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Opinions about Pauline Authorship

Peter Curry at Evangelical Textual Criticism has shared a graphic produced by Paul Foster based on his poll of attendees at the 2011 British New Testament Conference on Pauline Authorship. Foster says:

The survey was not rigorously scientific; only those who felt inclined returned their forms. My estimate is that approximately 70 percent of the audience participated. For each of the thirteen Pauline letters and also for Hebrews respondents were asked whether they considered each letter to be written by Paul, or not, or whether they were undecided. There were approximately 109 respondents, although two more cast an opinion only in relation to 2 Thessalonians, and one or two decided not to record their opinions in relation to the Pastoral Epistles. (p. 171)

And here’s the graph:

Jesus and the Pharisees Conference

Protestants need to hear this too:

The May 7-9 event, titled “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” was presented at a news conference on Wednesday at the Jesuit-sponsored Pontifical Biblical Institute, located adjacent to the Gregorian. The scholarly meeting will culminate on May 9 with a private audience for participants with Francis.

Historically speaking, the two main survivors within Palestinian Judaism of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE by the Romans were the early followers of Jesus, who became the Christians, and the Pharisees, who today are seen as having laid the intellectual, legal and ritual basis for modern Judaism.  Other groups, such as the Temple elite, the Sadducees and the esoteric Essene sects disappeared soon after the Temple’s demise.

Presenting the logic of the May conference, Father Etienne Vetö, director of the Gregorian’s Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies, emphasized a link between negative stereotypes of ancient Pharisees and contemporary anti-Semitism.

Popularly, he said, the term “pharisee” is often used to mean “hypocritical, self-righteous, morally rigorous, attentive to appearances in religion, ritualism, even enemies of Jesus,” Vetö said, “but history and Biblical research show this common view is really incorrect.”

“There’s a lot at stake for our understanding of Christianity and present-day Judaism, which finds its roots in the Pharisaic movement,” he said. “Anti-semitism is related to an historically incorrect view of the Pharisees.”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

The “New and Improved” Perspective on Paul?

Scot McKnight is working through Stephen Chester’s Reading Paul with the Reformers at his JesusCreed blog. (Here’s part 1; here’s part 2.) In today’s blog post, he interacts in some detail with a passage from Chester that takes issue with the New Perspective’s assertion that the Reformers missed Paul’s point about justification by faith. I’m not sure that all NP supporters would agree that the Reformers were wrong so much as they placed the emphasis in the wrong place, but others are certainly deeper into this debate than I am. McKnight summarizes Chester’s questions thusly:

Chester begins with Luther and Erasmus and more importantly uses them for the hermeneutical dichotomy they created: Should we do “theological interpretation” (Luther) or historical critical work (Erasmus), and is the Bible clear in all it says (Luther) but difficult at times (Erasmus), and does the ambiguity of Scripture create problems (Erasmus) or is it a false approach (Luther)?

Chester elaborates on several key points of disagreement between Luther and Erasmus on the proper interpretation of Scripture. This leads, ultimately, to a threefold criterion for discerning the best interpretations, namely:

The conflict of interpretations is thus best addressed by a mixed hermeneutic. The goal of hearing the Spirit speak through Paul in his texts is served by applying the triple criteria of

historical plausibility,
canonical consistency,
and contemporary theological fruitfulness.

McKnight suggests Chester is “doing the newer new perspective, one that appreciates too the Reformers’ reading of Paul.”

 

Think on These Things

Weekend Fisher’s post from last night was a refreshing palate cleanser for my soul:

Finally, brothers, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there is anything of virtue/excellence, and if there is any worthy of praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

When I read this, I have often been shamefully dismissive of it. There is a cynical part of my mind which sees it as wishful thinking, or a sort of determined naivety. The more open-minded voice inside me recognizes and acknowledges the value — and then wants credit merely for speaking up against the cynicism, without actually doing what we are here encouraged to do.

She then goes on to reflect on some of these things in her life on which she is led to think. Below is my list, following her example:

  • What is true? Gravity.
  • What is honorable? Conversations held in confidence.
  • What is just? Saying “please” and “thank you” to folks in the service industries.
  • What is pure? A choir of children singing “Silent Night.”
  • What is lovely? An athlete who’s in the zone.
  • What has a good reputation? Hard work.
  • Is there anything of virtue? Mothers and fathers who sacrifice so their children can have a better life.
  • Is there anything praiseworthy? People who use their gifts in humility.

Pace Yourself

I was late coming to Advent. The church of my childhood and youth never observed a season of preparation leading to Christmas day. We were left, then, to “get ready for Christmas” the same way secular people did: by overfilling our schedules, spending too much money, bingeing on TV Christmas specials, and eating way too many sweet treats.

Of course, a fair bit of the time, the result was that I didn’t actually prepare for Christmas at all. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the lights, the tinsel, the carols, and all the rest; I loved them—and I still do! The problem is that much of the outward trappings of Christmas don’t always draw us into the depths of its holy mystery. In fact, if we’re not careful, they can even shield us from that mystery.

That’s why I have come to appreciate the discipline of Advent. Advent taps the brakes on our culture’s frenetic Christmas “preparations.” Sometimes, it slams on those brakes with both feet. At it’s most basic, Advent insistently whispers, “Pace yourself; it’s not Christmas yet.”

And when I come more slowly into Christmas, I can better appreciate what that season really means, and how my life should be different because of that meaning.

John the Baptist is a patron saint of Advent waiting and preparation. His ministry in the wilderness got people ready for Jesus to show up. He announced the coming of the kingdom of heaven and called people to repent—just as Jesus did.

And what better way to prepare for Christmas than to get serious about what Jesus said to do?

(This blog post first appeared in an ever so slightly different form at Coracle.)

A Great Question Deserves a Thoughtful Answer

Both are in evidence over at the Jesus Blog, where Rafael Rodríguez has shared some correspondence he’s recently had with one of his students. The student writes,

I have a question that has been on my mind. It might be somewhat obvious, but nonetheless it has intrigued me. What would Paul say to a Jew who believed in Jesus as the Messiah and wanted to stop adhering to the Law? At first I think this would be fine due to salvation through Jesus is open to all, but what about the disruption it would have possibly caused in said Jew’s family, who may or may not believe in Jesus? I immediately think of Romans 14:13-23, but Paul is writing that to the Gentiles. Does the same principle apply to the Jew who has already been living out a Law abiding lifestyle?

I think Rafael’s answer is worth thoughtful consideration.

Jewish Christianity?

Scot McKnight summarizes James D. G. Dunn’s concise, albeit heartbreaking, explanation of why the term “Jewish Christianity” is redundant—and why many Christians have forgotten that fact:

There is something of an oddity about the title ‘Jewish Christianity’. For in a very important sense, that is what Christianity is — at least in its beginnings, and integrally in its character. In an important sense, often lost to view, the adjective ‘Jewish’ is quite unnecessary, since Christianity, with a Jewish Messiah as its central figure, and its holy scripture predominantly written by Jews, can hardly be anything other than ‘Jewish’ in a crucially defining sense. The oddity, rather, at least arguably, is that Christianity so quickly lost sight of its Jewish roots and character, that ‘Jewish Christianity’ became just one form of Christianity, almost a primitive form to be lost increasingly to view as Christianity became more international and less definitively Jewish in character. The increasing loss of distinctively Jewish identity is one of the most striking features of the first two centuries of Christianity. The growth of a contradictory adversus Iudaeos tradition which came to dominate Christianity more or less up to the present day has a self-contradictory character. To reckon seriously with this fact is still one of the great challenges facing twenty-first-century Christians, when the memory of the Holocaust is still unspeakably raw.