#QOTD: Martin Hengel on Acts

downloadThe title “Acts of the Apostles” has always led the reader of his work astray. It should really be called “From Jesus to Paul”, with the sub-title “From Jerusalem to Rome”, and describes very strictly the straight line followed by the gospel from unbelieving Israel to the Gentiles. The apostles—including Peter—essentially have the function only of preparing for the appearance and activity of Paul, of providing a bridge between Jesus and Paul. Once they have done their duty, the can disappear. To serve Paul’s greater glory they have to leave the stage one after the other: he alone remains behind. The reason for such a “one-dimensional” account does not lie simply in the theme of divine guidance—this could also have been worked out in a multiform way—but in the central and positive interest in the person and missionary work of Paul. He is the real goal of this work.
Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity: 2.

#QOTD: Joachim Jeremias

There can be no doubt that in his frequent use of the passive as a circumlocution for the divine activity, Jesus followed the style of apocalyptic. We may not, however, put the connection between the two in any stronger terms. For Jesus accords to the “the divine passive” and incomparably greater place than is given in apocalyptic. He uses it not only in apocalyptic sayings in the strict sense (e.g. about the last judgment and the eschatological division), but also—enlarging its scope—to describe God’s gracious action in the present: even now God forgives, even now he unveils the mystery of his reign, even now he fulfills his promise, even now he hears prayers, even now he gives the spirit, even now he sends messengers and protects them, whereas he delivers up the one who has been sent. All these “divine passives” announce the presence of the time of salvation, albeit in a veiled way, for the consummation of the world has dawned only in a veiled form. The extension of the “divine passive” beyond purely future apocalyptic sayings, which has been carried out so widely, is connected with the central part of Jesus’ preaching and is one of the clearest characteristics of his way of speaking.
New Testament Theology, Vol. 1: The Proclamation of Jesus, 14

#QOTD: Mike Bird (@mbird12) on Jesus and the Gospel

For Jesus, the deeds that he does —healings, exorcisms, preaching to the poor—are all signs that God is becoming king and that Israel’s hopes for restoration are really, visibly, and tangibly happening. In other words, victory is on the horizon. The constellation of hopes associated with Israel’s restoration, of which Isaiah contributed much much to, included items like the advent of a messianic king, a new exodus, the return of the dispersed tribes to Israel, the pilgrimage of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, the defeat of national enemies, the rebuilding of the temple, Yahweh’s visitation to Zion, and the return to covenant righteousness, and all of these can be coordinated with the program and preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. This was his gospel, his declaration.
The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus. 15

William Baird on the Historical Critical Method

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William Baird

Some reviewers have accused me of undue affection for the historical critical method. To that I merely reply, mea culpa. I am well aware, of course, that the use (or abuse) of the critical method has been destructive for some, resulting in depreciation of Scripture and loss of faith. For me the opposite have proved true. It has been the historical critical method that has sustained my faith and deepened my devotion to the New Testament, the book I have spent my life attempting to understand and teach.
History of New Testament Research, vol. 3: 3-4.

In some circles, the historical critical method is demonized and blamed for all sorts of interpretative evils. Sadly, I have witnessed this first hand on a number of occasions. The phrase is thrown around like a curse word, and the last thing you want to be caught doing is playing nice with this method.

I find Baird’s wonderful affirmation the historical critical method to be a breath of fresh air. While it may be true that some people have loss their faith due to this method, it is also true that people have loss their faith using the historical grammatical method and other methods as well. I do not blame the method for these tragic apostasies; rather, there is something else going on—something much deeper—in the heart of one who loses their faith in the Son of God.

#QOTD: C. H. Dodd on the Kerygma

In various part of the New Testament, notably in the epistles of Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Gospel and Epistles of John, we have a theological edifice constructed upon this plan. The style of building differs considerably. The theology of Paul, of John, and of the author to the Hebrews, though based upon a common tradition of the centre, is far from uniform. As church architecture, based upon a universal general plan, may show the various characteristics of Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque, so each of these theologians builds after his own style. It is a great merit of modern critical study of the New Testament that it has made us appreciate the individuality of the great theologians of the apostolic age, and the rich diversity of their teaching. The question now before us is this: Granted that each of these early thinkers followed the general tradition embodied in the apostolic kerygma, and faithfully conserved its main outline, have they anything in common beyond the bare outline? To put it otherwise, given the ground-plan, and the majestic buildings erected to its pattern, can we find a substructure—a part of the actual edifice—which is common to them all, or are the several buildings individually different from the foundation up?

According to the Scriptures: The Sub-Structure of New Testament Theology, 12-13.

#QOTD: Paul and James in Pseudo-Clementine

“And when matters were at that point that they should come and be baptized, some one of our enemies, entering the temple with a few men, began to cry out, and to say, ‘What mean ye, O men of Israel? Why are you so easily hurried on? Why are ye led headlong by most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a magician?’ While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while James the bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labour, and at the same time to reproach the priests, and to enrage them with revilings and abuse, and, like a madman, to excite every one to murder, saying, ‘What do ye? Why do ye hesitate? Oh, sluggish and inert, why do we not lay hands upon them, and pull all these fellows to pieces?’ When he had said this, he first, seizing a strong brand from the altar, set the example of smiting. Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like madness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy attacked James, and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him.”

