June 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

The best of the best of last month’s biblical studies blogging is now posted for your enjoyment at William Ross’s blog.

The Letter to the Hebrews in Eight Minutes

Galatians Commentary

shbc_galatians_xxlI’m pleased to announce that commentary on Galatians in which I had a part has now been published.

Marty Soards did a fantastic job on the biblical exegesis, and I provided supplemental materials to connect the message of Galatians to contemporary life for the sake of teachers and preachers who will strive to bring this important Pauline letter to life in the church.

In his seventh letter to Lucilius, the philosopher Seneca observed that people learn while they teach. Perhaps it should be added that people learn a lot while they try to write biblical commentaries!

I’m also incredibly grateful for this fine endorsement from my Doktorvater, Dr. John Polhill:

In their Galatian commentary, Soards and Pursiful present a fresh and comprehensive exposition of the epistle. They set forth a careful exegesis of the Greek text that is accomplished in clear language, easily understandable to the non-specialist. Although thoroughly acquainted with the best scholarship, they stick to the text itself and avoid the excessive speculation and over-emphasis on theology so characteristic of many Galatian commentaries. I rank this right at the top of commentaries I have read on Galatians.

So, there you have it. Why not buy one for the whole family?

The Radical Perspective on Paul

Michael F. Bird has a post up (with another promised) on “The Radical Perspective on Paul.” To get everybody up to speed, here is his introduction:

At the moment the state of Pauline scholarship could be divided into four basic camps:

(1) Traditional Protestant. Paul was preacher of grace that stands in contrasts to the legalism/nomism of second temple Judaism. In some versions, this is accompanied with an implied or even explicit supersessionist view of the church as replacing Israel.

(2) The New Perspective on Paul. The problem with Judaism was not legalism, but ethnocentrism. Paul was arguing that Jews need to accept that God has acted in Christ to bring Jews and Gentiles into the new saving event ahead of an eschatological consummation.

(3) The Apocalyptic/Barthian Paul. Paul proclaimed God’s invasive and cosmic act of salvation to rectify and renew the whole creation rendering the old order with its religion as obsolete.

(4) The Radical Perspective on Paul. Paul was Jewish and Torah-observant. He tried to bring Gentile communities into closer fellowship with Jewish communities while protecting them from proselytism. Paul believes that Jesus saves Gentiles, but Jews are saved under the auspices of the Mosaic covenant.

In this post I’m going to describe the origins of the Radical Perspective (RP), give a brief description of its reading of Paul, and note its relative strengths. In a subsequent blog post, I will offer a critique of contestable elements.

Very interesting!

Don’t Debate a Rabbi Unless You’re Serious

Michael Bird and I have similar tastes in stories from the Talmud, as this has long been one of my favorites as well:

It has been taught: On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument for his teaching about the cleanness of ovens made with sand, but the other rabbis did not accept his teaching. So R. Eliezer said: ‘If the halakhah agrees with me, let this carob tree prove it!’ And immediately the carob tree was uprooted and thrown a hundred yards out of its place – some said it was thrown four hundred yards! But the other rabbis retorted: ‘No proof can be brought from a carob tree.’

So R. Eliezer said to them: ‘If the halakhah agrees with me, let this stream of water prove it!’ And immediately the stream of water began to flow backwards. But the other rabbis retorted, ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water.’

Again R. Eliezer said to them: ‘If the halakhah agrees with me, let the walls of the school house prove it.’ And immediately the walls of the house began to bow and bend inwards. But R. Joshua rebuked the walls saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halakhic dispute, what right have you to interfere!’ And so out of respect for R. Joshua the walls did not fall, but they did not resume to being completely upright either out of respect for R. Eliezer.

Again R. Eliezer said to them: ‘If the halakhah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ And immediately a heavenly voice cried out: ‘Why do you argue with R. Eliezer since the halakhah agrees with him in all matters!’ But R. Joshua stood up and quoted Scripture: ‘It is not in heaven’ (Deut 30.12). What did R. Joshua mean by saying this? According to R. Jeremiah: Since the Torah had been given at Mount Sinai, we pay no attention to a heavenly voice, because G-d has long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, ‘One must follow the majority’ (Exod 23.2).

Later R. Nathan met Elijah and he asked Elijah: ‘What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour when R. Joshua challenged the heavenly voice?’ According to Elijah, G-d laughed with joy and he replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’ On that day all the objects which R. Eliezer had declared clean were brought and burnt in fire. The rabbis then took a vote and excommunicated him. (b.Baba Mezia 59b, slightly paraphrased).

Fostering, and Formalizing, Friendship

Scot McKnight reviews Wesley Hill’s book Spiritual Friendship (Brazos, 2015). Vowed, formalized, celibate, same-sex friendship was a real thing in the Middle Ages. Hill sees it as something that needs to be recaptured.

The Amazon summary reads,

Friendship is a relationship like no other. Unlike the relationships we are born into, we choose our friends. It is also tenuous–we can end a friendship at any time. But should friendship be so free and unconstrained? Although our culture tends to pay more attention to romantic love, marriage, family, and other forms of community, friendship is a genuine love in its own right. This eloquent book reminds us that Scripture and tradition have a high view of friendship. Single Christians, particularly those who are gay and celibate, may find it is a form of love to which they are especially called.

Writing with deep empathy and with fidelity to historic Christian teaching, Wesley Hill retrieves a rich understanding of friendship as a spiritual vocation and explains how the church can foster friendship as a basic component of Christian discipleship. He helps us reimagine friendship as a robust form of love that is worthy of honor and attention in communities of faith. This book sets forth a positive calling for celibate gay Christians and suggests practical ways for all Christians to cultivate stronger friendships.

And McKnight closes his review with this quotation:

I find myself wondering which is the greater danger—the ever-present possibility of codependency, sexual transgression, emotional smothering (and other temptations that come with close friendship) or else the burden, not to mention the attendant temptations, of isolation and solitude created by the absence of human closeness ? A great company of saints witnesses to the fact that we can indeed flourish without romance, marriage, or children; I don’t know of one who witnesses to the possibility of our flourishing without love altogether (41).

May 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

The latest Biblical Studies Carnival is now posted for your viewing pleasure at Claude Mariottini’s eponymous blog. Enjoy!




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