New Orleans, Louisiana (NASA, International Sp...

New Orleans, Louisiana (NASA, International Space Station Science, 11/18/06) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

I am in Louisiana for a few days and then to a rather special place in Alabama.

Traveling always puts me into a sort of reflective mood, or mind-set. Maybe it is the destination. After all, I left Louisiana years ago. I left for a variety of reasons and excuses, but more than anything, I just wanted to get away from all that Louisiana was and is in my life. Bad family, bad religion, and just bad.

Leaving West Virginia, the place and I am unnaturally attached too… if you aren’t attached to a geographical locale, I cannot tell you what I mean. But West Virginia represents more than just an unexplainable attached to the land…but good family, good faith, and (believe it not) progressive change.

I got to see the same roads and the same places as I once did. But, they aren’t the same. Things change. Things grow. Cities grow. White people move. What was once pasture is now a hotel and McDonalds. What was one the first “mountain” we saw leaving Louisiana is now a Sam’s Club and a parking lot.

It is a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. When I left, I never thought I would be able to return. It is an expensive trip. I’m not saying I can go every week, but I am able to go at least once a year. I have become much closer to my Great Aunts – and great in every sense of the word. Other things, as you know, have changed.

Still, the only thing I really miss here is the food… and I’m not even sure that is the case anymore. Last night, we stopped at Don’s Seafood, a local eatery who I have only later found out has been purchased way from the family owners. The food was… less than stellar. It tasted plastic. It was…boring. But, I still get my Community Coffee – shipped up from Amazon.

And this morning…I get to go to a Southern Baptist Church.

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Review of @Steve_Runge’s “High Definition Commentary: Romans” @academiclogos


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There is at once among Protestants a supreme knowledge of Romans and yet a depth of ignorance. We read it as if we know what Paul is saying, and sometimes we do, but in the end we are going? to miss a lot of the meaning behind Paul’s letter. Why? Because we are reading Paul, looking for words rather than looking for structure. We assign meaning to the words, but Paul has carefully chosen his wording based on a structure.

But, there is a move to fix that. Stanley Stowers proposed a different reading of Romans, based on rhetorical apostrophes. Douglas Campbell recently proposed reading Romans, using rhetoric, but as if the whole piece is deeply entrenched in rhetoric. And I cannot help but mention the New Perspective(s) on Paul. With all of these “new” readings of Romans, one would think we could know just about every angle there is, to read Romans in every way possible. There is still room, however, in exploring Romans. I believe Steve Runge’s new commentary will help to moderate some modern stances while enlivening more traditional ones.

The High Definition Romans Commentary works with the methodology Runge laid down in his Discourse series and exampled in the High Definition New Testament. More than that, it attempts to connect the academy to the Church, from the literary to the literological. Runge accomplishes his task, not just “well enough,” but in a grand fashion wherein this reviewer at times wanted to show some measure of physical excitement at what he was reading.

The commentary is written with you in mind. Rather than modify that statement, to surround “you” with either the academic or the lay, or other, qualifiers, just know: this commentary is written to you. In that regards, there are no footnotes to vast amounts of data you most likely either know or wouldn’t read anyway. Rather, you are able to read the commentary based on what the structure provides, albeit with Runge’s voice in the foreground.

As the author states, the commentary is not about what is said, but how it is said. Thus, he guides us through Paul’s structuring of Romans as the definitive way of reading Romans. We do not have to wait long for Runge to dive deep into this. He opens up with Paul’s purpose, easily identified in the first few lines of Romans — he wants to introduce himself to the Roman church. He wants to build a relationship. Thus, he must carefully detail his theology. He stresses how each point serves a purpose in Paul’s rhetoric. Indeed, not much in Romans, if anything, is written on a whim. Every word, given the appropriate structure, is given purpose.

I have written before on Romans 1.18-32. I simply feel that of all the passages in Paul’s writings, deutero­– or otherwise, this passage is the most misused. In fact, I will judge a commentary on Romans by how this singular passage is presented. Perhaps this is why I am drawn so heavily into Douglas Campbell’s viewpoint. So that is why I am going to use my review and interaction with this passage as a way to show you why I accept this commentary as valid and the methodology of Runge as important.

