New Series Responding to Pete Enns’ “aha” Moments (Skinner)

ahaFor the past several months Pete Enns has been hosting a series of posts on his blog entitled, “aha moments.” The series (to which I also contributed a post) consists of honest and (to my mind) compelling reflections from biblical scholars who have a credible connection to conservative evangelicalism and have moved to a more nuanced understanding of the Bible.

Michael Kruger, who is both a NT scholar and president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, has recently announced that he will be hosting a series of responses to the 16 or so posts that have already appeared on Enns’ blog. Among the potential contributors he mentions are Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, Andreas Köstenberger, and D. A. Carson. I am interested to see the turns this discussion will take as it seems that Kruger has decided to turn to the “elder statesmen” of conservative evangelicalism to enter into this dialogue.

In the comments section of his initial post, I wrote to Dr. Kruger, expressing my hope that this would be an irenic and charitable series. To his credit, he responded that that was his hope as well. Disappointingly (from my perspective), the very first post in the series (written by Greg Beale of Westminster Theological Seminary, Enns’ former institution) seems to be a direct response to Enns more than a specific argument for a particular approach to interpreting the Bible. I wouldn’t quite call it “Enns-bashing” but the condescending and dismissive tone of the post is troubling enough. However, what is more troublesome from an academic perspective is that Beale’s response, while rigorous and rooted in a thorough understanding of textual criticism and other principles of modern biblical exegesis, completely ignores the issue of whether such a reading would have even been possible within the context of Paul’s Jewish thought world. Sure, we can force our square pegs into round holes, but wouldn’t it be preferable to find square holes?

While I hope for genuine dialogue between those on both sides, I’m not naive enough to think that this will actually happen. One can already perceive a deep sense of entrenchment from some of the comments on the first two posts. A persistent comment among some is particularly troubling to me. Those who are anxious to “defend” their understanding of the nature of scripture accuse Pete (and presumably others) of wanting to sidestep the truth of the Bible or, as one comment intones, “escape Biblical authority.” Do the motivations for these serious and sober discussions really need to be issues of personal unrighteousness among the dialogue partners? Other comments suggest how perspicuous Beale’s reading is vis-a-vis Enns’ flawed reading. The texts discussed in these first aha moments–and presumably in the response series–are a lot of things, but none of them are CLEAR. That’s why we continue to have the discussions.

I fear that, despite Michael Kruger’s best intentions, this series of responses will become an exercise in shouting past one another rather than entering into meaningful dialogue, though I hope to be proven wrong.



As some of you know, an ongoing interest of mine is the question of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Steve Moyise and Maarten Menken have been editing a series of books on how NT authors use certain Old Testament texts.  The series began with Psalms (2004, T & T Clark), and then, Isaiah in the New Testament (2005, T & T Clark).  We now have Deuteronomy in the New Testament (2007; T & T Clark).  These edited volumes follow the pattern of studying OT books according to their importance in the NT as demonstrated in the frequency of quotations and allusions.

In the Deuteronomy volume, we see a very fine cast of scholars thinking together about the use of Deut. in the NT.  Notably, we see contributions by Steve Moyise (Mark), Maarten Menken (Matthew), Michael Labahn (John), Roy Ciampa (Galatians and Romans), Brian S. Rosner (1 and 2 Corinthians), and Gert Steyn (Hebrews).  As we move down the frequency list (Psalms, to Isaiah, to Deut. and so on), it becomes harder and harder to analyze the whole NT from this perspective as fewer and fewer citations/allusions are detected.  Thus, we see a noticeable absence of reflection on, for instance, Ephesians and Colossians, and most of the General Epistles.

I will not examine the book chapter by chapter because, frankly, the details of the chapters are primarily descriptive and only really interesting to someone who is studying the subject in depth.  My interest in the book is more in terms of why Deuteronomy is so frequently referred to, not just how it is.  In Timothy Lim’s chapter on the use of Deut. in early Judaism, he points to the notion that its popularity probably comes from its use in liturgy (see esp. 15).  In favor of this, he also mentions the Jewish practice of carrying phylacteries and ‘mezuzot’ which would have included texts such as ‘Deut. 6.8; 11.8).  And, Lim notes that the Decalogue also appeared often in such liturgical texts.

What about the NT?  M. Labahn argues that Deut. was of interest to John (the Evangelist) because of motifs that easily derive from it such as Love of God and Care for God’s Commandments.  One cannot ignore, either, how important for Jewish messianic expectations, to hope of the ‘Prophet to Come’.

