, if we believe that Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection inaugurate as well the promised era of shalom, then how can peace be anything but central to everything we believe and practice? New covenant and new creation are closely connected.

As to why this has been neglected, I’m not sure. I suspect it has something to do with the apparent lack of direct references to peace in certain parts of the New Testament, but I also think it may have something to do with the church’s general ambivalence about peace because, on the whole, it has embraced the alleged necessity of violence until the kingdom comes in its fullness. My reading of the New Testament challenges that perspective. (Of course I’m not alone in this.)

Crux Sola: Who have been some theologians, biblical scholars, and thinkers who have shaped your atonement theology, and your theology overall (especially as you reflect on influences in relation to this work)?

Gorman: Far and away the most influential biblical scholars on my work in general are my good friends Richard Hays and Tom Wright. For this book, Richard’s insistence on narrative, transformation, and participation comes through, and Tom’s focus on new covenant. Merge them and you get me! But overall I would not attribute what I’m doing to their influence as much as I would say that I resonate with certain aspects of their work, and have done so since I first met their work decades ago.

More specifically on atonement among biblical scholars, another good friend, Joel Green, and Scot McKnight have been helpful in stressing plurality (both Joel and Scot) and community (Scot). And I’m also quite sympathetic to Morna Hooker’s work on Jesus’ death, especially its connection to incarnation, transformation, and mission. Similarly, I find Kathy Grieb’s work in this area, bridging atonement and justice, very important.

As for the emphasis on peacemaking, Willard Swartley has been quite helpful and influential. And of course other major influences on this aspect of my work, and to my claims about a distinctive, even “alter-cultural” new-covenant people, are Stanley Hauerwas and the late John Howard Yoder, but also Bonhoeffer. They have taught me how to read the Bible theopolitically in the best sense of that word.

For theologians on the atonement, I’ve come to appreciate the late T. F. (Tom) Torrance, whom I met at Princeton in the ‘80s, and Kevin Vanhoozer: Torrance for his openness to theosis and his connection of atonement to both incarnation and new covenant, and Kevin for his connection of atonement to the new covenant. I came to my perspective before encountering their work, but their work has helped sharpen mine and especially given me confidence that it is the right way to go.

Crux Sola: Would you mind sharing what other writing projects you have planned? Also, can we expect “new covenant” language and thought to be integrated into those works?

Gorman: Yes, “new covenant” is here to stay. I have a book in press with Eerdmans that will appear around May of next year (2015) titled Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission. It builds on all of my previous work on Paul but also assumes, and refers to, the argument of Death of the Messiah and to the significance of new-covenant theology for Paul. I’m also writing the Two Horizons commentary on 2 Corinthians, so that will obviously focus on the new covenant (see 2 Cor 3:6). And more immediately, I will be presenting a paper called “The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit” at a pre-SBL conference on Paul and apocalyptic, and that paper will be published in a book based on the conference. And who knows, there may be more.

You can also expect more about peace and peacemaking. There are two chapters on this in the book on Paul and mission.

Thanks for this opportunity, Chris and Nijay, and for the great questions!

Crux Sola: Thanks, Mike! Looking forward to these other publications and information! As for our readers, I hope this inspired you to have a look at the book.

Richard B Hays – “Reading Backwards” (Book) Coming Nov 2014 (Gupta)

Reading BackwardsIf you are like me, Richard Hays (Duke) transformed your understanding of Paul’s theological imagination with his Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Well, I am excited at the prospect of his work doing this again in regards to the evangelists with the soon-coming release of his latest work, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Baylor Univ Press, 2014). This is a rather short work (less than 200 pp.), so I suspect there is a bigger one coming. Nevertheless, this is #1 on my SBL book-buying list right now!

Sidenote: There are many scholars who are knowledgable and offer great content. But there are few who can actually write well. Hays is one of the few and he also happens to be a very good person!

If you are still not convinced to buy this book, check out this holy trinity of endorsements (I think they only left out Bono, Stephen Colbert, Desmond Tutu, and the Pope as celebrity endorsers)

“Twenty-five years ago Richard Hays launched a quiet but highly effective revolution on how Paul read Israel’s scripture. Now he turns his attention to the four gospels, and we may confidently predict similar results. With his characteristic blend of biblical and literary scholarship, Hays opens new and striking vistas on texts we thought we knew—and, particularly, on the early church’s remarkable belief in Jesus as the embodiment of Israel’s God.”

—N.T. Wright, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St Andrews

“Few people are better qualified than Hays to take us right inside the ways the Gospels interpret the Old Testament. And, as though that were not enough for one short book, his hermeneutical quest also delivers a christological result. He shows how, precisely in their reading of the Old Testament, each of the Gospels in its own distinctive way presents Jesus as the very embodiment of the God of Israel. Intertextuality and high christology turn out to be two sides of a coin.”

