Remembering and Appreciating John Stott (Gupta)

Stott Pic.jpg

A handful of years ago a blustery (American) megachurch pastor commented that England has failed to produce a decent preacher/teacher in our time. Obviously this was a ridiculous comment. There are many outstanding Christian leaders in the UK; one such was John Stott (who passed away in 2011). Stott exhibited that kind of quiet strength that drew many to him. He was also a gifted and winsome writer. I read his The Cross of Christ in college, and I enjoyed his The Radical Disciple and his writings on the Sermon on the Mount in more recent years.

stottRecently Eerdmans has republished his Basic Introduction to the New Testament, which has its originals as far back as 1954 (under the title Men with a Message; Stephen Motyer has added chapters on Matthew and Mark to fill out the book). Reading the Basic Introduction now, it is obviously not fully up-to-date on biblical scholarship and popular trends and questions for everyday believers; still, I am so impressed with Stott’s mastery of the scholarship of his time and his desire – for the sake of the church – to educate believers for the study of Scripture.

Two things struck me about the Basic Introduction. First of all, in the chapter on Luke, Stott picked up on all the crucial themes that relate to this gospel; for a book from 1954, I was pleased with Stott’s emphasis on how Luke gives special attention to women (Stott calls Luke the “gospel of women”). He notes that Luke most clearly portrays the “welcoming attitude of Jesus towards women, and the place he allowed them to occupy in his ministry” (58). Stott also recognized how Luke underscored the gospel’s care for the marginalized and lowly – a timeless message, with obvious relevance for us now.

Also, for the book of Revelation, Stott had a very good grasp on the different ways that scholars approach the text – preterist, historicist, futurist, and time-less symbol. In his usual diplomatic style, Stott argues that there is something right about each one, but argues strongly against the “historicist” approach in general. He seems most attracted to the benefit of the time-symbolic approach. Here is his brief summary on Revelation:

[The message of Revelation] centers on the vision of the Christ who shares his people’s suffering and death and then shares the throne of God. It points us beyond the chaos and trauma of world history, and of our own lives, to our security in God’s plan both for us and for the world. It takes evil seriously, but God even more so. It horrifies us with its stark portrayal of death and evil, then raises our spirits to heaven by putting on our lips words of the most wonderful praise. As we sing with the heavenly hosts, we know that the powers of evil have been defeated, and we are redeemed: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (7:10) [pg. 192]

I am hopeful that Stott will inspire other Christian leaders today to invest more in teaching Scripture to the people of God.

Some New Works on the Fourth Gospel (Gupta)

In the past six months or so we have seen the publication of several interesting and noteworthy works on John. Here are some of my brief comments.

csfgCharacter Studies in the Fourth Gospel (ed. Hunt, Tolmie, and Zimmerman; Eerdmans). This is a massive, exhaustive study of all the people (named and unnamed!) who appear in John’s Gospel. The contributors are a veritable who’s who of Johannine studies including Catrin Williams, Paul Anderson, Mary Coloe, Harry Attridge, Marianne Meye Thomspon, Gail O’Day, Adele Reinhartz, Jan van der Watt and many more. And of course the esteemed Chris Skinner has penned a couple of chapters as well. At 721 pages, the work is rather encyclopedic, but very insightful and inspires the reader of Scripture to pay attention to even the “bit characters” in the fourth gospel. Highly recommended!

zecntjohnJohn (Edward W. Klink III; ZECNT; Zondervan). Fourth Gospel scholarship benefits from many outstanding commentaries (e.g., Thompson, Moody Smith, Brown, Keener, Lincoln, Moloney, O’Day). Klink’s massive 900+ page work is a nice contribution nonetheless. The Zondervan Exegetical series has a number of helpful features, including diagramming of passages, brief “Main Idea” notes, thorough interaction with the Greek text, and passage-level “application” sections. Klink’s volume draws out the strengths of the series. I was impressed with how Klink weaves into the detailed analysis his own theological insights, even if briefly. He also has a very good grasp of the secondary literature overall, though one can see reliance on a number of traditional works such as Barrett, John Calvin, Don Carson, Leon Morris, and Ridderbos. As far as analysis of the Greek text, I noticed close work with Wallace.

