One blog to rule them all, One blog to find them, One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
About Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).
This is due to my dissertation which at some point may be completed or even, one day, started on. This is more of an exercise to put some words down on paper.
The use of the scapegoat image is prevalent in describing Paul’s intention in Galatians 3.10–14; however, to do so leaves us open to the possibility of a God who has sinned, or at the very least, a God who has previously offered a sacrifice for himself before he offered Jesus as the scapegoat.
By using this linguistic pattern the early Christian who formulated the confession quoted in 2 Corinthians 5:21 expressed two convictions: (a) sin is something that can be transferred from one person to another; (b) God transferred our sin to Christ, thus freeing us from its effect.1
Before I tackle this statement outright, let me draw your attention to Leviticus 16.6:
He must offer the bull reserved for his purification-offering and make expiation for himself and his household. (REB)
The “he” in this first is the Aaronic priest. Notice, the priest requires a sacrifice himself to atone for his sins. This is not akin to baptism or any other act we find in the Gospels attributed to Jesus. Or, rather, there is no act recorded in the New Testament whereby Jesus first atoned for his sins before offering himself as a sacrifice. Indeed, there is some contention as to whether Paul thought Jesus sinless (Romans 8.3). But, this doesn’t matter so much as what it would require of God. If Jesus is the sacrifice offered by God, then to have Jesus as a scapegoat would require God to have previously atoned for his own sins.
Unless, of course, we ignore that part because God is sinless. But can we? The priest atoned for his sins in order to transfer the sins to the scapegoat. He could act only as a conduit for a short time because he would soon be sinless. The scapegoat would then take away the sins of all of Israel, including the priest. It was all inclusive. Added to this, Jesus is referred to as our high priest in Hebrews, not God. In John, Jesus is the lamb that removes the sins of the world. But, I’m getting canonical here.
Is there something better to explain the language of Galatians 3.13?
Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law by coming under the curse for our sake; for scripture says, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.’ (REB)
I don’t think we can get the idea of transference here. If we go outside Galatians, even in incorporating 2 Co 5.21, there is plenty of other language to prevent the idea that God transferred our sins (acting as a high priest) to Christ. Yes, Christ took our sins, but he became a curse. He did it.
I don’t think there is one particular image of the death of Christ in Paul, although they all revolve around a sacrifice. I’m not saying that scapegoat (if by this we mean a transference-then-sacrifice) is not one of them. I think we can clearly see that 2 Co. 5.21 is a perfect example of this. However, I don’t think it is what is intended here.
J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 33A; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 318. ↩
You’ll just have to deal with me for a minute. I am not a sales rep nor do I participate in the Logos Affiliate program. More power to those bloggers who do. I would rather not, so that at least in appearance, I can presume to give you unbiased advice. I say this because I am biased to serious bible study and I believe you can actually get serious through Logos.
For instance, there is a textual variant in Mark 9.49 that I like to play around with from time to time. I believe it points to a time of rehabilitation after….well, I’ll leave it there for the moment.
First, I start with the Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible. This is a commentary on the entire bible and the textual variants found therein. Rick Brannon, one of my favorite people and one of the editors/authors of this volume, writes,
The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible (LTNB) cover both the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament with over 2,000 notes. These notes are situated somewhere between what is found in footnotes in modern English Bibles and the sort of material covered by Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. But the discussion in LTNB is geared toward readers with little to no text-critical knowledge. The goal is to provide English translations of several important variation units and some brief non-technical but relevant information about the unit.
In the LTNB, I go to Mark 9.49:
The Hebrew is the text used for the OT, although briefing scanning the document I see references to the LXX. The LXX is used to help in examining Hebrew readings.
As you can see, there is a difference, although some may argue against it being that much of a difference. I mean, unless you want to argue for purgatory or something…
After this, because I’m not satisfied, I go to the Ancient Literature Database. When this first started, the references were something like 60,000 but now, it racing past 180,000 entries. So, what do I come up with?
