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Beale on the “Adams” of the biblical narrative

Many thanks to Dane Ortlund at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology for posting this excerpt from G. K. Beale on the adamic flow of the biblical narratives:

The first Adam should have obeyed and subdued the entire earth, but he did not.

After the flood, Noah was commissioned to subdue the earth, but he had his own ‘fall’ in a garden-like environment, also in connection with the image of nakedness.

Subsequently, God creates a corporate Adam, Israel, who was to be obedient to God in the promised land, which the OT refers to repeatedly as ‘like the garden of Eden.’ They were to go out from the promised land and subdue the rest of the earth. Appropriately, Israel was called by Adamic names, like ‘Son of Adam (Man)’ and ‘Son of God.’ Israel had her ‘fall’ at the golden calf episode, the effects of which were devastating for the nation’s destiny. Instead of subduing the earth, she was subdued by it.

Lastly, God raises up another individual Adamic figure, Jesus Christ, who finally does what Adam should have done, and so he inaugurates a new creation which will not be corrupted but find its culmination in a new heavens and earth. And his names ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’ also allude to him, not only as the Last Adam, but also as true Israel.

G. K. Beale, ‘The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology,’ in The Reader Must Understand: Eschatology in Bible and Theology (IVP 1997)

The biblical languages in life and ministry

Thanks to the NT Resources blog I ran across an interesting post on Original Languages and the Priesthood of All Believers. Since most of us have spent a fair amount of time with the original languages in our academic development, I thought his would be worth reflecting on.

The article begins with the following statement:

The original languages of scripture can be a blessing and they can be a curse. They can help or they can harm the priesthood of believers. I have seen both happen.

He goes on to express high appreciation for the value of studying the original languages, but also a significant concern that we be careful how we use our understanding of the languages – especially from the pulpit.

The problem for the priesthood of believers comes when someone uses the Hebrew and Greek to set himself up as “the one with knowledge.” This may happen inadvertently, but it harms the church nonetheless. For example, when a pastor (who does almost all the preaching in the modern Western church) repeatedly says, “Well, in the Greek this means…” he is telling the folks of that church that he has special knowledge that they don’t have. While he may not mean it this way, this is the message that they receive. He is the expert and they are not.
What does this do to the priesthood? It can devastate it. It causes a passive church when it comes to reading and interpreting the bible. If the people think that the pastor is the one “who brings the word of God,” they won’t be motivated to study and think for themselves. Instead, they will wait for the expert to bring them “the message” on Sundays.
I have to say that I completely agree. This actually happens to be one of the soapboxes that I enjoy jumping up and down on in my Greek classes. We need to careful that we don’t set ourselves up as the new “magisterium” and reverse the important emphasis of the Reformers that the Word of God is for all of his people – not just the elite few.
But, having said, I wanted to reflect as well on the value of studying the original languages. Or, rather, I’d like to hear some of your thoughts. Most of you who read this blog have done quite a bit of work in both Hebrew and Greek. What did you get out of it? Was it just a hurdle that you had to jump through to get your degree? Has it been a primarily academic exercise that opened up new and interesting avenues for research and writing? Or, have you found that understanding the original languages has truly deepened your spiritual life and made you more effective in ministry? Of course, you might have some other response as well. Regardless, let’s hear it.

Piper out, Schreiner in

You’ve probably heard by now that John Piper is taking a leave of absence from his church and all speaking/writing engagements. Unfortunately, this means that he will no longer be one of the plenary speakers at this year’s national ETS conference, the theme of which is “Justification by Faith.” That is unfortunate since N.T. Wright will be one of the other plenary speakers and it would have been fun to have both of them involved.

But, ETS has announced that Tom Schreiner will be stepping in to take Piper’s place. What do you think? Tom has written extensively on the subject, but I’m not personally familiar with most of his books. Do you think he’s a good replacement for Piper? If you were on the nominating committee, is there anyone that you would have suggested instead?

The Apex of Pauline Pneumatology?

According to James D.G. Dunn, “Rom. 8.1-27 is unquestionably the highest point of Paul’s theology of the Spirit.” [1] To support this statement he highlights the following parts of this passage:

(1) In 8.1-2 it is “clearly the Spirit which has made the decisive difference (note the aorist tense) in countering the law abused by sin to bring about death.

(2) In 8.4-6 the readers are “encouraged to think of themselves (and to realize themselves) as those who ‘walk in accordance with the Spirit,’ who have their being in terms of the Spirit, who think in the Spirit’s way.”

(3) In 8.9, “It is ‘having the Spirit’ which defines and determines someone as being ‘of Christ.’ A Spirtless Christian would have been a contradiction of terms for Paul.’

(4) In 8.10, “the Spirit is the life of the Christian, that is, the life of God in the Christian”.

(5) In 8.11, “the resurrection of the body” is “the climactic saving act of the life-giving Spirit”.

(6) In 8.14, “membership in God’s family is defined in terms of the Spirit”.

(7) In 8.16, “The adoption is given its existential reality bu the presence and witness of the Spirit”.