I do think Klink’s work is commendable (I expect I will consult it on all kinds of nitty-gritty questions), but I have one quibble with his book. He has chosen to use androcentral language in his translations, preferring “man” or “he/him” in places where one would expect a gender neutral term. For example, re: John 3:5, Klink offers “unless a man is born from water and spirit” where the text reads εαν μη τις γεννηθη εξ θδατος και πνευματος. Klink does this not infrequently (see p206 on 3:18). I am surprised because the NET and the NIV2011 both chose to prefer gender neutral language in cases where the reference is to anyone regardless of gender (and thus it should not be a conservative litmus test). I take this matter very seriously so this would prevent me from using this as a textbook.

Clark Soles.jpgReading John for Dear Life: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel (Jaime Clark-Soles; WJK). This is not an academic book, but a Bible study for laypeople. It is written in an accessible and attractive writing style, but also chock full of insight. If someone from church were to ask me what they might read for Bible study, I would offer this immediately. I find that so much Bible study material out there is utter rubbish – so glad to have some trustworthy, learned-but-engaging materials to recommend. Thanks Jaime!


What is “Portland Seminary”?


As of January 9, 2017, my institution – George Fox Evangelical Seminary – has become “Portland Seminary.” This is a very exciting development that goes along with some changes to our programs and great ideas that have come out of a major self-study for accreditation. Before explaining my perspective on why the name change is a good idea, I want to make two clarifications.

#1: We are still embedded within George Fox University, so the official title of the seminary is Portland Seminary of George Fox University. We at the seminary have a deep appreciation for the oversight and partnership with GFU.

#2: We will continue to identify as “evangelical,” even though we are not keeping the word in our name. When the seminary was originally founded, it was supported in part by the Evangelical Church of North America (ECNA), and the seminary was called “Western Evangelical Seminary” (WES). The “Evangelical” term in our original name, I believe, linked to that ECNA connection. When WES merged with GFU, the seminary had a name change, but kept the “Evangelical” term. Over time, though, the seminary has developed up a number of partners and influences – Wesleyan, Quaker/Friends, Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran. We consider ourselves a big-tent place for students of diverse traditions – we are grounded in the core distinctives of the best of evangelicalism, but we believe was can affirm this without the titular terminology in our name.

Ok, on to why Portland Seminary.

Here is the official statement from the seminary, it is well-written and worth reading.

Here are some reasons why I personally am excited to have the seminary identified with Portland.

A “Tree-Hugger” City  – Portlanders love parks, forests, and enjoying the great outdoors. Portland Seminary has a leading eco-theology program that affirms the glory of creation and how we can be caretakers of it.

A “New Ideas” City – Portland is almost synonymous with “local and weird.” Portlanders hate big corporations, we love niche and boutique, strange and creative (have you ever watched Portlandia?). We buck trends. Heck, one of our famous sites is a big used bookstore! Portland Seminary also wants to be innovative, and weird (well, at least I like being weird). We don’t want to do it the way everyone else is doing it. We want to do seminary our own way, and the shape and nature of our new curriculum will demonstrate that – for example, we have a new required course for some programs called “the postcolonial church” and another one called “The Use and Abuse of the Bible.”

A “Fusion” City – Portland loves food, and it loves combining foods and flavors – Asian fusion, Latin fusion, we love putting two great things together! So too Portland Seminary has two communities, local students and distance students, and we want to do a good job of “fusing” these groups. For our distance students, we are committed, esp in our new curriculum, to providing the best of hybrid learning with both local (in Portland) and distance elements.

Bridge-City – Portland has lots of bridges. We think that is such a key metaphor for our seminary – bridging faith traditions, bridging local and global, bridging church and world.

Rose City – Portland is known as the “Rose City” (partly due to the gorgeous urban rose garden). Our new logo is a rose (or flame? Both?). This communicates to me too Portland Seminary’s vision for Christian formation and growth, life, and beauty.

If you are interested in seminary (at the master’s or doctor of ministry level), please get in touch. You can find my email on my faculty webpage.