The Testament of Levi reads,
And of all thy first-fruits and of wine offer the first, as a sacrifice to the Lord God; and every sacrifice thou shalt salt with salt.
If I wanted to go further, I could commentaries, but these two things helps to make a reasonably informed decision.
The teaching versatility of the software has taken a gigantic leap. Not only are their visual tools like Canon Comparison and character charters (you’ll see), but visualizers that help you see the meaning of the verse, etc… Likewise, you can now make slides out of verses or other short passages you find in your books. This is going to be great for pastors and teachers who make use of multimedia in your preaching/classrooms
The ancient text database is going to be a must for all of those researching literary sources and developments of the text. I can see two people using this. One, those who are researching where texts come from and two, how a text was preserved or modified. Quite simply, this tool is going to cut work in half for those of us in these peoples. If you are looking at how a verse was used in the Church Fathers, you are going to be amazed at the level you uncover.
So yes, maybe the exponent sign (^) is really what they should have used.
Informative essays that address a wide variety of topics relating to Judaism’s use and interpretation of the Bible throughout the ages
Section and book introductions that deliver insights into the background, structure, and meaning of the text
Running commentary beside the biblical text that provides in-depth theological interpretation
Features the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH translation
Full-color Oxford Bible maps
Verse and chapter differences between the Hebrew text and many English translations
Table of Scriptural readings for synagogue use
Glossary of technical terms
First published in 2004, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. It has won acclaim from readers in all religious traditions.
The Jewish Study Bible combines the entire Hebrew Bible–in the celebrated Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation–with explanatory notes, introductory materials, and essays by leading biblical scholars on virtually every aspect of the text, the world in which it was written, its interpretation, and its role in Jewish life. The quality of scholarship, easy-to-navigate format, and vibrant supplementary features bring the ancient text to life.
This second edition includes revised annotations for nearly the entire Bible, as well as forty new and updated essays on many of the issues in Jewish interpretation, Jewish worship in the biblical and post-biblical periods, and the influence of the Hebrew Bible in the ancient world.
The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible.
Robert H. Stein has written a very specific book on a very particular chapter in the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Taking only chapter 13 (although he does provide a lead-in by exploring its place in the book itself), Stein goes virtually line-by-line through the chapter, offering the ‘why’ of his interpretation. He does so by relying on conservative scholarship as well as canonical support. His reliance upon these things, including Q and other unidentified oral sayings, is mixed with his acceptance and use of critical scholarship as well. Indeed, given his locus, his conclusions are that much more outstanding. All of this — locus, avenues of investigation — would normally give me pause when considering his conclusions; however, I find little fault in them. While I do not agree with his conclusion regarding the arrival of the Son of Man, his treatment of the first half of Mark 13 and his conclusion thereof is spot on. The book is divided into 8 chapters. The first lays out his thesis statement and his actual goal. The second chapter tackles various issues in reading this chapter, such as placement in Mark. Chapters 3-7 each discuss a specific, and successive, pericope wherein the chapter itself is given a critical and theological account. The final chapter includes the author’s own translation, making use of cues inside the text. Again, he uses intracanonical support as well as (a hope of) oral tradition. Unfortunately, this is the lowpoint (although admittedly, his lowpoint is still well above the highpoints of many) of Stein’s work. In the end, he allows that the first part of Mark speaks to the destruction of the Temple while the second half alerts the readers to an unknown date of the arrival of the Son of Man. He bases this on the inclusio he sees in 13.5 and 13.23. Rather than an inclusio, I believe Mark is using a chiastic structure. But, this is my view point, not my book. In all, while Stein uses avenues I would not, he arrives at a solution I believe is tenable. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man is an important book, especially in these times of heightened expectation. It is at once academic and theological, allowing the reader to place Mark 13 within the context of the entire Gospel as well as seeing how it works without a canonical context.