Keep in mind, I’ve only seen the pre-publication copy. I cannot, thus, cite page numbers and will not directly cite Runge’s words. They may change during the final publication review.

Runge challenges me, but he doesn’t do it by stating, “the bible says.” Rather, Runge is showing how something is said and doing very little to add to Scripture. Indeed, even though we arrive at different conclusions, he raises points I had never seen before because, even though I pride myself on attempting to read this passage as deeply rhetorical, I still read it with a wooden structure.

For instance, what is the wrath of God revealed against? Here, Runge isn’t carefully crafting anything. There is nothing else but to show by refracting our vision to see Paul’s structure what is actually happening in this passage. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, but I believe this is the first time I’ve seen this revealed in any critical Romans commentary. Why? Because Runge is revealing Paul’s structure and in doing so, he is revealing the central elements to Paul’s statements such as connecting words, pointing words, and framing language.

We do much the same thing when we diagram sentences in English. We strip away the pointers and other qualifiers to get to the heart of the sentence. Runge does the same thing. But in stripping away some of the elements Paul uses, he also strips away our patina, the glaze of our own theological stances, to reveal to us something we may be missing.

In the end, what Runge does in Romans 1.18-32 is to reveal Paul’s structure and then to help, ever so slightly, to define what is going on here. Yes, he and I arrive at different conclusions on this, but he has caused me to reconsider my already known and set-in-stone facts about this passage.

Another section that I think epitomizes Runge’s work on Romans is his reflection on Romans 3 after he has completed Romans 9. Other commentators often accuse Paul of having drifting thoughts. Yet, Runge shows this is not the case. In fact, I contend, the more so after reading this commentary, that Paul wants his readers to re-read Romans while they are reading it. What do I mean?

When Runge arrives to Romans 9, he is able to then refer back to Romans 3 based on the structure of Romans 9. We must assume, then, the audience after hearing Romans 9 (or rather, what is Romans 9) would immediately start to recall what had been said just a few minutes before (in Romans 3). This would then trigger their thought process to reprocess what they had heard up until that point because suddenly everything is making sense. Paul is not simply laying down a linear path, but writing as the sea billows wave — paths on top of each other.

Why would you need this book? In my opinion, every serious scholar and exegete (preaching or otherwise) needs this book. First, if you have the High Definition New Testament, you will finally get to see what Runge is doing. This is the High-Def NT in action. Second, this helps to understand Paul’s main point of Romans. I believe Stowers is correct, that this epistle is a protreptic forerunner; however, he did not have the structure laid so bare as to reveal why he felt this way. All he had was the common rhetorical clues and a good argument. Runge, while not intentionally following Stowers’ suggestion, helps to prove Paul’s thesis is one of introduction, of theology laid bare. While Stowers argues, Runge demonstrates.

A final word about Runge’s methodology. Often times, when discussing rhetoric or other structuring elements in a text, we are tempted to jump into Schweizer’s well. We see in that text more of ourselves and how we would structure something rather than allowing the ancient author his own pen. As much as I have tried, I do not see this in Runge’s work. Rather, I see a consistent methodology that only springs into a commentary. Of course Runge is operating within predetermined framework, but I do not believe this has led him to be biased against Paul’s natural structure. Rather, any reader of this commentary and Romans should be able to see how natural this commentary is based on Paul’s structure as suggested by Runge — and how natural Runge’s scaffolding is natural to the inherent Pauline text. You are not going to be told how to see it; Runge is simply pointing out important clues so that you will see what is already there.

There are other benefits to this book. In the Logos Bible Software platform, the publication will be accompanied with a plethora of teaching slides that are excellent for the classroom and the sanctuary. Further, it helps to truly bring the uniqueness of the High-def New Testament to light. It provides a clear process to follow in reading Romans. In other words, it doesn’t use a lot of confusing language to show you simply what is happening in the text. It doesn’t argue anything; rather, Runge states what he sees and tells you just a little about how this applies. As an added plus, Runge’s language helps the reader to understand the structure by carefully selected words such as “hinge,” “framing,” and “drawing out.”