In Romans and Galatians, R. Ciampa gives a exegetically rich intertextual investigation and his concluding statements are particularly insightful.  He eschews Francis Watson’s approach to Paul and the OT.  Ciampa, instead of seeing two opposing voices in Deut., takes a more covenantal approach as reconfigured in terms of the cross.  Thus, he responds to Watson as such: ‘If we grant that Paul perceives that Christ’s coming has brought about the transition from curse to blessing that was anticipated in Deuteronomy 30 in a surprising way, it opens up the possibility that Paul views some texts as reflecting divine guidance and instruction for the situation in which Paul’s readers find themselves as believers in Christ.’ (116).  I think Ciampa is on to something, but the challenge is to determine which texts are which!

Ciampa’s covenantal perspective on Paul’s Christology and soteriology suggests that ‘in Paul’s view God has fulfilled the theological programme of Deuteronomy 30 through Christ himself, and that has brought about significant implications for understanding how the realities of curse and blessing, death and life, disobedience and obedience, sin and righteousness are conceived in light of the good news of Christ’s achievement’ (117).

Though I won’t go into detail, Brian Rosner’s work on 1-2 Corinthians in this volume is equally cogent.  He would probably agree with Ciampa’s covenantal approach, but his perspective on the Corinthian Correspondence highlights more Exodus and Passover themes that come from Deut.

Whenever I review books that consist of multiple-contributors, I am disappointed when there is no concluding chapter.  Such a chapter is needed, I think, to give coherence to the whole book.  This Deut. volume (as the others) lacks such a post-work reflection.  In a final chapter we hope to see the commonalities in the various approaches, wider themes that emerge, significance dissonance among the chapters, and perspectives for the future.

Nevertheless, I am collecting the whole set of these books as they are excellent specimens of how to approach the Old in the New in a sophisticated way which considers the early reception history, the vorlage, important literary questions regarding the nature of intertextuality, and also hermeneutic principles and approaches appropriated by the NT authors.  I am quite sure that another volume on the minor prophets is in the works.  I eagerly look forward to it.

NB: In the introduction to this Deut. volume, Moyise makes the caveat that this study could not do an in-depth look at the Decalogue in the NT.  Even though the contributors did touch on this as relevant, this is still a study waiting to happen.  Future doctoral students should keep this in mind.


What I Learned for Reading My First Paper at a Conference

This past weekend I read a paper at the OT in NT Seminar (conveniently) located in Durham.  As it was my first, I was very nervous, but the group is warm and encouraging and the criticisms were irenic and constructive.  That having been said, I can share some observations about what I saw regarding other papers and about my own experience.

1. Write a short enough paper that you feel the freedom to talk slowly.  Talk so slowly that it barely feels awkward- it won’t seem that way to the audience and they will appreciate it more.

2. Even if you wrote the paper with publication (as an article) in mind, try to excise lists of verses, facts and figures.  This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.  If you need such information because it is essential to your argument, be sure and provide a handout.

3. Give the attendees a handout with an outline of your talk and the English (and Greek/Hebrew) of the main verses you are dealing with.  The outline will prevent anyone from feeling too lost in the paper, and also will let them see your rhetorical progression (which can only help you).

4. When you state a key sentence, feel free to stop and repeat it.  I didn’t do that, but a friend did and it was useful.

5. Always thank the chair and attendees for allowing your paper to be read and for coming to the session.  You never want to take for granted the privilege of reading your thoughts to others and receiving engagement.  A small percentage of the world is able to do this.

6. Have a pen with you when you read the paper – you will (not might) spot grammatical/spelling errors in your manuscript.

7. Have a notepad to jot down feedback from questions.  Also, make a note of who asked what questions.  If you don’t know them, try to meet them afterwards.  If they are well known, this could be notable when you publish the paper: ‘This essay originated as a paper read at [xyz conference] and I am particularly grateful for the feedback provided by [mrs. abc]”.  Is this self-serving…yes.  But, if its true that the feedback helped, then whats the big deal?

8. Refrain from getting defensive and hostile when you are asked questions.  Remember – you were approved to read this paper, so someone (or a group) agreed that what you had to say was worth hearing, right?  Is it OK to answer, ‘I don’t know’?  Well, as a PhD I would say it is not career breaking.  If you were a tenured professor, it is a bit more shameful.  Take a minute to think about what the person said.  Try to answer as best you can, but it is OK to say, ‘Thanks for the question.  I will have to think about that more.’  Also, in a short 30 minute paper, you cannot include every bit of evidence that supports your argument (usually).  Most people understand that.

