Caesar, Christ, Crucifixion

Bust of Julius Caesar from the British Museum

Bust of Julius Caesar from the British Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m finalizing my AAR regional paper and it is going as well as any paper has previously. I found it. Maybe you don’t know what I mean. There is this moment in writing some projects where everything just seems to click. I found that moment the other day.

In 2 Co 13.4, Christ is said to have died in weakness upon the Cross. Some commentators suggest this means in human flesh. I disagree. Rather, like C.K. Barrett, I see it as a choice to surrender:

It was of his grace, of his primary characteristic, that he became poor (8:9), and the weakness shown in his crucifixion, being a mark of his grace, is not an unfortunate lapse from strength but one aspect of the action God intended in his Son. Historically, he preferred crucifixion to the exercise of some kinds of power1

I note Caesar‘s remark about the crucifixion his men would suffer if he lost the battle.

“Today we’ll earn the wages or the penalty of this war. Imagine the chains, the crucifixions of Caesar’s men, my head stuck on the Rostrum, my body cast aside,[2. Lucan, Civil War 7.359-58]

Ultimately, I believe it is better to picture the crucifixion as “suicide by cop” if that cop was, say, God abandoning Israel to Rome, and further if that “cop” was the need to do something to get God to act.

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  1. C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Black’s New Testament Commentary; London: Continuum, 1973), 336.

In the (e)Mail from @KregelBooks: Zombie Church

From Kregel,

There are Zombies among us

Liars. Hypocrites. Men, women, and children who attend church because it’s what they are supposed to do. Just going through the motions. These are the undead–people who are disconnected from the Spirit of God–who are spreading a virus of passivity, or worse. No one is completely immune.

Zombies can live. But they will have to fight. Fight for their lives.

zombie churchIn this challenging, culturally relevant book, Tyler Edwards spotlights the very real but often ignored lackluster attitude of today’s believers. An attitude that can infect an entire church. Using examples from popular zombie movies, Edwards will help you recognize the symptoms and show what you can do to awaken the undead. Your mission is to take life to a dying world by demonstrating what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 niv).

The bride of Christ isn’t dead. But she is terribly sick. Zombie Church offers the keys to survival.

Tyler Edwards graduated from Ozark Christian College in Missouri and is now the senior pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church. He speaks at various campus ministry events and has served overseas. This is his first book.

Expect a review soon…

Is the internet Killing the Book Review?

Adrianna W. posted this (her post is public, so if you are on FB, join in), so, you know… HT to her:

But the democratizing of book reviews, such that even self-published and low print-run books published by small presses can garner dozens of reviews by promoting “blog tours” or sending copies to readers with the expectation that they will post an Amazon review, has led not to better information for readers, but to a preponderance of inaccurate gushing.

How the Internet is Killing the Book Review.

John Hobbins spoke about this issue at the 2012 SBL Online Media and Publications section. You can read his paper here. I had hoped to see a follow-up section on this very topic, as his was a call rather than a diagram of what to expect. That section has yet to materialize.

Given the rise of online review platforms, such as Marginalia and Syndicate, not to mention the droves of bloggers who review, I have to agree that we need something of a standard. Of course, this will have to go both ways. Publishers have to be less willing to give out review copies if the reviewer doesn’t do a good job.

There is little doubt I have my favorite publishers, and not just because they give me books to review. I trust IVP, Kregel, Eerdmans, Baker, Fortress, and Energion because of their standards. I do not trust other publishers, and no I will not mention them. buT Y kNow, Don’t you, the not-ALE HOUSE i’m talking about? And likewise, I want them to trust me to give an honest review. Also, there are times I do my best to let some publishers, even passively, know that I do not need to be considered for some books. Seriously, I cannot handle much more of the inerrancy debate.

Some other thoughts…

I try to give good reviews based on the goal of the book and how effectively the author reaches it. For instance, in a recent review, I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions on X — however, that was not the goal of the book. I did mention that I disagreed with it, but I moved on. Sometimes, the goal of the book is simply not met and/or met in such a way as to cause some concern with the author’s cognitive capacity. American Patriot’s Bible, anyone?

Even with Kruger’s book about the canon, I tried to give an honest review and not because of the publisher and the awesome people there.

Sometimes, I end my reviews with “buy/read this book if X” so as to tell who would like the book.

The author of the above piece notes that she had received negative feedback from authors, publishers, and fans of those books she didn’t like. To be honest, unless the review needs a response (as a review of Chris Keith’s book did, once) authors and publishers should sort of mind their own business about reviews. Fans will follow you around. That’s the nature of the game. If you are perceived as bad mouthing a hero and you will be attacked. This is where the “block” feature comes in handy.

Further, the author notes “I recall one first-time author whose friends penned lavish review after lavish review.” This is not going to be fixed, except by ethical authors. I mean, friends aren’t going to always read the book as an unbiased observer — but because they are familiar with the author may more often than not hear the voice of the author while they are reading the book. Yes, friends may simply pen a review because of friendship, but I would suspect that lavish reviews are in part due to knowing the author. Publishers should work to not send authors’ friends copies. Authors will, however, do so. 

