- Chaoskampf. One of the seminar themes - focussing on possible occurrences of the motif in the Psalms and writing prophets. I preached a mini-series on some of the Songs of Zion a few months ago and the chaos motif is clearly present in Ps46, contrasted there with the life-giving qualities of the Edenic Gihon spring on the slopes of Zion. The order displayed in the Sinaitic Law, whilst burdensome to the people, should perhaps be understood (at least to some degree) as a recreation of the world in the nation of Israel, which rises from the chaos of Egypt. Our God is a God of order!
- Isaianic Portrait of the Messiah. This seminar caused disquiet for some by disallowing a simple reading-back of NT perspectives into the traditional Isaianic passages. However, important methodological decisions must be taken when intepreting the OT. One of them is to ask: what did this passage mean in Israel? If we do not ask this question, if we do not impose a historical ordering principle on our hermeneutic, then we will never properly understand the revelation of Christ.
- Covenant. Dr Mike Bird used to harangue me (in jest) about the number of times I mentioned covenant! In this module, working through the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants enables your thinking to crystallize in this foundational area. A seminar on the New Covenant ('not like the covenant I made with their fathers...') was then an opportunity to build on this. Especially useful for me was time spent considering the fact that the New Covenant is made with the houses of Israel and Judah. Some want to interpret this spiritually, but I think that's a mistake. A literal understanding is what we need, if we are to understand what's happening at Pentecost (and before that, for example, at the well in John 4) and what Paul is getting at when he uses his vine imagery in Romans 11 (on a personal note, this kind of thinking a few years ago now was critical in my own ecclesiastical shift from being a Reformed Baptist to being a Presbyterian. In fact, thinking about it, does that move in itself make me a reformed Baptist?!). It also makes me wonder whether in some of the ways in which the Samaritans feature in the Gospels, we are in fact seeing some kind of tribal reconstruction motif - a rehabilitation of the northern tribes?
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
We have already noted the relative absence of atonement theology from the kerygmatic speeches of Acts, and contrasted this with its significance in Paul and elsewhere. Whilst CH Dodd's strict dichotomy between kerygma and didache expresses an unwarranted polarisation between the content of evangelising proclamation and the content of teaching in the Church, a case can still be made that the theology of vicarious atonement appears more strongly in the context of didache than in the context of the type of evangelising kerygma that we find in the book of Acts. This is not to say that the atonement did not feature at all in the kerygma of the early church. Such a view must contend with the evidence of passages like 1 Cor 15:1-8 and the fact that what is presented in Acts can only be a summary of the kerygma or didache of the church. However, it may still be the case that the salvation-historical emphasis of the kerygma necessitated that the atonement received less emphasis than it did in the didache of the church. The salvation-historical emphasis of the kerygma places the cross in its context as part of the work of Christ, and in the wider context of its role in fulfilling the purpose of God for humanity and creation. The didache, such as we find in the NT epistles, is where the riches of the doctrine of vicarious atonement are taught and explored. It is certainly pertinent that the sole explicit reference to vicarious atonement in Acts occurs in the context of Paul's address to the Ephesian elders, a context more akin to didache than kerygma.
...Luke contextualises the cross within the whole work of Christ, which in turn is contextualised within salvation-history. Therefore, the role of the cross does not receive a detailed exposition. This is also true of the largely salvation-historical kerygma of the apostles. It is in the didactic material of the NT that we discover this exposition. This observation itself perhaps challenges the practice of the contemporary Church at a number of points.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
Thursday, March 04, 2010
- Discussion of the canonical form of the book; Amos' words are introduced by a narrator; in chapter 7 Amos' visions are related in the first person, and his conflict with Amaziah in the third person. How were these sources and oracles, proclaimed against the Israelite elite (perhaps in a cultic setting), eventually set in their canonical form?
- Amos' profession: was he a poor shepherd or a wealthy landowner? Not only was Amos a sheep-keeper but also a sycamore fig farmer - diversification is the key to succesful farming! Or was he actually a seasonal manual labourer who moved between both? The former view has some merit.
- The plumb line. Or not? In 7:7, what exactly is the import of the vision? Whatever it is, it seems almost certain that it is not a plumb-line that is in view. Rather, it seems as if the weakness of the wall is in view here, anak being the material in mind. Dealing with a hapax like this just reinforces the difficulties that can often be encountered in the art of translation.
- Of course, the huge theme is judgement - contectualized amongst the nations, but also crystallized against Israel's apostasy. Yahweh's indictment of the war crimes of the surrounding nations speaks in our world to the accountability of leaders and soldiers engaged in conflict. The indictment of the northern kingdom in the midst of their material prosperity speaks to the Church in the west, where wealth can so easily displace genuine, countercultural worship.
- The Day of Yahweh - this prophetic leitmotif rises here in Amos. Discussion as to its origin is fascinating, including the classic treatment by Von Rad.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience. Henry David ThoreauIn the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one-half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indispensable summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live. Henry David Thoreau
Monday, March 01, 2010
- looking at citations of Psalms in Peter's sermon, comparing LXX and MT;
- the relationship between repentance, baptism and forgiveness in the ministries of John and Jesus;
- the meaning of Acts 2:39, always a bone of contention; the reference here to offspring is clear, and unless you abandon anchors in the Abrahamic covenant (therefore abandoning quite a bit of Paul, not least the all-important olive tree of Romans 11) then this message of Peter only leads to one conclusion;
- discussions on the man of lawlessness and the parousia in 2 Thess 2; including Calvin's (I believe) view that the parousia would occur in Palestine;
- more discussion on the warnings against apostasy in Hebrews; on this, I believe that Shepherd's idea of Observable Covenant Reality brings a much-needed emphasis in interpreting these passages;
- Working in Psalm 41 LXX and the Didache was encouraging - here we are venturing outside the relative safety of the NT!