William Baird on the Historical Critical Method


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.

Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Sam Storms)

Kingdom Come- The Amillennial AlternativeRecently, the kind folks at Christian Focus Publications sent over a review copy of Sam Storms new book on amillennialism, Kingdom Come. While mainstream evangelical eschatology would likely be some form of premillennialism—be it dispensational, progressive dispensational, or possibly classical/historical premillennialism—Sam stands relatively alone among popular pastors/preachers with his belief in amillennialism. I remember watching a panel discussion hosted by John Piper, which included three men discussing various eschatological views. This was my first encounter with Sam, and I remember thinking that he did a good job explaining his views.

In any case, when I heard that Sam was publishing a book on amillennialism I was eager to get my hands on it. As one who holds to amillennialism, I was eager to see how this book would be received within the lager evangelical community. While it is far too early to gauge the influence of this book, I nevertheless wanted to offer some early observations on what I have read thus far.

The Audience

What I appreciate most about this work is that it is written for the laity. While terms like amillennialism and premillennialism may seem foreign or strange to some believers, Sam has done an excellent job at making these words and other relevant terms accessible for the reader. Eschatology is not an easy filed of theology to jump right into, and Sam has taken great care to make sure that the reader does not get lost.

The Critics

I would guess that most evangelicals in America are dispensational in their eschatology. Therefore, most of the readers who read this work would identify with the majority. Nevertheless, Sam is gracious towards dispensationalism, always trying to explain their viewpoints clearly and honestly. While I am sure that some would disagree with his critique of dispensationalism, Sam does come across as one who tries to fairly represent his opponents.

Some Observations

While there is much to commend, I still have a few areas I want to highlight. First, I noticed that some of the sources that he cites as support for his case are relatively old and somewhat dated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I just was hoping for more engagement with modern works on the subject. Second, I did notice that on one occasion he makes an assertion but does not reference relevant data to support his claim:

My point is that “seventy years” is an approximate designation of length, such as we find in Jer 27.7 and Eze 4.6-8. In Mesopotamian culture, seventy years refers primarily to a certain period of desolation followed by the visitation of God.
Kingdom Come, 86 (emphasis mine).

I am not saying that Sam is incorrect in his claim regarding Mesopotamian culture—I would just like to see where his evidence for such a claim is based is all. Third, I found some parts to be a bit repetitious. For example, chapter four—Daniel’s Contribution to Biblical Eschatology—dragged on a bit too long and could have ended much earlier. Maybe because I am already convinced by most of his arguments that I felt this chapter repeated some of the main arguments, which in that case I may be too harsh with this criticism.

In the end, I commend Sam for writing a book that offers another perspetive (the right perspective!) on eschatology and the end times. When it comes to eschatology, I have found that instead of reading the works of those who hold another views, most people read a critique instead. Therefore, it is my hope that people who are interested in what amillennialism is will pick up Sam’s book and find out firsthand what amillennialism is from one who is himself an amillennialist.

#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.

In the Mail: Mohr Siebeck Edition

StantonToday I received a lovely surprise from the fine folks at Mohr Siebeck (my favorite publisher!): Studies in Matthew and Early Christianity. This volume consists of essays from the late Graham Stanton, edited by Markus Bockmuehl and David Lincicum. During his lifetime Dr. Graham was arguably the world’s leading expert on the Gospel of Matthew. I look forward to what this gem will teach me.

Thanks Mohr!

QOTD: N.T. Wright on the Importance of Theology for the Church

The reason we study Paul’s theology, I suggest, is that it has had to grow up quickly, to learn its new, complex, leading part within the music. Theology is the lifeblood of the ekklēsia, which is itself the central worldview-symbol. Without it—as any church will discover, to this day, if theology in general and Pauline theology in particular is ignored or marginalized!—the chance of the central worldview-symbol standing upright and supporting the rest of the building will be severely decreased.
Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 404.

Sunday Thoughts on the #Resurrection

It is the resurrection that gives us hope that not only was Jesus victorious at the cross, but also of the new creation that was inaugurated in Christ! The cross is our entrance into this new creation; while we never forget the price paid, we are far too busy marveling at what is already, but not yet!

