A new page is now available that will eventually house several resources for learning New Testament Greek. Currently, the page features MP3 audio recordings of the basic verb and noun paradigms as well as some songs that have been translated into Greek. Repeatedly hearing these paradigms and the songs in which they are used can provide one more way of cementing New Testament Greek in memory.
Right now, the Greek resources page basically reflects my old faculty page at Faulkner University, but expect more material to become available and a more friendly organization to develop over the coming weeks.
Asking whether the New Testament specifically or the biblical literature generally has a divine or human origin and a divine or human nature imports a dichotomy that literature itself does not reflect. From this literature’s own perspective, the literature is not viewed as always either human or divine in origin and nature, nor is it sometimes human in origin and nature and sometimes divine. Rather, this literature and several significant figures in early Christianity represent the biblical literature as having both a human and a divine origin simultaneously (see 1 Tim 5:18; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21; 3:15–16; Ferguson 2:5–6).
Herman Bavinck 1:434–35, further reflects on this intermixture of origins and natures within the biblical literature, saying:
The theory of organic inspiration alone does justice to Scripture. In the doctrine of Scripture, it is the working out and application of the central fact of revelation: the incarnation of the Word. The Word (Λογος) has become flesh (σαρξ), and the word has become Scripture; these two facts do not only run parallel but are most intimately connected. Christ became flesh, a servant, without form or comeliness, the most despised of human beings; he descended to the nethermost parts of the earth and became obedient even to the death of the cross. So also the word, the revelation of God, entered the world of creatureliness, the life and history of humanity, in all the human forms of dream and vision, of investigation and reflection, right down to that which is humanly weak and despised and ignoble. The word became Scripture and as Scripture subjected itself to the fate of all Scripture. All this took place that the excellency of the power, also of the power of Scripture, may be God’s and not ours. Just as every human thought and action is the fruit of the action of God in whom we live and move and have our being, and is at the same time the fruit of the activity of human beings, so also Scripture is totally the product of the Spirit of God, who speaks through the prophets and apostles, and at the same time totally the product of the activity of the authors. “Everything is divine and everything is human” (Θεια παντα και ἀνθρωπινα παντα).
An incarnational model, such as the one Bavinck employs, has received some attention in the past few years, and some problems with it have been noted (e.g., Beale 298–301; for an alternative model, see Sparks 229–59). Nevertheless, with this model, Bavinck does find a way to hold together two principles in the biblical literature that may often be set against one another but which the biblical literature itself does not hold in such opposition: scripture’s divine and human aspects.
The Muratorian fragment curiously includes a book named “Wisdom” in the middle of its discussion of New Testament literature (see Westcott 562). The standard interpretation of this reference appears to be that the fragment refers here to the well-known Wisdom of Solomon (e.g., Carson, Moo, and Morris 492; Ehrman 241).
The relevant sentence from the fragment itself reads, “Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned (or, bearing the name of) John are counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church]; and [the book of] Wisdom, . . . written by the friends of Solomon in his honour [sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripts]” (Metzger 307; Westcott 562). B. F. Westcott, however, in his Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, considers the phrase ab amicis Salomonis (by the friends of Solomon) to refer to Proverbs as a figurative designation for Hebrews (Westcott 245). This interpretation is prompted by the tension Westcott feels at having a document by this title listed with New Testament literature.
Yet, Westcott’s solution fails to carry much weight. The book of Proverbs (Liber Proverbiorum, Παροιμίαι) probably would not have been identified as the referent of Sapientia (Wisdom) in a context where other well-known works had ‘wisdom’-language in their titles [e.g., Liber Sapientæ (Book of Wisdom), Σοφία Σαλωμῶνος (Wisdom of Solomon), Σοφία Σίραχ (Wisdom of Sirach)]. Likewise, Westcott’s willingness to tie Paul to the phrase ab amicis Salomonis (by the friends of Solomon) seems rather to grasp at straws than to explain the Muratorian fragment’s text. Thus, probably one should understand the Muratorian fragment as designating another work, and because of its general popularity during the period and perhaps even with Paul, interpreting the fragment as referring to the Wisdom of Solomon is certainly reasonable, however awkward such a reference might be in a sequence that describes New Testament literature.