(8) Finally, in 8.23, “…the gift of the Spirit is but the firstfruits of that complete salvation, the beginning of the process and the assurance of its completion.” [2]

For Pentecostal/Charismatic types I think Dunn does a fine job of showing us that Romans 8.1-27 is essential reading for a more well-rounded understanding of the Holy Spirit. For others it is essential reading, especially if we have not taken into consideration the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. [3] [4]

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[1] James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 423.

[2] Ibid. 423-424.

[3] Reposted from http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/the-apex-of-pauline-pneumatology/

[4] For those ThM students who are taking James De Young’s class on Romans I would greatly appreciate any thoughts that you might gather as you work through this passage.

Nicholas Perrin on the Gospel of Thomas (Summary)

I decided to summarize my review of Nicholas Perrin’s Thomas: The Other Gospel due to time constraints here.

Thomas: The Other Gospel by Nicholar Perrin [3]

Now I have entered the part of Perrin’s book where he begins to interact with otherThomas scholars. As I noted last time the three scholars toward which Perrin gives the most attention are Stephen J. Patterson, Elaine Pagels, and April DeConick. The chapter I will be posting on here (“The Thomas community on the move”) is the chapter on Patterson.

Stephen J. Patterson is the professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. It is his suggestion that the author of Thomas was not dependent upon the canonical gospels. Therefore, the Thomas community has its own, independent origins. 1

Patterson argues that the order of the sayings in Thomas do not parallel the Synoptics, therefore it is odd to see Thomas as the production of someone who was copying from the Synoptics. 2 Where it appears that the author of Thomas has adopted Lukan or Marcan language it is suggested this crept in at a later stage of the document’s development. 3 Therefore, it may be best to call the Thomas tradition “autonomous” rather than “independent” since at some point it was rubbed on by the Synoptics. 4

For reasons given in the book Patterson dates the original Thomas as early as AD 70. 5 It was the product of a Christian community that was itinerant, cut its family ties, and lived a life of poverty and begging. It “prioritized” the “presence of the living Jesus” over “Jewish rituals and disciplines”. “Finally, it was a community open to women–well, sort of. The bad news, as the last logion in the collection tells us, is that women had to ‘become like men’ first (Gos. Thom. 114).” 6

Perrin responds with the following points of agreement:

(1) He agrees that the Thomas community was an ascetic group.

(2) Thomas’ eschatology is actualized.

(3) Thomasine Christianity and Syrian Christianity are rightly compared by Patterson. 7

Perrin brings forth the following critiques:

(1) He doesn’t agree with Patterson’s reasoning for his argument that there is no dependence on the Synoptics since there are Mattheanisms and Lucanisms. 8

(2) Patterson makes the same mistake at James Robinson by “playing fast and loose with the categories of form and genre”. Therefore, Perrin disagrees that this document is a mere “sayings” document that was compiled without much of an agenda therefore leading us back closer to the real, historical Jesus. 9

(3) Although ascetic, it does not look like other models of asceticism in early Christianity. It goes further than the Synoptic tradition in its emphasis on poverty. It ignores that the Jesus Movement came forth from the movement of John the Baptist which had rites and rituals early on. 10

The conclusions reached by Perrin are fourfold:

(1) The order of the sayings does need some explanation if one is going to argue that Thomas depends on the Synoptics.

(2) Thomas Christianity was ascetic.

(3) Thomasine eschatology was realized eschatology (more like The Gospel of John than the Synoptics).

(4) There “are certain semblances between Thomas Christianity and early Syriac Christianity. 11

 

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[1] Nicholas Perrin. Thomas: The Other Gospel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. 20-21.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. 23.

[4] Ibid. 24.

[5] Ibid. 25.

[6] Ibid. 26.

[7] Ibid. 28-29.

[8] Ibid. 29.

[9] Ibid. 31.

[10] Ibid. 34-35.

[11] Ibid. 36.

[12] Reposted from http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/thomas-the-other-gospel-by-nicholas-perrin-4/

Thomas: The Other Gospel by Nicholas Perrin [2]

I want to say a few brief words about the end of the ‘Introduction’ chapter in Nicholas Perrin’s Thomas: The Other Gospel (see my a-tad-too-lengthy post on the rest of the chapter here). First, according to Perrin, “the most pressing question” is how the CopticGospel of Thomas relates to the canonical gospels. 1 It was assumed early on thatThomas was simply a dependent distortion of the synoptics. This was until James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester.

Robinson noted that Thomas was a “sayings source” like the hypothetical Q (logoi sophon= sayings of the wise). Koester argued that this “sayings source” was free of all the extra narrative baggage of the synoptics and therefore was likely an earlier, purer, more original set of sayings from the historical Jesus. 2

This is part of what Perrin sets out to address in his book. To challenge these presuppositions about Thomas Perrin must wrestle with the writings of three prominent, contemporary Thomas scholars: (1) Stephen Patterson who carries along the “Koester-Robinson thesis”, (2) Elaine Pagels, and (3) April DeConick.

In my next post I will summarize Perrin’s interaction with Patterson.