English: The destruction of the Temple foretold. Caspar Luyken. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 3904. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section R. predictions and warnings. Mark 13:1-37. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-q-to-r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am tired of using secular terminology to describe viewpoints in the Church. Yes, all terms are really open and have a fair use, but given the highly charged atmosphere in the United States, perhaps would could use terms not associated with the two political parties.
Progressive really isn’t. Progressive usually means moving forward but with the Progressives I’ve dealt with, they are moving left, into the secular realm, even into deism and agnosticism. Conservative means to conserve and yet many conservatives want to move us to congregationalism and away from traditional Wesleyan values. We aren’t really called to be either (although, to be honest, I’m sure I could make a better argument for traditional progressive Christianity than I could for conservative). Then you have all sorts of other labels people just don’t get. Liberal. Confessing. Evangelical/evangelical.
Our binary language of good/bad; conservative/liberal; etc… is not helpful when discussing something so vital. It doesn’t allow for those who may stand somewhere in middle. Of course, can draw the binary of flesh/spirit or freedom/matter, but the former is biblical and the latter is shown to not encompass all that there is given the former. So, forgive me if I am forced to, in this instance, use a binary to state my case.
I would like to propose some new terms. This terms will help in discerning our view on church government and orthodoxy, not on inclusion and exclusion. I do not like binaries, because the world is not binary. Yet, in observing the UMC as of late, there is developing a binary of sorts — based not on homosexuality and inclusion, but on the role and limit of church governance.
1.) Free Church — those who want to divorce themselves from a traditional view of orthodoxy, residing on something of a congregational or confederation basis with a “Jesus-only” attempt at Christian spirituality (either passively or aggressively). This has happened before:
By the mid-nineteenth century, Methodism was clearly evolving from a movement within the Church of England to a separate church. By the end of the century, partly under Hugh Price Hughes’s leadership, Methodism as a whole had become identified with the Free Churches. Official Methodist statements, such as The Nature of the Christian Church (1937), resisted any suggestion that the Methodist societies had broken away from the Church of England: they were never properly part of the Established Church. The Methodist Church was guilty of no schism, for it was ‘compelled’ to become a distinct religious community (pp. 25f.).1
Further, they view “love” as “inclusion” and righteousness as “justice.” This alone is the bound of Christian orthodoxy. Activism is their mission.
2.) Creedal — essentially, those who want to maintain the connexion with each other through the Book of Discipline as something unbreakable (not unchangeable) as well as believe the connection to the tradition of the Church is not something to be lost. “Love” is defined through a traditional understanding of the atoning work of Christ, redeeming people from sin. Love, then, is not necessarily exclusion but redemption.
In the end, this is really what it comes down to: our view of church governance and orthodoxy. This is why you have many who argue for inclusion but likewise argue for the BoD and orthodoxy.
Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church: Theological Resources in Historical Perspective (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2002), 161. ↩
Since he-who-must-not-be-named is reviewing the “normal books,” I wanted to take some time and focus on the books you good Protestants are missing due to the drunk who threw them out. Frankly, they are among my favorites.
Yes, you Wesleyans like James and you Calvinists like the Institutes, but for those of us who love Jesus, there are books (used by Christians since the beginning) like Wisdom of Solomon and the (Greek) Additions to Esther. Admittedly, the former of these two is my favorite.
The introduction to the entire section (split off as as they do in Protestant bibles) is a short, but masterful work on the history of the deuterocanon (or “Apocrypha”) in Protestant bibles. I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it, but Eileen M. Schuller has done her considerable homework and gets it, as far as I can see, right. By this I mean, Schuller presents exactly what I want to see presented in a commentary of this scope and it is appreciated. She presents the ups and downs (the drunken brawl that led to the books being discarded right up to their reemergence in our wayward and biblically illiterate society) of these “hidden” books in Protestantism. Further, she doesn’t exclude, as many are apt to do, the Orthodox varieties of lists.
