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.

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#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.

From #ZonderBird Himself

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I feel some frustration with scholars who write about the origins of christology and entirely ignore the work of Martin Hengel, Larry Hurtado, and Richard Bauckham. If you’re theory of christological origins does not make those three part of your major dialogue partner, I suspect that you’re either feigning ignorance, or else you have something to hide.
Mike Bird, Euangelion.

Morna Hooker on Paul and Covenantal Nomism

morna1The ‘covenantal nomism’ which Sanders traces in Judaism is only one form of a more fundamental pattern, in which divine election and promise lead to human acceptance and response. Certainly Paul’s pattern is more complicated, since what is begun in Abraham is completed only in Christ. The covenant on Sinai and the Mosaic Law, which form the heart of Judaism, are now seen as an interlude, sandwiched between the promises and their fulfillment. But the election of Abraham, and the promises made to him — which cannot fail — are part of God’s covenant with Israel, and come to their conclusion with the ‘new’ covenant in Christ’s death. The pattern begins with Abraham, who believed the promises of God, absurd though they appeared; it reaches fulfillment in Christ, the true son of Abraham, and in those who live ‘in Christ’. In contrast to Judaism, however, what marks out this community as God’s people is faith, not acceptance of the Law, and what governs their behaviour is life in the Spirit, not obedience to the Law’s commands. This pattern of covenant/promise–>fulfillment/faith embraces both Abraham and those who are now, in Christ, his children and heirs.
“Paul and Covenantal Nomism.” Paul and Paulinism: Essays in Honor of C.K. Barrett: 52.

Calvin on Justification and Works

Over at the Facebook group Nerdy Language Majors (if you are not a member, join!), Roy Ciampa makes mention of quote from Calvin that I thought was interesting.

I come to the second class, in which the chief difficulty lies. Paul finds nothing stronger to prove justification by faith than that which is written of Abraham, he “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6). Therefore, when it is said that the achievement of Phinehas “was counted unto him for righteousness,” (Ps. 106:30, 31), we may argue that what Paul contends for respecting faith applies also to works. Our opponents, accordingly, as if the point were proved, set it down that though we are not justified without faith, it is not by faith only; that our justification is completed by works. Here I beseech believers, as they know that the true standard of righteousness must be derived from Scripture alone, to consider with me seriously and religiously, how Scripture can be fairly reconciled with that view. Paul, knowing that justification by faith was the refuge of those who wanted righteousness of their own, confidently infers, that all who are justified by faith are excluded from the righteousness of works. But as it is clear that this justification is common to all believers, he with equal confidence infers that no man is justified by works; nay, more, that justification is without any help from works. But it is one thing to determine what power works have in themselves, and another to determine what place they are to hold after justification by faith has been established. If a price is to be put upon works according to their own worth, we hold that they are unfit to appear in the presence of God: that man, accordingly, has no works in which he can glory before God, and that hence, deprived of all aid from works, he is justified by faith alone. Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness.
Institutes of the Christian Religion: III, xvii, 8.