Rudolf Bultmann, Gospel of John, and Exegesis

R. bultmannI cracked open Bultmann’s famous commentary on John this evening to see what he had to say in regards to John’s Prologue (1.1-18). I was impressed with his eye for detail, his understanding of the literary character of the Prologue, and his desire to get at  the meaning of what the evangelist said. We see Bultmann’s Formgeschichte is full effect, evidenced by his exegesis on the text of 1.1-18. But what struck me was a statement he makes after a brief analysis of the structure of the Prologue, conceding that behind the Prologue is a “source document to which the Evangelist has added his own comments” (Bultmann, 16). Bultmann confesses:

It goes without saying that the exegesis must expound the complete text, the critical analysis is the servant of this exposition.

Did you hear that? Although a card-carrying form critic, Bultmann cares about the final form of the text.

An Interview with New Testament Scholar Andrew Pitts (@AndrewPittsLA )

7926_163300257213_4445102_nToday I have the distinct privilege of interviewing not only a fine New Testament scholar, but also one of my good friends Andrew Pitts. This past November I got to hang out with him quite a bit while in Baltimore for the ETS and SBL annual meetings. What a treat that was! Well, without further ado his is my interview with Andrew.

Thanks Andrew for taking sometime to answer some questions. Before we get to the juicy stuff, would you mind telling our readers a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, what kind of coffee you like, your favorite color, etc.?

Thank you, Cliff, for having me on your blog. It’s an honor.

I grew up in Florida, although I’ve lived in Southern California most of my adult life. I currently live in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, with my wife (Amber) and my son (Quinn), a few miles from Santa Monica. We love LA. It’s a great city with a ton of need (which means, it’s a great place for the church), but also with lots of resources, theological and otherwise. I can’t say that I have a favorite color, but I do like the Funnel Mill.

You are currently in the last stages of your PhD at McMaster’s Divinity College, can you tell us about your time there? Why did you choose to study there? Who is your advisor? What is your dissertation is focusing on?

I cannot speak highly enough about McMaster’s Divinity College (MDC). It’s such an incredible place to study New Testament. To date, my time there has been one of the most enjoyable seasons of my life. When I was applying to grad schools, I really just wanted to go to Duke. So I only initially applied to the masters program there. I was excited to get accepted and really didn’t want to go anywhere else. Duke was at that time (and in many ways, still is) a meca for New Testament scholarship, especially emphasizing in the new Pauline perspective and the use of the Old Testament in the New with people like Joel Marcus, Richard Hays and Doug Campbell—and Ed Sanders was even still around, a bit. Additionally, Mark Goodacre had just arrived, bringing an added emphasis upon Synoptic studies.

But at the time Stan Porter was the contemporary scholar I appreciated the most. What I admired about Stan Porter was his diversity. Of course, I was impressed by his linguistic abilities but he was also quite accomplished in ancient rhetoric, textual criticism and papyrology, Pauline studies and historical Jesus scholarship. I get board easily so I always envisioned myself working in several areas within the study of the New Testament and Christian Origins so that was really appealing to me. He was one of the most well-published scholars, which I found quite attractive as well. I knew he had (at the time) recently become the president of McMaster Divinity College, but I did not know what exactly the M.A. or Ph.D. program would entail or how involved (as the president of school!) he really was until—by happen stance—I ended up at dinner with him at SBL. I told him of my plan to potentially go to Duke and he agreed it was a fine school but explained to me the level of his involvement in the M.A. program and insisted that I’d be a good fit there. This was, of course, in November and Duke only allowed admission in August and since we’d already saved up enough to move (North Carolina is a lot cheaper than Southern California!), we finally decided to attend the Spring quarter at McMaster with Stan. We thought we’d see how we liked the program and the greater Toronto area in general. Everything was great. McMaster was a competitive environment in many ways, which was fantastic because it pushes you to become a better scholar. There were great people there and lots of publishing opportunities for those with the energy and time to pursue them. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would get at Duke but the one-on-one mentorship with Stan—usually several hours a week, in addition to classes—combined with the quality of his mentorship and the numerous opportunities to publish were enough to keep me at McMaster for both the M.A. and the Ph.D. I went back and forth on many topics for my dissertation but eventually settled on “Greco-Roman Historiography and Luke’s Use of Scripture.” I submitted the first draft last month and hope to defend it in the early spring.