Again, the ethical considerations for and in book reviewing needs to go both ways, or three ways.

But to the blogger’s point. I do not think the internet is killing the book review. I think it is helping to further knowledge, advance the Kingdom, and to serve the intellectual appetites of many. Just because you get some garbage with the gold doesn’t mean the book review is dead, in the server room, with the space bar.

Review of @FortressPress’s Introduction to the History of Christianity (on @inkling)

Fortress Press is moving Christian education in the classroom beyond the four walls, the dry erase boards, and the dead trees of textbooks to something rich and vibrant, something that is going to grasp the imagination of the student. Tim Dowley’s (editor) Introduction to the History of Christianity is not simply an “e-book” but a multi-media experience. It moves beyond the portability offered by Kindle and iBook to something the teacher and student can both use to share and in many ways reimagine the words on the virtual page.

I cannot strictly limit this review to the contents of the book; however, as this is something of a book review, I want to speak, albeit ever so briefly, about what is before us. This is the second edition of the book, enhanced from the previous one by additions to the narrative of Jesus (in the form of contributions from well-known critical scholars such as Richard Burridge). There are plenty of color charts, maps, and pictures to stimulate you as well as small helps along the way. Further, as I explore certain topics that are dear to me, I find these topics are often presented with an acute sense of fairness. For instance, the topic on Methodism. Here, Dowley correctly situations Wesley and his people in the proper time frame, proper theological dialogues, and helps to draw out their influence on (American) Christianity. Likewise, Dowley’s even-handedness doesn’t end with Methodism, but continues on with such things as Vatican II. I must note that this is the first such book to spend even a brief moment on the rise of mythicism (p25). Also, Dowley doesn’t just pay lip-service to the East, but brings them into the picture equally with the West. The skill of the editor and the contributors can be seen throughout the 43 chapters. No doubt, this is one of the more extensive and important church history introductions available to student and autodidact alike.

But, the Inkling platform avails us of something more. It gives us an interactive experience. Not only can I take the books wherever I go, but they are linked to other internet sources including Youtube and CCEL. Thus, what was once one book has now become a virtual library of resources and a wealth of information on a multi-media rostrum. Yes, like Kindle and other platforms, there is the synchronization of notes and highlights, but unlike Kindle, there is a social aspect to it. In a classroom, you can actually utilize this book to aid in discussion by sharing notes, thoughts, and other items via the Inkling system. Thus,  students and the teacher(s) can dialogue even in the comfort of their own home. It’s like social media, but helpful.

Inkling also provides for a multimedia experience when it comes to maps. They boast, and rightly so, of a “guided tour” when it comes to the maps. Honestly, the best part of a bible were the maps when I was growing up. Now — now! Fortress Press gives me maps (and charts) in stereo! There is the ability to zoom in, to open pop-ups, and they even throw in thematic material. For example, on the chart “Beginnings,” I get a neat timeline between 0 and 325, complete with Roman figures, evens from the New Testament, and early Christian writings. There are 5 pop ups, each with added material. I’ve taken a screenshot below:

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At the end of each section (each section has several chapters), there is an assessment. These will not supplement a rigorous testing but will help the student to retain something of where things are in the book.

I have spent some time with this book, introducing it to others and in use in a classroom setting. It is beyond helpful for survey courses, small group studies, and even larger group studies. I have the Inkling iOS app. There are plenty of times, when I stream it to my tv via Apple TV. Further, pastors should be able to set it up via projector for larger gatherings.

There has to be an evolution of learning tools. Books, while they will forever remain with us, will never be the complete resource they once were. By combining technology, the information age, and the conceptual age, Fortress Press and Inkling have given teachers, students, and autodidacts something that will push the classroom experience to new heights.

{Insert Catchy Title} Adam Winn, Vespasian, and @garetrobinson

The Two Source hypothesis solution to the Syno...

Has no bearing on this article, but it must be said. Again. And again.

Adam Winn has made a decisive turn from the search for the literary sources of the Gospel of Mark to discovering the Roman ideology, or rather the counter to Roman ideology, buried in it. His new article in JSNT can be found here:

Tyrant or Servant? Roman Political Ideology and Mark 10.42-45 - Journal for the Study of the New Testament, first published on April 11, 2014 (Here).

Long time readers know that it was Winn’s 2008 volume, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, that got me going on Markan literary sources and in many ways, Roman imperial ideology. While others may not see what is plainly there, I believe Mark is written to do several things, but it is written because of Vespasian and the changes he wrought in the κόσμος. (<—yes, that is on purpose.)

Before we go further, let me call attention to my friend Garet’s post, wherein he states he disagrees with such enterprises. He is honest about his paper, that it is a “critical inquiry for apologetic purposes.” But, I do not think we can dismiss those who see anti- imperial ideology in the New Testament as somehow anti-apologetic. To understand what I mean, read pp23–24 in Winn’s article.