The (high) role of Mary in P.Oxy. 2 (P1)?, or Holy Protestant Heresy, Pope Peter!

Jones notes,

That early Christians continued to recognize Mary as the one who gave birth to Jesus is evidenced in a variety of early Christian texts and artifacts. One example is the ΧΜΓ symbol, probably signifying Χ(ριστὸς ὁ ἐκ) Μ(αρίας) Γ(εννηθείς) (“Christ, the one born of Mary”).

The Mysterious Flyleaf of P.Oxy. 2 (P1): An Odd Gospel Title – Brice C. Jones.

But why? Well… it proposes this as connected to the oldest version of the Gospel of Matthew.

So… if he is correct… then Jesus and the Gospel are connected to Mary… and Mary to the gospel story.

Holy Protestant Heresy, Pope Peter!

let’s start over: Defining “Mainline” and “non-Evangelical”

Over the past week, I posted several explorations of the mainline/evangelical divide. (Milton has one as well.) It hasn’t been pretty.

Well, I think we need to step back. An ‘E’vangelical is pretty easy to spot. They will more often than not hold to some form of strict inerrancy/infallibility. I do not mean that “scripture contains all things necessary for salvation” but that Scripture is infallible in all things it touches — science, theology, history. Words and phrases like “inerrant,” “infallible,” and “all sufficient” are tossed around as supreme and needed additions adjectives to Scripture. Further, they usually reject other elements of T/traditional Christianity.

In the discussions last week, several thing became clear:

  1. The Mainline/Evangelical divide is a uniquely American thing. Evangelical in Europe and Canada can mean something different than how we would use it. For instance, while Wright is a high church Anglican without a high view on inerrancy, he is still an evangelical.
  2. Evangelical is a word/label that should apply to those who believe in the power of the Gospel and as such, Mainliners who are not inerrantists but believe in the power of the Gospel feel somewhat slighted when you take the label away from them.
  3. The Old Mainline was the “Seven Sisters of American Protestantism.” These were the established (European-based/point of origin) churches, in some form at the start of the country. They were the central focus of the local communities and held sway for much of the country’s history. Thus, if we define “mainline” as one belonging to dominant denominations or communions, it is possible to now include the Roman Catholic Church as a mainline denomination.

So, “mainline” is an American thing. It doesn’t require a belief in inerrancy but can and should believe in the power* of the Gospel*. Further, a mainline denomination holds sway upon large parts of the American public and may even become involved in the political sphere. The denominations are larger than a sect, has historic doctrine, and is seen.

So, the new mainline would be who?

  • The Roman Catholic Church
  • The United Methodist Church
  • The Southern Baptist Convention
  • The Latter-Day Saints (remember, they are the dominant group in several western States)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Assemblies of God

But, there is a problem with limiting a group to just the big X (6 in this arbitrary case). Further, it doesn’t get us to where we need to be in determining who are those non-inerrantists/infallibilists Christians with some measure of influence in American Christianity. It doesn’t really help in defining anything except for who the powerful groups are.

So, let’s get down to the personal level. What describes a non-Evangelical Christian?

  • Separate evangelical from Evangelical. A non-inerrantist can still believe in the power of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture as Wright has so eloquently demonstrated. While there is some disagreement about what Vatican II’s definition represents, I tend to agree with a plain sense reading of it:

    “Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.”

    This looks like Articles of Religion VI,

    “Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.”

    Thus, a non-Evangelical is one who simply does not hold to a strict inerrancy of Scripture.

    A non-Evangelical is also likely to accept science asa beautiful book” and as such, seek via media when it comes to understanding Truth.