Let me spend just a moment on the (Greek) Additions to Esther, for no other reason than it was penned by my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Vivian Johnson. She begins by noting the surface problem with Esther — there is no God (at least in the book). Therefore, later Jewish scribes sought to remedy that, adding to the story as they needed to deliver the message they wanted. Rightly so, Johnson speaks to how this book dealt with identity in Empire and how the additions turn the book from a very limited scope to one that has far reaching cosmic implications.
After taking us through the additions and what they mean inside the text, she turns to the interpretative tradition and the text in contemporary discussion (as is the case with all other books in this commentary). Since the Additions to Esther are so short, this has allowed Johnson to expand these two discussion sections greatly to the benefit of the reader. To my great joy, her section on contemporary discussion discusses the contrast between the Greek additions (and the story it produces) compared to that of the original and Hebrew forms. This is important in deciding which story to read — not necessarily which story is authoritative. Like Daniel and his additions, the additions to Esther are important to us as we discover how stories were told, retold, and redacted/edited to meet new challenges — not simply with mimetic reuse, but by adding directly to a sacred text.
In all, Johnson does exactly what this former student expects, delivers supremely.
These are brief thoughts on why I choose orthodoxy. I hope to edit, and develop this later. It is, thusly, unfinished.
I am asked why I strive for orthodoxy when it is presumed this since I came from a fundamentalist background I am less likely to navigate towards orthodoxy. Shouldn’t I be atheist or worse — progressive? Or because I would like to consider myself one who studies Scripture on the academic level, shouldn’t I refrain from the perilous seas of orthodoxy? However I believe that orthodoxy has a lot to offer and it is what I choose to believe is the better form of Christianity. My intention upon becoming a United Methodist was not to be orthodox but to remain just outside of doctrinally indescribable. I insisted that I could have my own view of the Godhead. I insisted I could define easily the boundaries of what I would and would not believe. However, the more I approached church history and scripture as well as engagements with both conservative and progressive Christians, the more important orthodoxy became. It is in orthodoxy where I find the refutation of both conservatism and progressivism as well as the stabilizing force needed to renew the Church universal.
If given enough time on this earth I would like to explore every facet of the Christian experience. However I would do so within the orthodox framework. It is not because orthodoxy is empirical or because I can prove (as a matter of science) orthodoxy is “best” or “absolute;” however, I can show it is a matter of value and worth and should not be so easily discarded upon the trash-heap of modernity, post or otherwise. Orthodoxy is that lens that has guided us for 2000 years and will continue to guide us forward.
I do not see it as a restriction or a boundary — neither as some evolution of a conspiracy centered on maintaining power and privilege. I see it rather as like a teacher to guide us, to shape us, to mold us and to finally set us free to find a value in the lessons we have learned. In fact, I would suggest that orthodoxy developed as a counter to privilege, either imperial or personal, so that no one person could place a stranglehold on the Gospel.
Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Orthodoxy is not restrictive. Indeed as it restricts to contain heresy it also expands to build upon the lessons learned during the rebellion. We would not have the Trinity except we first had the faulty notion of the Father who died. Orthodoxy reigned and contained that heresy — and yet was able to expand into the doctrine of the Trinity we have today.
Orthodoxy does allow for exploration and even experimentation. Its rigidity allows for freedom. Indeed it allows for mysticism and challenging long-held notions. It allows us to experience Christianity from different points of view and different angles. But yet it always maintains that it is the truth even when it expands to take in that which we did not know.
I believe there is always room for improvement and to change no matter the system but if you seek to just simply abandon the system then it becomes an issue. We see the great thinkers of the past who improved upon what they had, not by destroying the foundations upon which they themselves were built but by tackling the subject at hand while grappling with new information and new questions. It is not that they shut everything out in a fundamentalist manner but they brought in new things to help enlighten truth that they already had.