—Richard Bauckham, Emeritus Professor, University of St Andrews

“Hays’ thesis is as simple as it is ground-shifting: that the Gospel writers’ portraits of Jesus depend on their hermeneutical appropriation of Israel’s Scripture. And his approach is disarmingly straightforward: a sympathetic reading of the Gospels calibrated to hear both explicit and implicit scriptural resonances. With transparent exegesis and lucid prose, Hays persuasively challenges some of the basic assumptions and arguments in modern biblical studies.”

—Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary

UPDATE: Marianne brought to my attention the SBL review panel for this book


Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room 8 (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Review Panel: Richard Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Baylor Press, 2014)

Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University, Presiding
Francis Watson, University of Durham, Panelist (25 min)
Markus Bockmuehl, University of Oxford, Panelist (25 min)
Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena), Panelist (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Richard B. Hays, Duke University, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (40 min)

Interview with Dr. Michael Gorman Re: “New Covenant” Book (Part One)

Gorman DMBNCOnly a handful of months ago, Chris Skinner was kind enough to accept my invitation for him to co-blog with me here at Crux Sola. One of the reasons I approached Chris regarding this “merger” is that we both are interested in cruciform discipleship and we both hold our mentor Dr. Michael J. Gorman in the highest esteem as a teacher, scholar, and friend. When we heard about Gorman’s new book, we jumped at the chance to read The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant (Wipf & Stock, 2014) and we enjoyed it so much we asked Gorman if he would answer some questions about the book.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, here is the official description.

In this groundbreaking book, Michael Gorman asks why there is no theory or model of the atonement called the “new-covenant” model, since this understanding of the atonement is likely the earliest in the Christian tradition, going back to Jesus himself. Gorman argues that most models of the atonement over-emphasize the penultimate purposes of Jesus’ death and the “mechanics” of the atonement, rather than its ultimate purpose: to create a transformed, Spirit-filled people of God. The New Testament’s various atonement metaphors are part of a remarkably coherent picture of Jesus’ death as that which brings about the new covenant (and thus the new community) promised by the prophets, which is also the covenant of peace. Gorman therefore proposes a new model of the atonement that is really not new at all-the new-covenant model. He argues that this is not merely an ancient model in need of rediscovery, but also a more comprehensive, integrated, participatory, communal, and missional model than any of the major models in the tradition. Life in this new covenant, Gorman argues, is a life of communal and individual participation in Jesus’ faithful, loving, peacemaking death. Written for both academics and church leaders, this book will challenge all who read it to re-think and re-articulate the meaning of Christ’s death for us.

Without further ado, here is the first part of our interview.

Crux Sola: We think this is a fresh and interesting approach to the atonement question. Has this been an approach/perspective that you have taken for a long time, or is this a more recent insight and development in your thought? Could you tell us a bit about your “big idea” and how you came to write this book?

 Gorman: This approach has been brewing for a long time, probably since Ph.D. work on Paul in the 1980s, and even my M.Div. work: I worked on Anselm and Barth on the atonement early on in my theological studies, as well as Gustaf Aulén, in addition to my study of New Testament theology. But the approach began to take concrete shape when I was invited to contribute a paper at the 2010 North Park symposium on the theological interpretation of Scripture that focused on atonement. The title of that paper, later published in Ex Auditu, was “Effecting the New Covenant: A (Not So) New, New Testament Model for the Atonement.”

For such a conference it was a long and rather wide-ranging paper, and I decided almost before finishing the paper that it needed to become a book. I then wrote and lectured pretty intensely on the various sub-parts of the subject over the next three years until I was ready to synthesize it all in late 2013. Of course, there are some aspects of the book that will be recognizable to anyone who has read my previous work, especially the “cruciformity” and “participation” themes. But this book is not just about cruciformity and certainly not just about Paul; it is making a broad claim about the major thrust of the New Testament and, indeed, about what the focus of Christian theology about the death of Jesus ought to be.

My “big idea” is that most of the models of the atonement deal with penultimate rather than the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ death, which is the formation of a transformed, Spirit-filled, peacemaking, missional people of the new covenant. My hope (perhaps a bit ambitious!) is that this book can spark the kind of revolution in thinking about the atonement that Aulén’s Christus Victor did a century ago.

Crux Sola: In the book you argue that a focus on the penultimate effects of the atonement (e.g. forgiveness of sins) rather than the ultimate effect (creating a new people who will live out a new covenant) has distorted our understanding of the atonement. Can you discuss how this focus has led to a distorted reading of the Gospels and Acts in particular?

