Friday, March 30, 2007

J1:51 again

Further to my post a while back on Jesus and Nathanael in John 1, it's interesting to note that in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Midrash in the Gospels, 546) the intepretation offered by Carson (with help from Clowney) is mentioned, that is, that in Genesis 28 the angels are ascending and descending not on the stairway or ladder, but on Jacob himself. This interpretation is supposedly supported by Genesis Rabbah 69.3. In Gen. Rab. 68.12, the angels come down to gaze on Jacob - giving the focus as Jacob, not the stairway. Then, as I posted before, Christ's words to Nathanael in John 1:51 become not about Christ as stairway, but Christ as the new Jacob, the new Israel; and the one whom the angels come down to gaze upon.

Gospels Commentaries

I've been formulating a plan for a commentary set-up on the gospels. I already have EBC: that's Carson on Matthew; Wessel on Mark; Liefeld on Luke and Tenney on John. My companion volumes for each of the gospels will be: Keener on Matthew; Witherington on Mark; Bock on Luke and Carson on John. I've already acquired Witherington and Carson. On Matthew, I did consider Hagner (Word Biblical) and the Davies/Allison monstrous tome (International Critical), but the latter's probably a bit too technical for ministry. Since I have Carson already, I went for Keener over Hagner. On Luke, it was either Bock or Joel Green; I've decided for Bock. Neither Keener or Bock could be described as cheap, but they are both very thick. Keener's is massive and would be excellent to hold down your car accelerator if you wanted to fake your own death by driving your car off a cliff whilst jumping clear at the last possible moment (kind of Bourne Identity, but in a Biblical Studies setting). Bock's is two volumes, so not quite so handy for that kind of thing - special ops theologians take note.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Generation Next

When I lived in the green valleys of Wales, I was involved in a group called generation.NEXT, a youth work now running meetings in the north and the south of Wales. One of the events we took part in was Pray for Wales, where we'd pray for, amongst other things, churches without ministers - there seemed to be quite a few. Although it's been great to see and hear of many of the vacancies being filled, it's not so great to realise that most of the time there's a game of musical pulpits (or musical ministers) going on: each time someone takes one of the ministers away (the older men retire, who can blame them), round and round they go, then when the music stops, oops, you might find you haven't got a minister. Older men retire, but where are the new leaders for a new generation?
If this bothers you, look up Generation Next - same name, different organisation. They've produced a report of a survey undertaken in 2005 and it makes interesting reading - they're backed by Affinity.
If it doesn't bother you, it should.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Biblical Theology from the Land of Maple Syrup

I'm sure there's lots of good stuff comes out of Canada. Take maple syrup for instance. But, another good thing is the site . The purpose of the site is to:
'promote the reading of Scripture as one unfolding story by providing resources for reading and teaching.'
Sounds good to me! Authors of the book 'The Drama of Scripture', Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen have assembled a raft of good stuff here (by the looks of it - I haven't read it all). In the Articles section there's the Call to an Ancient Evanglical Future which I read last year and used in prep for a seminar last year in the Church History: Early Church Fathers module. The question asked in that call is 'who gets to narrate the world?' It will be someone. The authors propose either the Muslim story, the liberal capitalist story or the Marxist story (not that good a story at present - do they predict a comeback?). As disciples of Christ, we have quiet a good story(!) - THE story. Michael Goheen has posted an excellent article entitled: The Urgency of Reading the Bible as One Story in the 21st Century. He identifies the problem with the way we read the Bible:

We have fragmented the Bible into bits—moral bits, systematic-theological bits, devotional bits, historical-critical bits, narrative bits, and homiletical bits. When the Bible is broken up in this way, there is no comprehensive grand narrative to withstand the power of the comprehensive humanist narrative that shapes our culture. The Bible bits are accommodated to the more all-embracing cultural story, and it becomes that story—i.e. the humanist story—that shapes our lives.
Go read the whole article, but the conclusion kind of concludes it: we need to read and understand the bible as a single narrative, and proclaim it as single narrative:
The issue is urgent: only then can we submit to Scripture’s authority; only then can we understand our missional identity; only then can we resist being absorbed into the dangerous idolatries of our time. The church needs pastors and leaders, and the academy needs scholars and teachers who are in the grip of this story, and discharge their task in a way that calls church members and students to find their place in the true story of the world.
Thanks again to Jason Hood for the heads-up on the site