In the third book of his work, Against Heresies, Irenaeus takes up a defense of the fourfold Gospel tradition. This defense proceeds as follows:
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” [1 Tim. iii. 15] of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. . . . As also David says, when entreating His manifestation, “Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.” [Ps. lxxx. 1] For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For, [as the Scripture] says, “The first living creature was like a lion,” [Rev. iv. 7] symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying [His] sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but “the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,”—an evident description of His advent as a human being; “the fourth was like a flying eagle,” pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8 (ANF 1:428)].
In the middle of this quotation, Irenaeus draws together the point to which he believes the fourfold Gospel tradition finally moves: “From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains [συνέχων] all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit [ἑνὶ δὲ πνεύματι συνεχόμενον]” [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8 (ANF 1:428; PG 7:885)]. For Irenaeus, therefore, the Spirit produced a theologically exclusive, fixed corpus that existed before that corpus became a formally recognized, sociological reality in the church.
The journal is “committed to the ecumenical creeds, and to historic Reformed theology. . . . This is no mere idiosyncrasy, but stems from the journal’s desire to be faithful to Scripture: it is the firm belief of the editorial board that Reformed theology has value precisely because it is the most biblical theology” (editorial 1.1).
The journal intends to cover theology and various sub-disciplines. The first issue’s table of contents is:
The Maximalist Hermeneutics of James B. Jordan by R. S. Clarke
James B. Jordan’s maximalist hermeneutic seeks to read the Bible in a way that allows the depth and richness of its meaning to be discerned. The relationship between special and general revelation is important, as the world teaches us how to understand the Bible, and the Bible shows us how to interpret the world. The reader of the Bible should learn to be sensitive to all its literary tropes, in particular its rich symbolism and typology. Controls on this maximalist hermeneutic are not found in externally imposed rules but in theological and ecclesiastical traditions which themselves derive from the Bible.
The Poetry of Wisdom: A Note on James 3:6 by Sarah-Jane Austin
James 3.6 presents complex exegetical difficulties and is often declared textually corrupt. However, since James was probably influenced by Hebrew wisdom literature, and since this is typically poetic, a consideration of Hebrew poetic parallelism may help to make sense of the text as it stands. Viewed in the light of Berlin’s analysis of parallelism, James 3.1-12 is particularly rich in poetic devices, and this suggests that in 3.6 poetic function overrides the requirements of normal syntax. A reading is proposed which arranges the verse in three balanced couplets and situates it in the overlap of two major groups of metaphors.
John Owen’s Doctrine of Union with Christ in Relation to His Contributions to Seventeenth Century Debates Concerning Eternal Justification by Matthew W. Mason
In 1649, Richard Baxter accused John Owen of teaching eternal justification, whereby the elect are justified from eternity, rather than when they believe in Christ. More recently, Hans Boersma has also argued that Owen taught justification prior to faith. Through an historical examination of Owen’s doctrines of justification and union with Christ, I demonstrate that he distinguishes various types of union with Christ: decretal, forensic, and mystical. He is thus able to maintain a mainstream Reformed Orthodox doctrine of justification by faith, whilst also maintaining that faith is a gift of God, purchased by Christ, and applied through Christ.
Thinking Like a Christian: The Prolegomena of Herman Bavinck by Matthew Roberts
This article outlines the main contours of Herman Bavinck’s Prolegomena. Bavinck’s insight was that theological method must be grounded in the substance of theology itself, specifically in its Trinitarian and covenantal aspects. Theology is to be understood as a critical part of the image of God, as he is reflected in the believing consciousness of men in the Church, in response to God’s revelation in Christ. This concept is tightly integrated with Bavinck’s central understanding of the gospel as God fulfilling his creation design in Christ. In this way Bavinck derives a robustly Christian account of knowledge and certainty.