We cannot too harshly judge the great thinkers and minds of the past and consider them as our contemporaries — complete with the problems and solutions we now ourselves enjoy. Orthodoxy does not mean that that which is past is always better; progress does not mean that which is now is likely any better.
When I examined orthodoxy, especially with my background as anti-orthodox, I find it a level that is both stabilizing and liberating. Without orthodoxy, without that ability to remain grounded on (not “in”) the past, the Protestant Reformation would’ve been derailed. This is why the free churches and others today have no specific context to progress or understand doctrines as the world itself shapes our questions and demands new answers. Orthodoxy is a structure in of itself and unites those who hold to it even if in the nonessentials they disagree strongly.
Orthodoxy, then, allows for us to actually progress, to move forward, to handle the world that is revealed to us daily. It gives us a basis for deciding how to handle these new things our sacred writings did not speak to. We cannot simply say “the Bible says” or “the Bible does not say” and expect that to remain unchallenged. There is a logic and consistency at work in orthodoxy. This logical consistency is met by the Mystery of freedom provided for in orthodoxy. But when we meet new forms of life and love we can expect orthodoxy to provide an answer for us, not in restricting ourselves to the past, but an opening ourselves up to what it means to understand the incarnation of Christ. Orthodoxy is founded not upon one thing (Scripture) itself a part of orthodoxy, but but several experiences.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, every doctrine must have a social intention.1 Therefore if we hold to the incarnation we can build our doctrine from the proper use of this, we can build our doctrine on the proper use of the body, the proper use of love, and the proper use even of doctrine. Justification likewise has a social intention we should explore in this modern world. Justification, like incarnation, is not a holdover of the past. It is one of the grounding doctrines of the Christian faith. The creeds mention that Christ has died for us. While we can explore atonement models and theories, we must always remember that the basis of justification is that we as a church, as a people, even as individuals are set right with God through the death and physical resurrection of Christ. Likewise, these two doctrines are dependent upon one another. Justification is effected only because of the unique, divine Son of God.
Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten 20th Century- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These two doctrines are related in no less way to the doctrine of Creation itself, including to the image of God as St Athanasius tells us in his tract on the incarnation. If we properly understand the incarnation then we know what justification achieved. If we can grasp this, then we can finally understand the imago dei.
Everything we do as Christians — whether it is liturgical, practice, ethics, or morality — must come from proper orthodoxy and orthodoxy in its proper place. Without these things, the foundation of Christianity as we know it falls. For those like Oneness Pentecostals who believe in “Jesus only,” we must remember that the very book given to us that tells about Jesus — that book which we recognize in someway as an authority in our spiritual lives — is likewise given to us through orthodoxy. It was assembled by those who sought not to control or to have power but to protect and defend the Gospel as once for all delivered to the Apostles by Christ. Those who believe in a “Jesus only” Christianity do not truly exist as a Christian specimen except in their own minds. “Jesus only” Christianity is a logical fallacy and a paradox.
Is orthodoxy oppressive? No, not in of itself. Are people oppressive? Surely so. Those on the left who continuously claim that orthodoxy is oppressive fine their replication on the right with those who claim all things are persecution. I contend, with experience, that the oppressive systems are not orthodoxy but generally built around an independent personality, who believing him or herself more knowledgable than all of Church Tradition has created themselves a church. Orthodoxy itself is not oppressive, only those who misuse it and those who ignore it for their own private revelation.
Is orthodoxy biblical? Indeed, very much so. Further, the gospels testify to a level of orthodoxy, as well as a door to generous orthodoxy — if not heterodoxy. In Matthew 16.19, Jesus gives to Peter the much-discussed keys of the Kingdom. In John 20.21-23, Jesus gives to the Apostles the door of forgiveness. Matthew establishes a view of orthodoxy by not only using a rabbinical legality but also by pinning it to the role of the prime minister as found in Isaiah 22.22. Jesus created a line leading directly to orthodoxy. Further, Jesus was likewise exclusive. Jesus threatened to throw some into outer darkness. He had no issue saying “depart from me.” As much as Jesus was exclusive Jesus was likewise inclusive. He allowed that people could fall into that gray area of the middle as we see in Luke 9.49-50.