Winn examines Mark 10.42–45 as if it were read by a Roman audience. To introduce his readers to this worldview, Winn first lays out the groundwork necessary for “Mark as a ‘Roman Gospel,’” giving clear reasons for such a statement. He focuses largely on his work and one by Brian Incigneri, although he doesn’t fail to bring in other sources (even sources considered somewhat conservative – Evans). The reader must pay attention at this point, because the object rightly raised to any Roman understanding of Mark 10.42–45 is that it contains no directly related imperial language. Later, Winn can draw his readers back to this point to show them that Mark does not have speak the language consistently in order for his audience to understand him — after all, the sum of the Gospel is subversion of the imperial order.

Following this, Winn gives his reader a crash-course on the political ideology of Roman rulers and the recusatio. Without this section (and you may need to read it first before the article and then once more within the article), Winn’s arguments would falter. We are simply given what it meant to be a Roman prince.

Finally, the author exegetes Mark 10.42–45 section by section, drawing together his arguments thus far. Unlike previous volumes by Winn, he has little to no trouble offering a solid interpretation of his work and what it might mean, theologically. It is here that the genius of the thesis comes into play — one can actually hear how this section is read in the forum magnum next to Tacitus and Suetonius.

My concerns are tangential. I would like to have seen more developed in the narrative/Christological interpretation section. What sort of ruler, besides the self-sacrificing kind, is Jesus? Divine, or otherwise.[1 I am presenting a paper at AAR-EIS in a few weeks that I believe points to something of a high Christology in Mark, although different than John. It is higher than adoptionism, but not binitarianism.] Of course, this may be a theological bridge too far for such an article. Further, I feel 10.45 could be developed to show the “ransom” language is somewhat imperial (especially if you connect it to the Triumph – something Winn has already connected (in the article and elsewhere) to the Passion). Beyond that, his arguments are sound, if not near airtight.

Note, this is an article — not a book. I recognize that.

Winn does a masterful job of filling the void of reading this section of Mark as might have been read against the backdrop of political ideology. I rather appreciate the fact that the pericope’s interpretation is not because of language directly in the pericope, but taken as a whole from the Gospel. He also doesn’t date the Gospel of Mark, so we can take the article as a broad reaction against Roman imperial ideology. Further, he gives due attention to the author and the audience, rather than focusing on literary sources. Because of this new focus, Winn brings out the message as heard by the audience rather than any latent construction used by the author. He is careful to note Mark’s turning (he labels it “radicalizing”) of certain words and phrases and is equally anxious to let his readers know that what he is proposing is not emulation, but subversion. (Note, Garet misses this difference, as do many). In other words, even with his firm stance, he allows his audience some room in applying certain aspects of his thesis to their own stances.

A fantastic piece!

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Review: Bonhoeffer Works Vol 14 @fortresspress

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14: Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937

Author: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Editor: H. Gaylon Barker and Mark S. Brocker

Hardcover: 1258 pages

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8006-9835-3

Fortress Press

Amazon

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Bonhoeffer’s works. So, it should surprise anyone that I received a review copy of Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14 from Augsburg Fortress.

The book is split into three parts. Part 1 contains 154 letters and documents, both to and from Bonhoeffer. Part 2 contains exercises, lectures, and essays written by Bonhoeffer f. Part 3 contains sermons and meditations written by Bonhoeffer. The books is pretty evenly divided between letters and other writings (about half the book is letters with the other half being the other writings.)

The piece that I found most interesting was Bonhoeffer’s Lecture and Discussion on the Power of the Keys and Church Discipline (beginning on page 825). I found this piece to be interesting because of its proximity in writing to my favorite of Bonhoeffer’s works, Discipleship. One of the things that drew me to this particular piece is that we can see Bonhoeffer formulating pieces of Discipleship. This also allows us to see the development of Bonhoeffer’s ideas that later became a part of Discipleship.

There is a lot in this volume, but one aspect that I liked about this volume was the incorporation of the student notes found in Part 2.  For example, there are notes on Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession (337). From the footnotes, we know that these notes were taken by a student maned Joachim Kanitz. And Eberhard Bethge’s corresponding notes have this lecture given on July 15, 1935. It should come as little surprise that most of the student notes found in this volume are from Eberhard Bethge; however, if you spend some time looking through the different student notes, you will come across the names of other students. I personally thought this was interesting because it adds a new dimension to Bonhoeffer’s works, especially during his time teaching at the seminary. It’s not just Bonhoeffer’s words that we have here, but also the words of his students.

This is an excellent resource for those studying Bonhoeffer. There are a plethora footnotes that cross-reference other letters/papers/documents in this volume as well as other volumes in the series. My only complaint with the volume is there are several items that were published in the Nachlaß Dietrich Bonhoeffer that are not included in the English edition. Those items not included can be found in Apendix 6 (1043). All told, this is another excellent volume in the series!

Disclaimer:
I received this book free from Fortress Press. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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!

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.

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

Click to Order

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.