In his second plenary address at the eastern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society last spring, Stephen Chapman, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, suggested some ways to navigate some of the pitfalls of current canon debates. In his closing remarks, Chapman emphasized the statement of the First Vatican Council (1868) that:
The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts . . . the church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the church” (Tanner 806; emphasis added).
Many Protestants would certainly take issue with the documents Vatican I recognizes as fulfilling these criteria for canonical literature—namely, the books: (1) “as they are listed in the decree of [the Council of Trent]” [which includes some deutero-canonical documents (see Tanner 663)] and (2) “as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition” (Tanner 806). Yet, Protestants should still be able to benefit from and perhaps even agree with, the criteria provided and the theological perspective put forward in this section of Vatican I’s decrees.
To complement the current series on faith and scholarship over at Café Apocalypsis, we might note some interesting comments from James Dunn’s Jesus Remembered. Dunn favorably mentions Gadamer’s alliance with “those who want to maintain that faith is not in principle at odds with the hermeneutical process in its application to the study of the NT” (123) because the whole Jesus tradition began from a “faith stimulus” (127). That is, “the original impulse behind these records was . . . sayings of Jesus as heard and received, and actions of Jesus as witnessed and retained in memory” (129; emphasis original). This tradition emerged and was preserved “as an expression of faith” (132). All this is to say, as Dunn helpfully summarizes, that:
(1) The only realistic objective for any ‘quest of the historical Jesus’ is Jesus remembered. (2) The Jesus Tradition of the gospels confirms that there was a concern within earliest Christianity to remember Jesus. (3) The Jesus tradition shows us how Jesus was remembered; its character strongly suggests again and again a tradition given its essential shape by regular use and reuse in oral mode. (4) This suggests in turn that that essential shape was given by the original and immediate impact made by Jesus as that was first put into words by and among those involved or eyewitnesses of what Jesus said and did. In that key sense, the Jesus tradition is Jesus remembered (335).
Thus, because the Gospels are, self-evidently, documents originating from a belief in Jesus’ messiahship, all else being equal, the hermeneutical horizon (i.e., the interpretive possibilities allowed and preferred for the available data) of modern people who believe in Jesus’ messiahship is one step closer to the hermeneutical horizon from which the Gospels originated than that of modern people who dispute Jesus’ messiahship. Many other contingencies, of course, can still make fusing these horizons a difficult task that may produce different results ini different contexts, but this similarity of perspective on Jesus provides at least one firm point of tangency from which to begin.
In his Jesus Remembered, James Dunn makes the following, insightful observations about the interplay between the study of Jesus and the study of history:
For those within the Christian tradition of faith, the issue [of Jesus’ relationship to history] is even more important. Christian belief in the incarnation, in the events of long ago in Palestine of the late 20s and early 30s AD as the decisive fulcrum point in human history, leaves them no choice but to be interested in the events and words of those days. For the incarnation, by definition, means the commitment of God to self-manifestation in Jesus at a particular time and place within human history, and thus places a tremendous weight of significance on certain events in Palestine in the years 28-30 (or thereabouts) of the common era. Christians cannot but want to know what Jesus was like, since he shows them what God is like. . . . [T]he new questers of the third quarter of the twentieth century showed that faith could and does have a theologically legitimate interest in the history of Jesus. Honest historical inquiry may be granted insights regarding Jesus which are crucially (in)formative of honest (self-critical) faith. . . . The point of [this historical] otherness of Jesus is, in part at least, . . . the otherness in particular of Jesus the Jew—again something we ‘moderns’ have forgotten at our cost. Without that sense of Jesus ‘born under the law’ (Gal. 4.4), of Christ ‘become servant of the circumcision’ (Rom. 15.8), with historical awareness of what that means in terms of the particularities of history, then the humanity of Christ is likely to be lost again to view within Christianity and swallowed up in an essentially docetic affirmation of his deity. Although the failures of earlier lives of Jesus at this point . . . are now widely acknowledged, the instinctive compulsion to extricate Jesus from his historical context and to assume his [a-historical,] timeless relevance still has to be resolutely resisted (101–102).