Gorman: It’s actually probably adversely affected the reading of Paul even more than the Gospels and Acts, but the main effect on the interpretation of the Gospels and Acts has been to under-estimate the significance of Jesus’ ministry and early Christian preaching/teaching for the formation of a faithful and loving missional community. Jesus’ mission is sometimes seen primarily or even exclusively as benefiting me with healing in the present and escape from hell in the future, with a bit of teaching thrown in to help me get through this life; early Christian preaching in Acts, not to mention Paul letters, is seen as focused on the same things. It’s all about what Jesus has done and will do for me/us (and very little “us”). Of course the death of Jesus is for our benefit, but it is also revelatory of what it means to be a community of disciples, the light of the world and salt of the earth. The gospels and Acts are about forming a culture, as Kavin Rowe says about Acts.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me. I have no interest in minimizing the importance of forgiveness and other traditional aspects of the NT’s teaching on atonement. I simply want us to recognize the rest of the story, so to speak. As I like to say, the cross is not only the source of our salvation but also the shape of our salvation. 

In addition, especially with respect to the Gospels and Acts, we need to see the death of Jesus in continuity with the life and teachings of Jesus. His act of forgiveness on the cross, for instance, is also a summons to forgiveness and reconciliation, which in turn is precisely what he taught and practiced.

Crux Sola: It has been common in the recent history of NT interpretation to see Jesus and Paul as fundamentally opposed to one another, but you find many points of contact. Would you briefly discuss your understanding of the teachings of Jesus and Paul on discipleship with specific emphasis on how the two cohere?

Gorman: While it’s true that the discontinuity has often been stressed, there has been some recent movement by scholars writing for scholars and by scholars writing for a more general audience (such as Daniel Kirk) to bridge the gap. I would situate my own approach in the same vein as that of Bonhoeffer in his (Cost of) Discipleship; for him the cross is the lens for interpreting the overall teaching of Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. My starting point for the gospels is Jesus’ own teaching, in all four gospels, about the consequences of his upcoming death for discipleship. This teaching is especially prominent in what I call the passion prediction-summonses, but it is not limited to those synoptic texts. We find it also in the farewell discourses in John and in the actual passion narratives, especially in the synoptics. In such passages we find Jesus calling his disciples to share in his death (for instance, drinking his cup, or being baptized with his baptism) by doing cruciform acts of faithfulness even to the point of suffering and death, as well as practical love for the weak and poor, and non-domineering service to others. Discipleship, then, is more than “following” Jesus even for Jesus as narrated in the gospels. It is about a deep and comprehensive sharing in the complex reality of his death.

We find these same kinds of concerns, in a different but still similar idiom of participation that produces ethical likeness, throughout Paul’s letters, and the participatory element is even more pronounced in Paul. Cruciformity is not mere imitation of Christ but dying and rising with him, living in him, etc. This is probably the least controversial part of the book. (No one argues against cruciformity in Paul.)

We also find in both Jesus (as suggested above) and Paul a strong emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation. With a number of other recent scholars, I would include Colossians and Ephesians among the genuine Pauline letters, and if that is right, the connecting theme of forgiveness and reconciliation is particularly strong.

In addition to these common elements, we find in both Jesus (i.e., the remembered, narrated Jesus of the canonical gospels) and Paul an emphasis on the communal reality of this life; neither one addresses merely individuals but calls the community of disciples/participants, as the people of the new covenant, to Spirit-empowered cruciform faithfulness and love.

Crux Sola: Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon! (And buy the book!)

Two New Exegetical Resources from Broadman & Holman (Skinner)

James EGGNTTwo new volumes in the B&H series, Exegetical Guides to the Greek New Testament have recently been released. According to the B&H website, these are the two of the first three in a projected series of 20 volumes aimed at helping those in the classroom and pulpit better appreciate the message of the Greek text. (A previous volume on Colossians and Philemon was published in 2010).

I have spent the past few weeks reading carefully through each volume and have found them both to be very useful. The first is Chris Vlachos‘ volume on James (2013) and the second is Greg W. Forbes’ volume on 1 Peter (2014). As a professor who teaches courses on NT Greek and exegetical methods, I find works like these to be particularly useful for helping students reinforce out of class what we have done inside the classroom. They will also prove to be helpful for those who intend to make use of the Greek text in sermon and lesson preparation.

1 Peter EGGNTThe format of both volumes is essentially the same. Each begins with an introduction to issues of authorship and date. (To my mind, these discussions are not as important in such resources as philological and linguistic insights, though I assume they must be of importance to the editors of the series.) The volumes then proceed to a section-by-section analysis in which the structure of the Greek is discussed, followed by a grammatical analysis of every phrase, followed by a list a pertinent reading resources and homiletical suggestions.

For years I have used and suggested that students buy the resource affectionately known as “Max and Mary” as an on-the-fly resource for exegetical analysis. These books are like the “Max and Mary” version of individual NT books only with more in-depth analysis. If you are looking for resources that will aid in exegesis, you will find something of value here.