“But our friends lifted him up, for they were both more numerous and more powerful than the others; but, from their fear of God, they rather suffered themselves to be killed by an inferior force, than they would kill others. But when the evening came the priests shut up the temple, and we returned to the house of James, and spent the night there in prayer. Then before daylight we went down to Jericho, to the number of 5000 men. Then after three days one of the brethren came to us from Gamaliel, whom we mentioned before, bringing to us secret tidings that that enemy had received a commission from Caiaphas, the chief priest, that he should arrest all who believed in Jesus, and should go to Damascus with his letters, and that there also, employing the help of the unbelievers, he should make havoc among the faithful; and that he was hastening to Damascus chiefly on this account, because he believed that Peter had fled thither. And about thirty days thereafter he stopped on his way while passing through Jericho going to Damascus. At that time we were absent, having gone out to the sepulchres of two brethren which were whitened of themselves every year, by which miracle the fury of many against us was restrained, because they saw that our brethren were had in remembrance before God.”
Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.70-71

Note the allusion to Acts 9 and Paul’s travels to Damascus. This is most likely not a historical account of what happened, but it is interesting nonetheless.

#QOTD: The Apostolic Constitution on Baptism

Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” and let not that which comes from the ungodly be received by you, nor let that which is done by the godly be disannulled by a second. For as there is one God, one Christ, and one Comforter, and one death of the Lord in the body, so let that baptism which is unto Him be but one. But those that receive polluted baptism from the ungodly will become partners in their opinions. For they are not priests. For God says to them: “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from the office of a priest to me.” Nor indeed are those that are baptized by them initiated, but are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but the bond of impiety. And, besides, they that attempt to baptize those already initiated crucify the Lord afresh, slay Him a second time, laugh at divine and ridicule holy things, affront the Spirit, dishonour the sacred blood of Christ as common blood, are impious against Him that sent, Him that suffered, and Him that witnessed. Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: “Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And again: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” But he that says, When I am dying I will be baptized, lest I should sin and defile my baptism, is ignorant of God, and forgetful of his own nature. For “do not thou delay to turn unto the Lord, for thou knowest not what the next day will bring forth.” Do you also baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God. For says He: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” (6.3.15).

#QOTD: Samuel Byrskog on the Gospels

[T]he history that is reported in the gospel narratives, as histories, is put within the framework of synchronic relations emerging as a coherent story. The time is over when the gospels were regarded as mere collections of formal units, as “Perikopenbücher”, like beautiful pearls held together only by the thread of the necklace. Today we see the necklace as a piece of art in itself; and the individual pearls, no matter how beautifully designed each of them appears to be, are closely related to make up a compositional and semantic whole. There are historical items; there is history, but history has become story; it has become present.
Story as History, History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History: 3.

#QOTD: Leon Morris and his Love/Hate Relationship with Writing

I hate writing. Perhaps it is because I write as badly as I do. The tool I use most frequently is the waste paper basket. But I still write; why I wonder? To be practical money has something to do with it I imagine. But for one so far from the best seller lists there must be many easier ways of staying alive. I think the basic answer is that a writer must write. To write is difficult. Not to write is agony. I don’t like agony so I write. And I write in the hope that what I write will be of interest and of help to those who read. I write on biblical topics for these seem to be far and away the most significant. I hope that writing on these topics will bring writer and readers a little nearer to God.

Taken from Neil Bach’s Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth, 79.

#QOTD: Fourth Sunday of Advent

What must it have been like for Mary at last to be recognized as faithful and obedient? She has been surrounded by suspicion, hard words and looks, and her swollen belly has been seen as a symbol of her faithlessness to the covenant, not its fulfilment. But now, Elizabeth and John see her for what she really is, the Ark of the Covenant, and John dances in the womb, just as David danced before the Ark, rejoicing in the presence of the Lord.

Jane Williams, Lectionary Reflections: Year C (London: SPCK, 2003), 9.

#QOTD: N. T. Wright (@NTWrightSays)

516MVJ+cA7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I said that I had been working on this book most of my life. There was a hiatus: I did not think much about Paul between the ages of five and fifteen. But he was my point of entry. I have written elsewhere about my first experience of the Bible.19 It was 2 June 1953: my mother’s birthday, and the Coronation Day of Queen Elizabeth II. My parents gave my sister and me each a Coronation Bible (King James, of course). Mine was, like me at the time, small and chunky. My sister and I retreated to our bedroom, sat on the floor, and leafed through this extraordinary object. I had after all only just learned to read, and was not quite ready for Romans. But we came upon the letter to Philemon: a single page, with something like a real story. We read it together. That is where I began. And that is one of the reasons, though not the only one, for beginning this book where I do. The Queen is still on the throne; my mother is celebrating another significant birthday; and Philemon is still a good place to start.
From the Preface of N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