You have already been involved in the publication of a number of important edited works (The Language of the New TestamentChristian Origins and Hellenistic Judaism: Social and Literary Contexts for the New TestamentChristian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture: Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament) for Brill, as well as being published in major NT journals (JBLCBRJGRChJ, Religion). How did these opportunities come to pass for you?

Obviously, it takes a lot of drive and hard work to see any type of publication through to the finish, but I really would say that my mentor Stan Porter was the formative influence both in shaping the way I view publication (how to publish, what to publish, where to publish) and in providing opportunities to do so, especially initially.

*As a side note, check out Stan Porter’s Inking the Deal: A Guide for Successful Academic Publishing for more on this as well*

Which of your projects—both current and forthcoming—would you say are your most important to date?

I would have to say my current project on Gospel Origins, for which my dissertation functions as a first step, is the most important thing I’m working on at this time. The dissertation is really much more than just a thesis on Luke’s use of Scripture—it situates the synoptic tradition, including the Third Gospel as a piece ancient history (not bios), according to a genre configured framework in which direct citation functions as only one component.  I have a follow up work that’s already about 100k words long on Gospel Origins that will fill out the rest of the picture. I basically posit two levels of source integration for Gospel tradition—citation (of Scripture) and mimesis (oral tradition, scriptural allusion, etc.), all calibrated literally according to genre. This aligns with the way authority and tradition was viewed within ancient historical and biographical tradition and has implications for the oral transmission and literary reception of the Jesus tradition in the Gospels.

In addition to that, I think a book Stan Porter and I have almost finished on the Pistis Christou construction is pretty important since it shows—contrary to an almost universal consensus—that this enigmatic structure can in fact be disambiguated according to strictly linguistic criteria. We’ve got about one chapter left to write and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that is received. Until then, you can find an article that is a somewhat underdeveloped statement of this view in Mike Bird and Preston SprinkleThe Faith of Jesus Christ.

How do you see your work impacting both the academy as well as the church?

Well I do also serve as a pastor—I always have been in pastoral ministry of some kind—and so this is an important question for me. Although most other pastors may find my work quite technical (and, therefore, perhaps irrelevant to pastoral ministry—one well-known pastor joked on twitter about the highly technical nature of a quite mid-level textbook because it had footnotes!), I don’t believe creating surveys  and pop- or even seminary-level introductions to scholarship is the way to truly impact the next generation of leaders. Instead, we want to produce high-quality, creative work that sheds genuine original insight on the biblical text and hope that this will influence the discipline of New Testament studies, including New Testament seminary professors, who are training the next generation of pastors. I know this goes against the grain of how people think about impacting the masses, but the works that remain for generations are those that shape the field, not typically those that summarize its results.

What are some projects you are working on that we need to be on the lookout for?

Dovetailing on the answer to the prior question: while I do not believe that summaries, etc., are the most important types of books for impacting the academy or the church, I do nevertheless see their value. In fact, I am involved in several of them that readers can look out for. Stan Porter and I recently finished a book called The Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism (Eerdmans, forthcoming). In the same series, Stan Porter, Chris Land, and I are working toward completing an Intermediate Greek Grammar of the New Testament, which we hope to finish by the end of the year. I also have a linguistic analysis of 1 Peter that’s nearing completion as well as the Pistis Christou book that Stan and I have almost finished, mentioned above.

Finally, give us your top five most influential scholars on your life and work.