9. At the bottom of a handout I provided, I put my blog address and made a link on the blog to the paper so the attendees could download it and read it over and email me more feedback.  This is becoming more popular and I welcome it.  The more feedback the better.

10. Perhaps it is a small thing, but have a bottle or glass of water on hand when you talk.  30-45 minutes of talking non-stop is taxing on the throat. Plus, the added pause is helpful for listeners.

11.  Have two copies of your talk – an extra just in case you spill water/food on your original.  Don’t risk it!

12. What if no one asks a question?  This is very unlikely, but you can have some questions ready for them.  Ask, did anyone feel that such and such a section was unnecessary?  Or, did anyone think that such and such a part was confusing?  Perhaps this will spur on their thoughts.

13. Some people feel free to deviate from their paper manuscript to explain something extra and give clarification. I would recommend avoiding this.  Digressions almost always eat more time than you think.  Next thing you know you went 10 minutes over into the next person’s paper.  tsk tsk tsk!

Also, remember two things – First, Doug Stuart used to say that only 10% of your job in preparing a lecture is actually preping the lecture material.  90% is being prepared for questions.  This is a good attitude to have for reading a paper.  Have your paper footnotes as additional evidence.  Second, and this will hopefully put your mind at ease, the Q & A time will not last much longer than 15 minutes.  After that, you are all done.  Treat yourself to Dinky Donuts – I did!

Annual Seminar on the Old in the New (a general summary and background)

These last three days I have attended the Seminar on the Use of the Old Testament in the New. This year, as in years past, it is a relatively small group of mostly expert scholars and a few students. I was blessed to have interacted with Lionel and Wendy Sproston North, Paul Ellingworth, Maurice Casey, Ruth Edwards and others, as well as the organisers: Maarten Menken and Steve Moyise. The total attendees were certainly less than twenty, but this made the seminar all the more fun. Next year the location is uncertain, as well as the dates. If you wish to attend next year, your best bet is to email Steve Moyise in December 2007 or January 2008. Though there are only about 7-8 papers read at the conference, this round two students presented. It is a good opportunity to present to a small group of very wise, but very gracious scholars.

I was able to gather small bits of information about the group’s origins. It began with A T Hanson and Max Wilcox some number of years ago and a student of Hanson’ s (Wendy Sproston North) was encouraged to attend and designated the ‘secretary’. Hanson and Wilcox passed the leadership on to Wendy and Lionel who planned the seminar for nearly twenty years until just recently. Steve and Maarten have taken over, though Wendy and Lionel still faithfully attend.

One thing I noticed was that the group is heavy on the side of older scholars. Part of the reason may be that this conference is not well advertised. I suspect that part of the reason is that many scholars are just not interested in the topic. But, I hope that in future years we will see younger scholars join this ‘guild’, so to speak, and keep the tradition alive.

Also, Steve and Maarten have been publishing a series of edited volumes on the use of particular books of the OT in the NT. So, there has been two volumes published so far – one on Isaiah in the NT, and one on the Psalms in the NT. This should not be surprising since these books are by and large the most commonly quoted and alluded to books in the NT. They have another book coming out shortly in this series on Deuteronomy. And in the works yet another volume on the Minor Prophets. I suspect (though I don’t have any confirmation) that we may see more volumes on Genesis and Exodus, or perhaps on Gen.-Exod.-Lev. together (though this is only a guess). The volumes currently available are really excellent with first rate scholarship. And, if I might say, they are not too technical and can benefit student, pastor, and scholar.

SBL 2006 Paul and Scripture Group Archives

For those interested in the Old Testament in the New, I was just informed that the papers read at the 2006 annual SBL conference are posted on Bruce Fisk’s website:

Papers were presented by NT scholars such as Steve Moyise, Stanley Porter and Christopher Stanley.  Though I have not read them yet, the titles look very stimulating.  Even if you are just learning more about Paul’s letter audience(s) and their background(s), these papers are worth a look.  I am sure some, if not all, will make it into publication.

2007 Annual Seminar on the Old Testament in the New (Durham, UK)

The Annual Seminar on the OT in the New will take place at St. John’s College of Durham University March 29-31.  Papers will be given by experts such as Lionel North, Maarten Menken and Steve Moyise.  It seems that there will only be about two dozen people in attendance – it wasn’t publicized widely.  However, this is a fascinating topic and literature on ‘intertextuality’ is quickly growing.  If you are in the area, it is permissible to register on the day.