#QOTD: Paul’s Writing Style

516MVJ+cA7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When you write like Paul seems to have done, at one level you think very hard about what you are doing, but at another level it just happens. Large-scale planning may be going on in your head or on scraps of parchment, but at that point there is an easy commerce of the old and the new, of conscious and subconscious. Finally, you glimpse it, you feel it, it emerges from somewhere, you write it (or dictate it), and it’s done. By the time Paul wrote Romans, writing was part of the praxis of his mindset, a symphonist at the top of his game. The letters were part pastoral, part a substitute for his own presence; as theoreticians were already pointing out in his day, that’s what a letter was and did. But they were also writing: quality writing to match the new thing which Paul must be credited with inventing, that specific, odd, craggy yet harmonious thing we call Christian theology, which demands new genres in which rhetoric, poetry, explanation, persuasion, scriptural exposition, warning and devotion rub shoulders and declare themselves members together of a new family. Whether we agree with him or not, his letters deserve their place (to put it with cheerful anachronism) not only in the Church Times or the Christian Century but also in the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books. They break the several different moulds, from which they emerge, just as did Paul’s theology itself. Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning. If Seneca didn’t read Romans, which he almost certainly didn’t, it is a pity: he would have been puzzled by much of the content, but he would have recognized that this man had something to say and knew how to say it. With style.
Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 453-54.

#QOTD: Paul, The Theological Pastor (@Fortresspress)

[T]he reason Paul was ‘doing theology’ was not that he happened to have the kind of brain that delighted in playing with and rearranging large, complex abstract ideas. He was doing theology because the life of God’s people depended on it, depended on his doing it initially for them, then as soon as possible with them, and then on them being able to go on doing it for themselves. All Paul’s theology is thus pastoral theology, not in the sense of an unsystematic therapeutic model which concentrates on meeting the felt needs of the ‘client’, but in the sense that the shepherd needs to feed the flock with clean food and water, and keep a sharp eye out for wolves. For that, pastoral theology needs to be crystal clear, thought out and presented in a way that teaches others to think as well. That, too, is part of the point: Christian theology, for Paul, was not just about what you know, but about how you know. And, just as the Christian worldview compels people to think in a new way, because otherwise the worldview itself is unstable, so Christian theology remains both a corporate task, one in which the church as a whole has to engage, rather than being spoon-fed by one or two high-octane teachers, and also an incomplete task, because each generation needs to become mature in its thinking, which wouldn’t happen if Paul, Athanasius, Aquinas, Luther, Barth or anyone else had closed off the questions with answers that could then simply be looked up. The ‘authority’ of Paul did not consist in his providing lots of correct answers to puzzling questions. That would have left his converts, and subsequent generations, with no work to do on the questions he had answered, and no starting-point for the ones he didn’t. They would have remained radically and residually immature. Give someone a thought, and you help them for a day; teach someone to think, and you transform them for life. Paul’s authority consisted in his setting up a particular framework and posing a specific challenge. Living as Messiah-people demanded, he would have said, that people work within that framework and wrestle with that challenge.
Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 568–69.

#QOTD: Graham Stanton on Bultmann

Many who have a nodding acquaintance with twentieth-century theology associate Bultmann with radical skepticism concerning the historicity of the gospels, with lack of interest in the historical Jesus, with ‘demythologizing’ and with use of existentialism in interpretation of the NT. On each of these questions Bultmann has frequently been misunderstood. But whether or not once accepts his conclusions, his writings are of the utmost importance for contemporary theology. The issues they raise will be on the theologian’s agenda for a long time to come.
“Rudolf Bultmann: Jesus and the Word.” Studies in Matthew and Early Christianity, 261.

#QOTD: Jens Schröter on History Writing

image_previewHistory writing—this is suggested by the thoughts presented here—is only grasped adequately as the interplay between event and narration, for this is the only way that living history can emerge from dead material. It is bound thereby to the traces of the past—to recollections, sources, and documents. These materials become constituent parts of conceptions of history through questioning, interpretation, and integration into overarching connections. History writing as reality interpretation, which is by no means completed with the gathering and examination of facts, is therefore related to myth and tradition as identity-creating entities of communities.
From Jesus to the New Testament, 47

Don’t forget to get Schröter’s book for 20% off! See my post for the details.

#QOTD from @Fortresspress Shepherds of the Empire

The initial steps to underscore inspiration were clumsy, defensive techniques that aimed simply to attack critical methods. There was no attempt to build something constructive from which confessional or biblicist theologians could reform Christianity for the modern world as Luther had for  his generation. Conservative theologians relied, for example, on the doctrine of verbal inspiration, which held that the Bible came word for word from God. They forced Strauss out of all theological faculties. They prophesied moral anarchy. But they were unable to find effective modern responses to modern issues raised by Strauss’s successors.
Shepherds of the Empire, 22.

A good reminder for us today.