Apostolic Hermeneutics

After posting my new Books of the Moment the other day, Jason Hood and my brother both pointed me to Peter Enns article on Apostolic Hermeneutics on the Westminster site (thanks to both of you). It's entitled 'Apostolic Hermeneutics and an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture: Moving beyond a Modernist Impasse' and was published originally in WTJ in 2003. I've just started reading it - for those who haven't seen the book Inspiration and Incarnation, the article examines the same issues as Chapter 4 of the book: apostolic hermeneutics as a Second Temple period phenomenon conforming with the interpretive traditions of the time. Enns then considers the implications for the doctrine of scripture. 'By reclaiming the hermeneutical trajectory set by the Apostles, the church may be able to move beyond the impasse imposed by modernist assumptions' says Enns. You never know...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Good Monsters

I've just got hold of the latest album from Jars of Clay: Good Monsters. When it was reviewed in Third Way, the reviewer called JoC the cats-eyes of Christian Music (so middle of the road!). When I've heard their stuff in the past it hasn't done a lot for me. But this album is different: quirky, honest and lyrically thoughtful. Good Monsters is an excellent track about apathy to the evil in society and an unwillingness to make a difference: 'not all monsters are bad/but the one's that are good/never do what they could' and 'if good won't show its ugly face/evil won't you take your place?/nothing ever changes/by itself'. Cogent in the year when we're remembering William Wilberforce. The accusation that 'we are bored with all the things we know/we are forms of everything we love' strikes a chord and calls for renewed energy, commitment and radicalism in the kingdom. The video for Work (check it out on Youtube) is fantastic and reflects a really strong song - it owes a lot to Thom Yorke in the video for No Surprises. Listening to the song 'O my God' for the first time with the words in front of me left me speechless. It is a 'psalmic rant' in the words of the Third Way reviewer - but I'd say more of a powerful indictment of the indifference with which humanity treats God, with more than a hint of the third commandment about it. get 9 other tracks too!

Monday, March 19, 2007

New Books of the Moment

I've updated the books of the moment (over there in the left). My high regard for deSilva's NT Intro is fabled in HTCs first year class (!), but the time has come for it to make way for new inspirational books. Similarly, Waltke's commentary on Genesis has been great, but it must descend into the west (on the blog at least). The new kids on the block are:
1. Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns. This book has helped me a great deal. Despite the hassle that Mr Enns has endured from some, I want to declare my thanks for this book. OK, it may have flaws, but for me it's an important one.
2. The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861 -1986 by Stephen Neill and Tom Wright. Never before in the (my) history of reading has a book with such a stuffy title been such a good read. Neill is an excellent story teller and right at the start he brings you into the excitement and industry of Westcott, Lightfoot and Hort in a way that just keeps you reading. It really is excellent (oh, and I haven't finished it yet - so the ending might not be as good!).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mustard Seed and Leaven

On the Jesus and the Gospels course, one of the components is looking at the parables of Jesus. We've just looked at Luke 13 and the parables of the mustard seed and leaven. Contextualising these in first century Palestine is essential, but how to apply them in the present day...? One of our course texts is 'The Challenge of Jesus' Parables' by Richard Longenecker and he identifies seven key themes of these parables (as Luke records them, which is subtly different to Mark and Matthew). Interesting among these is the eschatological imagery of the tree and the inherent potency within the seed and the leaven (check out the 40 litres of flour that's leavened here - that's a lot of bread!). For me there are two (amongst others) very important applications:

1. The Story of the Kingdom. When Jesus told these parables, the kingdom of God (in NT terms) was himself and twelve disciples. He told of a time when that kingdom would have grown in such a way that the gentiles would find a home in it among many nations. Whilst the full glory of the kingdom is yet to come and we look for continued fulfilment in every age, Jesus parable-prophecy has been fulfilled in an amazing way. There's a corrective here to the despondancy that can creep into the church if the navel is gazed upon. Jesus' parable has been and is being fulfilled. A wide-perspective approach to the kingdom is what Jesus had - we should adopt the same.

2. The Inherent Power of the Kingdom. Since the kingdom is Christ's, is God's, it has the power of the king within it. The spirit dwells within the church, the word is living and active, Christ himself is building his church. Again, there is a corrective here to the evangelistic angst that can be exhibited in churches today through headless-activism, which at times seems like a panic-response to the apparent rejection of the Christian message by a secular society. We can try to genetically modify our own seed and leaven, but we forget that where God's authentic kingdom is, there is the power of the seed, the power of the leaven.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reflections on Three Years in Uist

