Since becoming Dean, I have been repeatedly asked, “what is your vision for Talbot?” The following is a concise summary my convocation address that was delivered September 3, 2012 in which I address this question.
The selfless, other-centered behavior of Christ, as portrayed in Philippians 2, is striking, whatever your cultural perspective. The following contrast shows just how radically counter-cultural Christ’s attitude toward his divine prerogatives was for those who ascended to the heights of secular power in the ancient world.
Here’s something that many people I talk to about Paul’s Letter to the Romans don’t seem yet to have grasped. The earliest house churches in Rome would have been primarily Jewish and would have culturally felt Jewish, but in A.D. 49 the Roman Emperor Claudius kicked the Jews out of Rome. Jewish Christians, of course, would have been expelled along with the rest of the Jews. During the five years between Claudius’s edict (A.D. 49) and his death (A.D. 54) when the edict lapsed and Jews started to return, the composition and self-understanding of the house churches in Rome would have shifted considerably. Paul’s letter to the Romans would have arrived in Rome somewhere around A.D. 57, during the period when Jews were still trickling back into Rome. If you can fix in your mind that the expulsion of Jews from Rome had a tremendous impact on the churches in that city, you will understand the message of Romans oh-so-much better!
Which version interprets 2 Cor 2:14 more accurately, the English Standard Version or the New Living Traslation? "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere" (ESV). "But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume" (NLT).
Reading the Bible. It sounds so simple. Just read the Bible every day, or at least read it regularly for nourishment and insight and communication with God. But how do we do it? In a time when the lack of Biblical knowledge extends from the average churchgoer to students entering Biola University, reading the Bible is more necessary than ever. But it’s harder than we thought.
Do you remember the “just say no to drugs” campaign waged a number of years ago? (The slogan “just say no” continues to be used in schools across the country.) The assumption of the slogan was that kids could simply say “no” whenever faced with temptation. Is that true? Can we simply say “no” whenever we are tempted?
This is my last post (at least in this series) on the Apostolic Fathers. But together with my class, we have come up with a list of thumbnail descriptions to help us remember the various writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Here is our list (in the order we read these writings):
Here’s a chapter written by an unknown early Christian to an unbeliever named Diognetus that is well-worth the three minutes it will take you to read it. This evangelist and apologist refers to Christians as “a new race or way of life” (Diogn. ch. 1). In chapter 5 he unpacks the distinctiveness of Christians.
We had quite a lively conversation in my Apostolic Fathers class the other evening after reading The Epistle of Barnabas. (BTW, it was not written by the biblical Barnabas; and the attribution to Barnabas may not even be original, so you don’t need to assume that this author is “pretending” to be Barnabas). “Barnabas” was committed to the interpretive procedure known as allegorical interpretation.
A lot of critical-leaning biblical scholars dispute Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Letters: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. Recently there has been a bit of movement toward greater acceptance of the possibility of Paul’s authorship among those more critically inclined, though there is still a long way to go. One argument supporting the Pauline authorship of these letters is a discovery I made a number of years ago while studying Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians. Polycarp inadvertently tells us in his little letter that he believes that the Apostle Paul is the author of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy (and if that is true, probably also of Titus). Why does this matter? Because Polycarp wrote around A.D. 120 (some recent scholars say around 110), and was in a position to know a lot about the apostolic age that we don’t know. Up until this discovery, the earliest known author to both quote from the Pastoral Letters and to connect them to Paul as author was Irenaeus writing around A.D. 180. This discovery moves down the external attestation for the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters by 60 years.
Right now I’m teaching a summer readings course on the Apostolic Fathers. Ten students are reading with me such documents as 1 Clement, the Letters of Ignatius, Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, the Didache, the (so-called) Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, To Diognetus, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, 2 Clement, and the fragments of Papias. These are the earliest Christian documents written just after the apostolic age and span the years from around A.D. 95 up until about A.D. 165. Though they are referred to as the “apostolic fathers,” they are really our earliest “post-apostolic fathers.” But how should we assess their value? Here are three options:
A frequently asked question from my graduate advisees is this: How do you keep up with the latest scholarship in your discipline? Or, how do you stay on the “cutting edge” in your academic field? There are at least five maintenance disciplines that come immediately to my mind.