Torah Ethics and Early Christian Identity (Gupta)


This may have been a book release that flew under the radar at the end of 2016. This multi-contributor work (ed. S.J. Wendel and D.M. Miller) is something of a Festschrift in honor of Stephen Westerholm (see preface). The main topic of the volume raises this key question: “in what ways did the Mosaic law continue to serve as a positive reference point for Christ-believers regardless of whether they thought Torah observant was essential?”

The book is divided into three sections: Torah Ethics in Early Judaism, Torah Ethics and the New Testament, and Beyond the New Testament. Contributors include Adele Reinhartz, Scot McKnight, Beverly Gaventa, Terence Donaldson, Richard Hays (a reprint of a previously published essay), and the book is capped off by an essay by Westerholm himself. The essays do seem to hang together pretty well, but I found the title a bit misleading – I am not sure “Torah ethics” is the right word. It may have better been termed “Torah and Early Christian Identity.” Still, several worthwhile essays included. Of particular interest to me were these:

Anders Runesson, “Entering a Synagogue with Paul: First-Century Torah Observance”

Scot McKnight, “The Law of the Laws: James, Wisdom, and the Law”

Beverly Gaventa, “Questions about Nomos: Answers about Christos: Romans 10:4 in Context”

Terence Donaldson, “Paul, Abraham’s Gentile Offspring, and the Torah”


New Editors of NIGTC: Still and Goodacre (Gupta)

The news has just come from Eerdmans that the NIGTC commentary series has named two new editors: Mark Goodacre and Todd Still. Todd I know very well – a first-rate Paulinist –  and I have followed Mark’s blog and his research for many years. These are outstanding choices for the series leadership. The NIGTC has a great reputation, under the previous editorship of Donald Hagner and Howard Marshall. I think of RT France’s Mark, Thiselton’s 1 Corinthians, Dunn’s Colossians, and Beale’s Revelation.

My hope for the NIGTC in the future, especially under this excellent new leadership, is the acquisition of female authors and authors of color -and I am sure this will be a concern for Still and Goodacre as guild leaders. Looking forward to great things to come from NIGTC!

Gorman’s Apostle of the Crucified Lord, 2nd ed (Gupta)

**Book Notice**


Today is my first day back in the office after break, and I was greeted by Michael Gorman’s new edition of his Apostle of the Crucified Lord (Eerdmans, 2017; hereafter ACL). Sitting down with this book this morning transported me back to my days as a seminary student. The first edition came out in 2004, and I was about halfway through seminary. ACL was one of a handful of books that inspired me to enter into Pauline studies – others included Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said, Hays’ Conversion of the Imagination, Hooker’s work on Paul and interchange, and Beker’s Paul the Apostle.

When I took an introductory course on Paul, we used Bruce and also Polhill – both of these were informative and serviceable, but Gorman’s ACL was theologically dynamic and engaging. Over time I have returned to ACL again and again for lecture prep and counsel – for example, I just finished a short writing project on 2 Timothy and picked up ACL for guidance. I have not taught an intro to Paul in several years, but I have had students read selections from ACL, his early chapter on “Paul’s World” is outstanding. Of course, in my opinion, his chapters on Paul’s theology and spirituality are the heart of the book, and what makes it such a worthwhile textbook.

What about the new edition? Gorman has a high bar for excellence, and although the book follows the same format and flow as the first edition, he has clearly taken time to re-think and revise in light of scholarship over the last decade. Since 2004, Gorman has written numerous books, and you can see the new insights and thoughts he has incorporated into the new edition. Many of these are adjustments in titles and wording, but they demonstrate the integrated way he has tried to update the book.

Perhaps the thing that inspires and encourages me most about this new edition is that it is not written because Gorman demands that the world gives him attention – he updated it because he himself is a learner, a student of Paul, and simply wishes to share what he has continued to learn since the first edition  – he is all too quick to acknowledge many scholars, friends, and even students who have sharpened his thoughts here and there. It is a very encouraging model of ongoing inquiry in community.

If you don’t have the first edition, it is definitely time to get this 2017 one. If you already own the first edition, just know that Gorman has not really changed his mind on anything substantial. What you would miss out on would be updated academic conversations mostly, and Gorman’s tips on good bibliographical material (his annotated bibliographies are one of the best features of the book). Enjoy!