I posted before that three years have passed since we came to Uist. What has changed compared to the pre-Uist days? Many things: 50% higher mean wind speeds and no Indian takeaways, for instance. But, what's changed theologically for me? Well, from my reformed baptist position of yore, I'm now a full-blown presbyterian - a theological transition that I can see was starting back in Wales. My main sticking point was unstuck by Marcel's excellent book 'The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism' which I read soon after arriving here. Marcel's influence unlocked other doors. My view of the church shifted consequential to this and suddenly so much of what I had been thinking about back in Wales was falling into place. Being a part of the Free Church here has been an essential part of the mix: the positive faith of the leadership, the enterprise, the sense of mission, the love expressed through mercy ministries to the needy, the organic nature of the witnessm, the challenges of the pastoral task as an elder. All of these have transformed my practical views of how a church should work - picking up on so much of the NT witness and reinforcing the importance of community within the church, the didactic needs in preaching to the whole church, and of caring for the community outside. Semper Reformanda has never been so important! My experience of the presbyterian system which has facilitated the planting of the church here has been overwhelmingly positive - it really is a fantastic feeling to belong to 'something bigger' and to share in a vision. And my personal theological transition goes on through HTC. My first experiences of biblical studies and my introduction to biblical theology have been inspiring. It's strange to think that if we hadn't left Wales to come to Uist, I probably would not have found my way to HTC. In God's providence I've wound up exactly where I need to be. God is good.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Psalm 10 and Uganda

Over the weekend I led the service at the church in Lochboisdale. A good guy called Stuart Watt was preaching - a challenging sermon on remaining in the vine from John 15. Friends were down from Lewis who are involved in raising money for the Heart for Uganda appeal - they had held a CD launch in Benbecula the night before to raise money for Dwelling Places, a work amongst Ugandan street children. So, in the service we prayed specifically for Uganda, the street children, the HIV problem, the oppression of the poor. Then we sang the closing verses of Psalm 10. The power and relevance of the Psalms never ceases to amaze me. When you tell people that you only sing psalms in church they often look a bit sorry for you. Don't! Could anything else have spoken more of God's justice and mercy to the street children of Uganda than the prayer of this psalm...I found it hard to sing because of the sheer power of the Divine Perspective and the Good News of God's Kingdom that it contains...

Arise, LORD God, lift up your hand
do not forget the poor
Why does the wicked say of God
'My conduct he'll ignore'?
But you, O God, do see such wrong
and you will bring redress
The victim puts his trust in you
you help the fatherless
LORD, break the wicked persons power
and call him to account
For all the evil which he thought
would never be found out
For you defend the fatherless
and those who are oppressed
So that from fear of mortal man
the helpless may have rest
Psalm 10: 12-15,18

Thursday, March 08, 2007


A few days ago, it was three years since my family and I moved from our homeland of Wales to the Western Isles, from our Baptist chapel to the Free Church of Scotland, and (for me) from the world of consultancy to, eventually, the world of theology. I've been reflecting on how things have changed for us and may post on this soon. First, it's a time to raise an Ebeneser stone in the blogosphere. Three years of grace and faithfulness, of leading and providing. Thanks be to God.
'Thus far has Yahweh helped us/Hyd yma y cynnorthwyodd yr ARGLWYDD nyni' 1S7:12

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Image of God

I've just read DJA Clines' article on the image of God in man from the Tyndale Bulletin. Bruce Waltke uses this paper in his section on 'image' in Gen 1:26 in his commentary on Genesis. It's an excellent paper, illustrating the importance of an understanding of the ANE world when we are interpreting the OT. This issue of ANE parallels is also addressed by Peter Enns in his excellent book 'Inspiration and Incarnation'. Try this quote out from Clines, which comes after an examination of the ANE meaning of 'image of god' as being a statue, a three-dimensional representation:

The body cannot be left out of the meaning of the image; man is a totality...The importance of this understanding of the image is obvious; the value of the body is strikingly affirmed...

The doctrine of the image is thus the protological counterpart of the eschatological doctrine of the resurrection of the body; like eschatology, protology is basically concerned to depict a truth of existential significance, in this case, that of the indivisible unity of man's nature...

...the image does not primarily mean similarity, but the representation of the one who is imaged in a place where he is not. If God wills his image to be corporeal man...he thereby wills the manner of his presence in the world to be the selfsame uniting of physical and spiritual.

DJA Clines, The Image of God in Man, TynBul 19, 1968, 87

As Clines then says, at this point the doctrine of the incarnation lies close at hand! Not only the incarnation of Christ, now seated at the right hand of the Father, but the indwelling of the Spirit in the Church.

Locked Out

I've been locked out of Blogger for the past two weeks - hence, no blogging. My ISP was barred from Blogspot domains, apparently because of a spamming problem. So, I've not been able to blog or see Euangelion, Sibboleth or any other Blogger blogs. Vodafone must have sorted it, so I'm back in the blogosphere....