Of course, having worked most closely with Stan, I’d have to place him at the top, but he was my biggest influence prior to working with him as well. I’d probably say Martin Hengel after that. Then Albert Schweitzer—although I don’t buy everything, he was a brilliant theologian and brought theology together with Christian origins in ways that were clearly before his time. James Barr and F.F. Bruce have likewise had an profound influence my earlier thinking as a biblical scholar. On a another tier I’d also include a number of important early linguists, including Adolf Deissmann and J.H. Moulton and later Fred Danker, John Lee, J.P. Louw and Eugene Nida.

Thanks again Andrew for taking the time to answer a few questions. I know I for one look forward to your future publications. Further, I hope to do some more of these interviews this year, so stay tuned.


Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3 πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. 6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης· 7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν διʼ αὐτοῦ. 8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλʼ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός. 9 ῏Ην τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. 14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. 15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

The Gospel of John 1.1–18

Review of @FortressPress Paul and the Faithfulness of God (pt. 1)

516MVJ+cA7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Earlier this month saw the publication of the much-anticipated fourth volume in the Christian Origins and the Question of God Series. N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God is a tour de force in the field of Pauline studies. Weighing in at just under 1,700 pages, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (PFG) consists of four parts: (1) Paul and His World, (2) The Mindset of the Apostle, (3) Paul’s Theology, and (4) Paul in History. With each part Wright assembles a picture of the “historical” Saul within his Jewish and Greco-Roman world, which in turn allows us to see more clearly the “theological” Paul and all his intricacies. It will be tempting to turn straight to Part 3 and get into the thick of Paul’s theology—especially Wright’s understanding of justification! But the patient reader who works through Parts 1–2 first shall be rewarded with a fuller understanding of the Jewish and Greco-Roman world in which Paul was born into, and in which Paul operated from.

Part 1: Paul and His World

a. Return of the Runaway

A more traditional study on Paul and his theology will begin with a focus on one of Paul’s more substantial letters like Romans or possibly Galatians. But in typical Wrightian fashion, this is not so in PFG. In ch. 1 Wright begins his magnum opus with a comparison of Paul’s letter to Philemon with a letter of Pliny the Younger. Wright carefully draws out both similarities and especially the differences between the worldviews of Paul and Pliny. The 70+ pages of ch. 1 serve as an excellent introduction to the following chapters on Paul’s Jewish, Hellenistic, and finally Roman context. Thus “Paul stands where three great roads converge; and he has made of them another, travelled less, and making all the difference” (Wright, 75).

b. Like Birds Hovering Overhead: The Faithfulness of the God of Israel

Wright embarks on his survey of the world(s) in which Paul was born into in ch. 2. Wright notes that “Paul lived and worked, in fact, in at three worlds at once, each of which was subdivided” (Wright, 75). For the interpreter of Paul, this means that one must have a decent grasp of the cultural, linguistic, and historical sources in order to fully appreciate and understand Paul in his cultural and theological context. Wright begins with a thorough survey of the Jewish world of Paul. He discusses the Pharisees and their theology, the role and practice of Torah and temple, the driving story (narrative) of Israel, and finally the aims of the zealous Pharisees.

Chapter 2 leaves the reader with a lot to digest. One of Wright’s greatest strength is his ability to navigate through the grand narrative of Israel’s story. This navigation is possible due to Wright’s impressive grasp of the relevant literature related to Judaism. But his greatest strength may also be a weakness. The weary reader may find themselves lost in the narrative, bogged down by the vast amount of sources Wright appeals to. While it is necessary for him to examine this literature, it can be easy for the reader to lose interest, thus losing sight of the bigger picture Wright is painting. But blessed is the one who perseveres to the end; for they will be rewarded for their endurance! If one gets lost in the big picture, here is a good thesis statement of sorts that can help realign your view:

…[T]he Pharisee was passionately concerned about the ancestral traditions, particularly the law of Moses and the development of that into oral law, and about the importance of keeping this double Torah not simply because it was required, or in order to earn the divine favour, but because a renewed keeping of the law with all one’s heart and soul was one of the biblically stated conditions (as in Deuteronomy 30) for the great renewal, the eschaton and all that it would mean (Wright, 195–96).

c. Athene and Her Owl: The Wisdom of the Greeks

Not only is Paul a child of Judaism and all her practices, he is also a son of sorts of Greece and its intellectual legacy. There is nowhere in the known world of Paul’s day that was not in some form or another influenced by Hellenism. And although Greek culture and religion was not the main influence shaping Paul, it is no doubt a part of what formed his thinking and influenced how he conducted his ministry to the Gentiles.