Last year a well-known auto insurance company ran a creative commercial warning drivers about the importance of having good car insurance (especially theirs). An actor starring as “Mayhem” rides on the left panel outside a woman’s car, right where her blind spot would be. He introduces himself to the viewers by saying, “I’m your blind spot. And my job is easy. Hide big things.” As the woman checks her left side to see if it is safe to switch lanes on the freeway, Mayhem mischievously tells her, “You’re good!” and gives her the thumbs up while simultaneously blocking her view. Of course, there is a truck in the next lane, and the woman gets into an accident as a result of his bad advice. The commercial ends with Mayhem urging the viewers to buy insurance from the sponsor so they can be protected from situations like the one he just created.
I was recently reflecting on my doctoral training and I realized that I learned a few things (ten, to be precise) beyond the actual subject matter of my discipline. For starters, I learned that footnotes can be overdone.
Earlier this semester, my good friend Ken Berding and I were discussing the different views on Romans 7:14-25 and decided that we would each write a blog post summarizing our reasons for holding opposing views on the passage. Last week, Ken gave a great defense of the view that Romans 7:14-25 is autobiographical and is thus about the Christian struggle with sin. I found Ken’s reasons 3, 6 and 7 very strong (Ken also gave a fine experiential discussion of that struggle in an earlier post). As Ken pointed out, there are many smart people on both sides of this issue, so this is not a “slam-dunk” interpretational problem. Throughout Christian history, there have been several opinions about what Paul meant in this passage. The two main options are 1) Paul is referring to his own experience as a Christian, and therefore the general Christian experience; or 2) Paul is referring to the experience of a pre-Christian Jew trying to obey the Law.
In an earlier post I mentioned a book on biblical theology that my colleague and I had nearly finished writing. The book is finally finished, and is entitled: Understanding BIblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice (Zondervan).
As a follow-up to my previous post on Romans 7, following are seven reasons I think that an autobiographical reading of Romans 7:14-25 is the most straightforward reading of the passage. When I wrote the previous post, I did not intend to offer a full account of the passage. Nor do I here. But for those who want to know a bit of why I hold that Romans 7:14-25 is Paul’s own struggle with sin as a mature believer, that is, as representative of Christians who are sensitive to any sinful shortcomings in their own lives (please see my former post) I will here offer seven reasons that have helped persuade me that Paul is writing about himself in this passage. I am reticent to put my thoughts down in writing because I know that people I respect (including some at The Good Book Blog) will view and weigh these arguments differently than I, but it seems, as Paul writes elsewhere, “you [readers] drove me to it.”
If you could ask a dozen New Testament scholars to list the five most difficult passages in the New Testament, most would include Romans 7:14-25 on their list. That same group would likely disagree with one another on what interpretive framework is most helpful for interpreting that passage. (Even among those who blog at the Good Book Blog, I know for a fact that there is a diversity of opinion on how best to address this passage). Does Romans 7:14-25 describe Paul’s own struggle with sin as a believer? Does it describe the struggle with sin of someone who has not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that is, an unbeliever? Perhaps it is the struggle of a pious old covenant Jew who loves the law of God but struggles to fulfill it? Or maybe it isn’t personal at all; maybe it is a grand analogy of the change from the old covenant to the new covenant?
At the intersection of Christian psychology and theology, much has been made in recent decades of our identity in Christ. I am assured that grasping the fact that I am “chosen, holy, and loved by God” (Colossians 3:12) is indispensable to a true view of myself as a Christian. Appropriating my identity in Christ forms the crucial foundation for healthy relationships with others, as well.
One of my scholarly and pastoral agendas over the years has been to try to augment the idea of “me-and-Jesus”—which is so dear to the hearts of Western evangelicals—with the idea of “us-and-Jesus,” a concept that also fills the pages of the New Testament.