  • A non-Evangelical Christian will understand, appreciate, and often highlight the role Tradition plays. Everyone has Tradition, whether they know it or not, even inerrantist Evangelicals who refer to codified language to support inerrancy, or any of the solas. Tradition may approach some measured stature in the eyes of the non-Evangelical. This may be called canonical theism, where Scripture is not alone in acting as an authority for the Church. Tradition includes the creeds and other aspects often dismissed as extra-biblical by Evangelicals, such as a high liturgy. Like Tradition, even “free churches” employ a liturgy, even if they do not place it on a piece of paper and candles are absent. If you are brave enough, walk into, say, a Church of Christ and ask the pastor to preach first and then have everything else afterwards. Liturgy, including lectionary readings and litanies, not only has shaped doctrine but so too shapes us approaching God. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The liturgy is designed, or should be designed, to have Christ as its center, preferably in the Eucharist or in the delivering of the Gospel. We participate in the Liturgy and as such, our individuality is shaped and molded into a corporate experience of celebrating the Risen Savior.
  • A non-Evangelical Christian will have a higher view of ecclesiology. For example, I maintain that the United Methodist Church is a non-Evangelical church because of the Book of Discipline. My ecclesiology is as such that even if I disagree with various items in the BoD, I do not believe pastors should break covenant. We are an episcopal church, with oaths given and taken to act in concert with the covenant. If I were a pastor, I do not believe I should find it within myself to act as an independent. Rather, I surrender my authority to the Bishop. While the Southern Baptist Church is part of the New Mainline, it is still a deeply Evangelical church because in the end, it is an association of independent pastors and congregations.

There – Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. I think we’ve narrowed it down enough to start to present a list of influential non-Evangelicals (if non-Evangelicals we mean non-inerrantist/infallibilists).

So… thoughts on this?

In the Mail: @DeGruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft) “

Among the unknown Jewish writings that emerged from the caves of Qumran are five scrolls rewriting the Book of Joshua. The present volume offers a detailed analysis of these texts and explores their relationship with each other and other Second Temple Jewish writings concerned with the figure of Joshua. The first full-blown study of this group of scrolls, this book is of interest to students and scholars working in the fields of the Dead Sea scrolls and ancient Jewish biblical interpretation.

Part of my dissertation is looking at rewriting… so this will come in handy, I believe.

In the Mail: @DeGruyter_TRS “A Textual Study of Family 1 in the Gospel of John (Arbeiten Zur Neutestamentlichen)”

This textual study of the Gospel of John in seventeen Greek manuscripts offers a fresh investigation into the important textual group known as Family 1. The study, based on a full collation of the seventeen manuscripts, has re-defined the textual contours of Family 1, by establishing the existence of new core family manuscripts and subgroups. The study includes a reconstructed Family 1 text with critical apparatus for the Gospel of John.

And from here:

This is a textual study of seventeen Family 1 manuscripts in the Gospel of John: Gregory-Aland 1, 22, 118, 131, 205abs, 205, 209, 565, 872, 884, 1192, 1210, 1278, 1582, 2193, 2372, and 2713. Part 1 contains an analysis of a full collation of these manuscripts in John and concludes with a family stemma that expresses the relationships between the manuscripts and how they connect to the non-extant Family 1 archetype. Part 2 contains a reconstructed Family 1 text with critical apparatus for John. The results of this thesis confirm that 1 and 1582 are leading Family 1 manuscripts in John, but demonstrate that a new subgroup exists, represented by 565, 884 and 2193, that rivals the textual witness of 1 and 1582. This subgroup descends from the Family 1 archetype through a different intermediate ancestor to that shared by 1 and 1582. The discovery of this subgroup has broadened the textual contours of Family 1, leading to many new readings, both text and marginal, that should be considered Family 1 readings. The reconstructed text is based on the witness of this wider textual group and is offered as a replacement to Kirsopp Lake’s 1902 text of John.

Can’t wait to dig into this one.

Was Paul a Calvinist or a Arminian-Wesleyan?

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You have heard what my manner of life was when I was still a practising Jew: how savagely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it; and how in the practice of our national religion I outstripped most of my Jewish contemporaries by my boundless devotion to the traditions of my ancestors. But then in his good pleasure God, who from my birth had set me apart, and who had called me through his grace…(Galatians 1.13-15 REB)

This is not the first time in the canon we read of Paul arguing that he was set a part by God (Romans 1.1). Here, he insists it was from his birth/from before his birth. We must ask, did Paul see himself has having a choice in “choosing” to follow Jesus on the Damascus road? How do we reconcile our supposed notion of “free will” to that of God’s?