In ch. 3, Wright offers a selective overview of some of the more important philosophers that shaped the first-century world in which Paul lived. Beginning with Socrates and Plato, Wright discusses the Cynics, Stoics, the Epicureans, and other important figures and philosophical schools that emerged throughout the history of Greece and into the Roman Empire. Each school and figured is briefly discussed, giving the reader an elementary understanding of their key influences on the Greco-Roman culture. This chapter is important in that it places Paul within a world that is very much concerned with some of the same issues that Judaism was likewise concerned with: ethics, morality, creation, God, etc. Further, because Paul spoke Greek—and arguably was educated in the gymnasium—he would have been directly influenced by such an education; take for example the practice of rhetoric.

Some Closing Thoughts

More can be said on these first three chapters of PFG; no doubt the new year will bring a swarm of reviews. Let me offer a few closing observations. First, while it is not necessary for one to read the first two volumes in this series, it may be wise to read volume one, The New Testament and the People of God, before reading PFG. Wright makes a number of references to this foundational work, and a careful reading will pay dividends for the diligent and careful reader. Second, make sure you read the Preface. It is always tempting to skip the preface and get down to business, but you will not want to miss this preface. Finally, it seems like Wright uses an analogy in every paragraph. This is no big issues; I just thought it interesting and amusing is all.

In the Mail: @Fortresspress Edition

9780800699116.jpgbI received in the mail yesterday a review copy of Mark Reasoner’s Roman Imperial Texts: A Sourcebook, courtesy of Fortress Press. This fascinating book is a “sourcebook of Roman texts for readers of the New Testament.” Further, “it is a supplement to one’s reading of the New Testament, a tool to prompt consideration of how its texts relate to the Roman Empire and how the Christianities that grew out of communities behind those texts came to relate to the state” (Reasoner, 1). This looks to be an excellent supplementary text for a NT survey course. I look forward to its contents.

Beware the Dangers of…Rap?

Recently at a conference title Worship of God a panel was asked what they thought of reformed rap and the artists that produce such music. Though I am not your token carrying rap fan (I do enjoy some I must say), I did find the answers given by the panel to be somewhat out of touch with reality and the culture in which they minister and live. At one point accusations like “disobedient cowards” were thrown around. What I took from this is that a panel of six middle aged white men are ignorant of much of the music that most of their young congregants are listening to. When you leave out the lyrics and just have the music, I must ask what makes Mozart’s music anymore sanctified than Lecrae or Beautiful Eulogy? One may love Mozart and one Beautiful Eulogy, but please enlighten me as to why one is more God-honoring than the other. Maybe it’s time for these six men to get out of their comfort zones and start looking at the world around them more. One thing is for certain, they aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Thoughts on 1 Macabees and Zeal for the Law

While reading Maccabees earlier today, I came across 1 Macc 2.42:

τότε συνήχθησαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς συναγωγὴ Ασιδαίων, ἰσχυροὶ δυνάμει ἀπὸ Ισραηλ, πᾶς ὁ ἑκουσιαζόμενος τῷ νόμῳ.

At that time a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, united with them. They offered their lives willingly for the Law (CEB)

Stattler-MachabeuszeWhat struck me was the last part, “They offered their lives willingly for the law.” If you have never read Maccabees, it is a great place to go to get a look at the political landscape that was Palestine in the centuries leading up to the birth of the Messiah. I got to thinking, how does the zeal for the Law here in 1 Macc differ with the same zeal found in the NT, particularly in the Pharisees? This verse in 1 Macc does not seem to imply that the Jews in this time were trying to earn any favor with God. Rather, they were concerned with the purity of their Law, so much so that they would willing offer their lives for it (ὁ ἑκουσιαζόμενος τῷ νόμῳ).