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[1] Nicholas Perrin. Thomas: The Other Gospel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. 13.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Reposted from http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/thomas-the-other-gospel-by-nicholas-perrin-3/

Thomas: The Other Gospel by Nicholas Perrin [1]

gofthomperrinI have just finished reading Nicholas Perrin’s article “Thomas: The Fifth Gospel” (JETS49/1 [March 2006] 67-80) as well as the preface and Introduction chapter (one) in his book Thomas: The Other Gospel. Perrin is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He completed his PhD at Marquette University and his dissertation evolved into Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron (SBL, 2002).

Perrin gives a few reasons for writing this newest book which I will be reviewing, chapter-by-chapter, here. First, he felt that “there needs to be a scholarly yet accessible treatment of what researchers have been saying lately about The Gospel of Thomas. Second, “in North American discussions there is an unsettling homogeneity within Thomas scholarship. Third, he wants to avoid the basic question asked of Thomas–”When was this gospel written?”–in favor of fresh angles that will challenge the monopoly view of many scholars that Thomas is a first century document, maybe even earlier than the Synoptic gospels. 1

In his introduction Nicholas Perrin gives a brief history of the discovery of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945 (also discovered was the Gospel of Judas).2 Then he proceeds to explain a bit about Thomas. It is a document that contains 114 sayings (logion) mostly attributed to Jesus. Since it is a “sayings” gospel there has been some comparisons to the hypothetical “Q” document. This has led to much speculation regarding the possibility that Thomas is earlier than the Synoptics and that the Synoptics developed tradition around those sayings that are found in a rawer form in Thomas.

Before the Coptic version of Thomas had been discovered there were a few Greek manuscripts that post-Nag Hammadi were recognized to correspond to Thomas. Those documents were found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. The fragments are named after this location and include P. Oxy 1, 654, and 655.

P. Oxy 1 corresponds to Thomas 26-33 and 77a. P. Oxy 654 corresponds to 1-7. P. Oxy 655 corresponds to 24, 36-39. According to Perrin, “The Oxyrhynchus fragments are particularly useful in that they provide a terminus ad quem for the dating of The Gospel of Thomas: the first copy could not have been written any later than the first few decades of the third century (200-20 CE). 3

Hippolytus of Rome, Origen of Alexandria, and Eusebius of Caesarea all reference or refer to Thomas. Hippolytus wrote in the second or third decade of the third century. Origen wrote these words sometime around this same time. Eusebius claimed that this was one of the heretical writings circulating which means it was likely well accepted by some groups. 4

Since the sayings are supposed to be quotations of Jesus of Nazareth the document cannot be any earlier than 30 CE. “This leaves us with a rather broad window: c. 30 – c. 210 CE.” 5 There are many differing opinions on where Thomasoriginates along this timeline.

There is much debate over whether Thomas can be said to be reliant upon the Synoptics, the Synoptics upon Thomas, or two parallel traditions that are not interdependent. Also, there are some questions related to whether or not the 114 sayings were written at once or whether the sayings just kept collecting over time. If at once, when, by whom, and so forth? If over time what are the earlier sayings? How does this shape our understanding of early Christianity?

Most Thomas scholars agree that the provenance of Thomas was Edessa (modern Urfa, Turkey). Many think the original text was written in Greek (Perrin argues for Syriac). 6

Is Thomas a “sayings” document? Perrin argues, “It is not entirely accurate to call the Gospel of Thomas a ‘sayings collection’. There are sayings, indeed, but alongside these are a number of miniature scenes and dialogues. 7

Also, there are many who suggest Thomas is Gnostic. Perrin disagrees. He writes,

While I agree that ‘Gnostic’ and ‘Gnosticism’ makes for a pretty unwieldy rug under which to sweep all those sects that are not ostensibly proto-orthodox, the term has its place, at least if defined accurately enough. All the same, I disagree with those who say that the Gospel of Thomas is Gnostic. To be sure, the sayings gospel shares many elements with purported Gnostic texts (elements of anti-Judaism, hatred of the body, secret knowledge, etc.), but there is no hint that Thomas’ Creator God is the same sadistic deity or pompous idiot that we meet in the Gnostic materials. Lacking these features, Thomas must be judged to be non-Gnostic. 8

So this is a bit of a sweeping summary of the groundwork laid down by Perrin. I will discuss the end of chapter one in my next post, but for now I will let this all too long post come to a much needed end!

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[1] Thomas: The Other Gospels, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. vii.

[2] Ibid. 1-2.

[3] Ibid. 8.

[4] Ibid. 8-9.

[5] Ibid. 9.

[6] Ibid. 12.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. 13.

[9] Reposted from http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/thomas-the-other-gospel-by-nicholas-perrin-2/

Amy-Jill Levine to Lecture in Eugene, OR

For all of those who may read this blog who live in area near Eugene, OR, you may be interested to know that Amy-Jill Levine will be lecturing in Eugene on October 23-25. This will be a Chi-Rho Lecture series on Jesus as he relates to Judaism and Christianity. For more information go here.

Daniel B. Wallace on “Δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ and N. T. Wright”

For those in the “New Testament Issues” class discussing the NPP I thought I’d repost this link from my own blog. It is a discussion by Daniel Wallace on N.T. Wright’s reading of “the righteousness of God” in Romans. Go here.

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