Again, I ask: God Paul have refused to follow Christ on Damascus road?

John Wesley did not see this “unconditional predestination” as inconsistent with his theology of a free grace as he writes to this verse in his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament. Do we then allow that some are predetermined to be conformed to God’s righteousness and others must choose for themselves in some manner?

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How Long before a “conservative” #UMC begins to (re)debate complementarianism

The Two Source hypothesis solution to the Syno...

This really has nothing to do with the story, but it is the God’s honest truth and I want to rub your face in it.

It is interesting to watch the debates rage in other denominations. I know that the UMC had women pastors and view women as equal to men in everything, including the call to the Gospel. It did take some getting used to, however.

When the EC essentially split over the ordination of LGBT persons, with conservative groups forming their own communion with Canterbury, the debate over women’s ordination in the American Anglican church arose once more. Granted, there are differing views allowed but how long before these differences become new grounds for schism?

Take a moment and read what is happening in the Southern Baptist Church:

In his talk, Platt speaks about four gospel truths, ironically all taken from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, not from the Gospels of the New Testament which detail Jesus ’actual words and actions. Watching his sermon, Platt’s gospel truths seemed more like opinion and conjecture, as he repeated his claim that, “We flee sexual immorality in our lives and we defend sexual complementarity for the sake of the gospel in the world.”

via Sexual complementarity: A dangerous debate.

I’ve asked other UMCers what they think will happen to women’s ordination. Most believe the matter is settled or would be of little or no consequence. Yet, what I predict will happen is that any conservative UMC group (if a schism occurs) will have to revisit this matter. There are plenty of UMCers who believe that the UMC started to go downhill when women were ordained.

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Review for “Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary”

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Thanks to Geoffrey for this review:

In the 19th century, the great British statesman William Gladstone wrote a long, detailed, and wrong work on the similarities between Homer (“good old Homer”) and the Bible. This tradition has kept up in to the 21st century, with a recent scholar making a similar argument, using different justifications. In “Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary”, Joel Watts makes that case that, in fact, it was another author from antiquity that, at the very least, sat in the back of the Gospel author’s head: Lucan, the satiric poet who was forced to suicide by Nero. To make his case, Watts delves deep in to the historical background of the text of the Gospel, its roots in the Septuagint, and describes in detail how mimesis was understood at the time the original audience was being addressed. He then turns and shows how Lucan, who turned Virgil’s triumphant Caesarian propaganda on its head in his polemic against his childhood friend, the Emperor Nero. He also relies heavily on the theory that, while it is true texts emerge from communities, they can also create communities. The power of Mark’s Gospel, for Watts, lies precisely in those things that have made it, in words he borrows from classical and contemporary critics, an embarrassment.

I cannot say I accept his argument whole-heartedly. Replacing one antiquated author with another, even with a stirring defense, still leaves many questions unanswered, not to mention unanswerable. Leaving aside this not unimportant issue, Watts nevertheless demonstrates the subversive, even revolutionary quality of the text. In so doing, he shows us that, even at its most controversial – embarrassing? – Mark’s Gospel nevertheless offers contemporary readers a vision of Jesus wholly at odds both with his contemporaries and their expectations as well as us and our own expectations. Inviting readers to consider an original audience understanding many asides and references that have long since been lost, Watts breathes life in to those first Gospel communities, still broken-hearted at the destruction of the Temple and the significance of that action (as well as the declaration of Vespasian as Messiah for the Jews) for them.and their devotion to the Jesus they have come to revere. On this last, Watts’s inclusion of a discussion of various “Jesus’s” and what that means both for original readers as well modern readers, particularly of Chapter 13, changed this reader’s whole perspective on this part of the Gospel.

Best of all, Watts has done a great service by showing readers how even this Gospel, too often derided for its poor Greek, its Aramaisms, its incomplete sentences, and lack both of a beginning and ending, is nevertheless a text with many layers. Some of those layers cannot be understood, as Watts whole project insists, unless we are willing to enter the mind and heart of the original audience, learn what they took for granted, and hear with faith the promise that, despite defeat and dispersion, God was nevertheless with them, just as Jesus told them.

via Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary.

For more, go here.