Neill’s stated purpose for his book was “to provide a narrative [about the interpretation of the New Testament] that can be read without too much trouble by the non-theologian who is anxious to know and is prepared to devote some time to the subject” (ix). This task he seems to have done masterfully well, with a comparatively frugal use of footnotes to set forth “the necessary apparatus of scholarship” (ix). While this history might have proved tedious, Neill has managed to produce a cogent narrative that, at times, may well carry the interested student into the situation or the time being described.
One of the work’s great strengths is the detail with which Neill and Wright investigate each character and movement included in the narrative. While the level of detail could prove cumbersome, it does provide a valuable opportunity to ‘meet’ some of the giants in the field. As a result, after this perusing this introduction, readers will probably find themselves much better prepared to read, critique, and make use of the positions investigated. Likewise valuable is the even-handed portrayal Neill and Wright give of the various theologians they cover, irrespective of whether they would personally support or object to these theologians’ assertions. For instance, although Neill and Wright are considerably more enthusiastic when writing about the Cambridge trio than when they write figures like Baur, even in this latter case, they do not villanize characters like Baur.
Finally, the book’s summary section tries to encourage continued study of the New Testament. As it says, “The New Testament is concerned with proclamation. It is a Kerygma, the loud cry of a herald authorized by a king to proclaim his will and purpose to his subjects. It is Euangelion, good news, sent to those who are in distress with the promise of deliverance. It is the Word of the Lord—and in the East a word is no mere vibration in the atmosphere, it is a living power sent forth to accomplish that for which it is sent” (448–49; italics original). Thus, the chronicle that Neill and Wright provide in this work moves, in their minds, toward establishing a better understanding of the New Testament’s message, which must be proclaimed and heard in all of creation.
N. T. Wright’s revision of Stephen Neill’s, Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1986, attempts a concise, but significantly narratival, survey of various issues in New Testament scholarship during the period in question. To this end, Neill and Wright discuss: (i) the challenge to orthodoxy (1–34); (ii) the New Testament and its relationship to history (35–64); (iii) what the New Testament says and means (65–111); (iv) Jesus and His relationship to the Gospel (112–46); (v) Greeks and their relationship to Christians (147–204); (vi) “Re-enter[ing] Theology” (205–51); (vii) the theory of a gospel behind the Gospels (252–312); (viii) the Jewish background of the Gospel (313–59); and (ix) the relationship between history and theology (360–449).
While examining the challenge to orthodoxy, Neill and Wright concentrate on summarizing the noteworthy, continental contributions to New Testament interpretation from Enlightenment’s early days through the middle 1800s. “The New Testament and History” continues this examination, while giving special emphasis to the work of “the Cambridge three” of Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort. Chapter three discusses developments and issues in textual criticism and exegesis. “Jesus and the Gospel” handles research on the synoptic tradition, especially as relates to the synoptic problem. “Greeks and Christians” mainly investigates the possibilities for and evidence of influence of Greek thought on the development of earliest Christianity. In the chapter titled, “Re-enter Theology,” Neill and Wright concentrate almost totally on Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus, Karl Barth’s dialectical theology, and Rudolf Bultmann’s attempt to discover the Christian kerygma—that is, the essence of the Christian faith. Further, Neill and Wright examine the possibility of a written source(s) that may stand behind the synoptic Gospels. The authors also investigate the help that Judaism might provide for interpreting the New Testament. In the final chapter, “History and Theology,” the book explores, in some detail, Ed Sanders’ work in reaction to, for example, the traditional Lutheran understanding of Paul. This chapter also encourages interpreters to exhibit a certain “historical humility” in their work and concludes by restating the relevance of New Testament studies.