A little further we read:

 Now the days drew near for Mattathias to die, and he spoke to his sons: “Arrogance and contempt are present everywhere. It is a time of ruin and raging anger. 50 Now, my children, demonstrate zeal for the Law, and give your lives for our ancestors’ covenant. 51 “Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their day, and you will inherit great honor and everlasting remembrance.

52 Wasn’t Abraham found faithful when he was tested, and it was considered righteousness
53 Joseph kept the commandment in the time of his distress, and he became ruler of Egypt.
54 Our ancestor Phinehas received the covenant of everlasting priesthood because he was deeply zealous.
55 Joshua became a judge in Israel because he fulfilled the command.
56 Caleb received an inheritance in the land because he testified in the assembly.
57 David inherited the throne of the kingdom forever because he was merciful.
58 Elijah was taken up into heaven because he had great zeal for the Law.
59 Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed, and were rescued from the flame.
60 Daniel was delivered from the lions’ mouths because of his innocence.

61 “So you see that from generation to generation, no one who continues to trust God will lack strength. 62 Don’t fear the words of sinners, for their glory will turn into dung and worms. 63 Today they may be exalted, but tomorrow they can’t be found, because they will have returned to the dust and their plans will have vanished. 64 My children, show courage and grow strong in the Law, because this will bring you honor.

Again, there is nothing that overtly indicates a desire to earn God’s favor by doing the Law. Yes, there are sayings like “demonstrate zeal for the Law” (2.50); “Joseph kept the commandments…” (2.53); Joshua “fulfilled the commandment” (2.55); Elijah was taken up because of his “great zeal for the Law” (2.58). But these by themselves are not a clear indication of an attempt to earn God’s favor through obedience to the Law. In fact, 1 Macc 2.52 is very similar to what we have recored in Jam 2.20-23:

20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23  and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God (cf. Rom 4.3; Gen 15.6).

The situation in Palestine during the Maccabean revolt was one that called for an strict allegiance to the Law. At a time when Gentile rulers were trying to force the Jews of Palestine to assimilate to Gentile customs, a radical obedience to the Law was the one thing that separated obedient Jews from the rest of the people, which included both Gentiles as well as nominal Jews.

Some Observations on @IVPAcademic’s Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (pt. 1)

IVPIn my initial post on the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (DJG), I pleaded that even if you own the first edition of DJG you still need to pick up the second edition! But you may be wondering why this is so when most second editions are nothing more than an updated preface, bulked up bibliography, or possibly an added afterword. Let me assure of this: the second edition of DJG is far more than just a few added words; it is a complete re-writing from the ground up. Let me highlight a few notable changes in the second edition of DJG.

Page Count

The first thing I noticed is the total page count of DJG. There is a nice increase in total pages in the second edition: 1,088 pages, compared to 933 in the first edition. It is always nice to see the addition of a few extra pages, especially when they are pages with substantial content.


With the second edition of DJG comes a bunch of new contributors. Some of the newbies are up-and-coming NT scholars and well know bloggers like Mike Bird and Nijay Gupta. There are also season scholars like Richard Bauckham and Scot McKnight included as well. This mixture of seasoned scholars with new helps to ensure that DJG will be a fresh and invigorating collection of essays. In all, there are a total of 128 contributors in the second edition, compared to 95 in the first. Joel, Jeannine, and Nick have done us a great service by increasing the number of excellent contributors.


The second edition of DJG contains 173 essays, while the first has 176. Initially, I was curious as to why there are actually less essays in the newest edition. My only thought is that maybe some of the essays in the first edition were subsumed by others in the second edition. At any rate, three less essays are no real concern. If the quality of the essays are anything like the first edition—and I have no doubt that is the case!—the second edition of DJG will be something you must have for any serious study of the Gospels and Jesus.

So, are you still on the fence about picking up the second edition of Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels? Well, allow me to flip you over the fence! There is no reason why you should not get this resource. It is now the new standard of Jesus and Gospel studies, and you will want to have a copy of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels within your reach as you begin your studies or preaching on the four Gospels.