Let me return to Bonhoeffer. In Cost of Discipleship (293n.), he writes,
False doctrine corrupts the life of the Church at its source, and that is why doctrinal sin is more serious than moral. Those who rob the Church of the gospel deserve the ultimate penalty, whereas those who fail in morality have the gospel there to help them. In the first instance doctrinal discipline applies to those who hold a teaching office in the Church. It is always assumed that only those will be admitted to the ministry who are didactikoi, able to teach (I Tim. 3.2; II Tim. 2.24; Titus 1.9), “able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2.2). If hands are laid on any man before he is ready for his office, the responsibility rests with the ordaining minister (I Tim. 5.22). Doctrinal discipline thus starts before the actual ordination. It is a matter of life and death for the Church that the utmost care be exercised with regard to ordinations. But this is only the beginning. When the candidate has been approved and admitted to his office, he must, like Timothy, be admonished unceasingly to maintain the true saving doctrine. In this connection the reading of the Scriptures is especially emphasized. The danger of error is only too strong (II Tim. 3.10, 14, 4.2, 2.15, I Tim. 4.13, 16; Titus 1.9; 3.8). Further the minister must be exhorted to live an exemplary life—“Give heed to thyself and to the doctrine.”
It is not merely enough to say that what we teach must be biblical. Indeed what we teach must be orthodox. Because it is only by orthodox teachings we can understand the social intention of the Gospel. This is our fabric and our lens for viewing Christianity and questions that arise. Orthodoxy is not a rulebook nor is it a fence. It is a pathway protecting against stumbling blocks. It is what teaches us about morality and ethics and indeed, assigns to them importance. Likewise, it teaches us what love is and brings forth its primacy.
While John Wesley never articulated it so well, Wesley’s intention was not that far off from Bonhoeffer, which is not completely surprising given the Lutheran influence on Wesley along with Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran formation. While this is the case, Wesley did not suffer from the false notion that morality can exist independent of nor primary over doctrine. His teachings always began with correct doctrines, including justification. Justification, if we understand it correctly, leads us to holiness which is the goal of the Gospel. Even in his interpretative strategies, Wesley began with Scripture. He did not begin with morality. Correct morals comes from understanding God’s revelation and covenant. Orthodox doctrine without holiness is Gnosticism — that ancient and modern way whereby our salvation is dependent upon correct knowledge.
One of the stranger things about protestant orthodoxy is the fight’s inherent paradox. Perhaps if we contend for orthodoxy, we must likewise contend for those who established it, as enshrined better either in Rome or the East. Or, rather, we contend for the creedal orthodoxy, allowing for a small measure of Protestantism whereby we hold to the Creeds, forgetting that these were established by Councils and Councils Bishops and Bishops Apostles. If we contend for this creedal orthodoxy, wherein the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Resurrection are held as paramount next to Creation, Mary’s place in the Gospel, the Scriptures as a testimony to Christ, Justification, and a Church universal then we will do well enough. I still, however, find it difficult to contend for orthodoxy while ignoring, even in small pieces, those who establish orthodoxy.
When it comes to other forms of Christianity, I do not generally concern myself with them, finding something of value in Paul’s words of preaching Christ. On the other hand, if they pretend to be orthodox or if they are fundamentalism, then it raises my rancor. Indeed, I have little or no issue with gnostic Christians, Mormons or even American Baptists. I do, however, take issue with oneness pentecostals and progressives. I try to always watch my language and call those who attend or pretend to orthodox Christianity “orthodox Christians” and expect of them to be true to their self-identification.
So… there you go. Some thoughts. I wrote most of this while traveling down the road. Apple’s iOS dictation is awesome.