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

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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”

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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.

The Moral Responsibility in Determinism?

Logical biconditional

Logical biconditional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At a men’s discussion group I get to participate in every now and then, we have started to hammer out some interestings aspects of the free will v. determinism debate. Anyone who knows the debate, knows that it is not as clean cut as the “v” may represent.

But, the question came up about determinism and moral responsibility. Unlike moral influences and free will which suggest the person is still ultimately responsible, I am unsure if it is either logical or moral to place upon a pre-determined individual responsibility for his or her actions. If the person is born a predetermined immoral agent, then his or her actions are simply the result of the processes of the machine.

But, I wanted to argue the other side.

In determinism, the moral responsibility may not lay with the immoral agent, but I believe it does lay with the society as both a moral and legal entity. Therefore, if an immoral agent does what he or she is predisposed to do, it is not their fault; however, the moral society has a responsibility to correct the damage as well as to prevent such actions from occurring again in whatever means they find necessary. For the moral society, they act under the protection of the legal system — therefore, their actions or neither unjust or brutal, but necessary. They alone, after all, have the moral agency.

Thus, it becomes the moral responsibility of the legal society to remove from their midst the immoral agents if they act immorally.

I know I’ve missed something along the way…

Thoughts? As a determinist, are people morally responsible for their actions when they are pre-determined to be immoral?

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#SBLAAR, Accepted: “There and Back Again, A Jesus Tale: The Poetics of Apologetic Reversal”

This paper examines the presentation of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11.1–17) via mimesis. Rather than rewriting previous works or seeking to capitalize upon the positive image of a previous generation’s prophet as Mark has before, I propose our author is exploiting an apology of reversal in this pericope. This repetition, aptly named the “mimesis of the other,” is a repetition to dominate (Nesteruk 2013). The author of the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus in such a way as to refute a particular image by first imitating that image and then altering the aftermath. We discover this image through intertextuality; we discover the repudiation through other devices concealed in the text. I propose a reading of Mark 11.1–17 where the author uses existing literary material of recent historical actions to present Jesus as one who has entered Jerusalem quite contrary to the manner of the Egyptian (BJ 2.263–65) and Simon bar Giora (BJ 4.570-84). I will use the “mimesis of the other” to propose a reason why Mark may have used at least two scenes from Josephus’s Bellum Judaicum (2.263–65; 4.570-84) to judiciously craft this anticlimactic scene. By using “mimesis of the other,” our author is establishing Jesus against familiar motifs of rebels and dictators who attempted to wrest Jerusalem away from the Romans. This paper will presume a post­–70 Sitz im Leben as well as knowledge of Josephus’s earliest works by the author of GMark. I will work, based on these presuppositions, towards establishing a literary relationship between these two texts transcending intertextuality to one utilizing structure, geography, and character movement so that we clearly see not just mimicking, but an intentional reversal serving as an apologetic device.

Review of @FortressPress’s “Resurrection as Anti-Imperial Gospel”

In my opinion, there has been a lack of convincing exploration of Paul’s use of evaggelion as an anti-imperialist statement, with scholars often allowing to be a reference to Isaiah. However, as is shown by others as they explore the Gospel of Mark, this Greek word may in fact represent something more than a passing reference is Isaiah, but a direct challenge to Imperial Rome with their own proclamations of the good news of Pax Romana. Edward Pillar is going to challenge the normative approach to the Pauline evaggelion and with this book, turn empire critical interpretation on its head.

The argument is simple enough, to show that Paul’s stance on the Resurrection is clouded by the imperialism of Rome. To do this, he breaks down 1 Thess 1.9b-10, aligning it next to imperial propaganda and reality. Piller’s work shows a remarkable advancement in interpreting the New Testament via the lens of anti-imperial rhetoric by getting to the earliest use of the evaggelion. He begins by evaluating claims that a belief in a bodily resurrection was somewhat common place, such as the view espoused by John Dominic Crossan. Pardon the pun, but he quickly and successfully lays this to rest by showing what Greeks and Romans thought of a bodily resurrection. It was not merely another proclamation of a resurrection that moved the early Christian communities, but a truly unique proclamation that “irretrievably subverted” the social order. This was, as Pillar shows, because the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus was itself unique because it included a body, among other attributes.

To further complicate any resistance to seeing anti-imperial rhetoric in the New Testament, Pillar throws out the use by the Apostle of epistreps. Pillar’s focus on this singular word takes us through Paul’s literary corpus as well as “what might have been” where we can understand the choice of a particular word here indicates a particular purpose. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examines why idols are mentioned in comparison to the “living and true God” as well as what it means to serve such a deity. Imagine standing on a street in Rome, complete with idols in the markets, around people’s necks, and standing watch over the passers-by. How can we then not recognize the weight of “idols” in this passage as anything but a direct attack on the social order of the day? The final three chapters delve deep into what it means to wait (6) for the son from the heavens (7) to return and rescue us (8). Like the previous section, Pillar again seeks to focus on a particular, and peculiar, use of a word when Paul could have just as easily used something common. Here, it is apekdekomai and rhyomai.

In chapter 8, his argument becomes entangled with the historical Jesus. I want to call special attention to his argument here. He asserts that when Paul mentions “Jesus” without a title, he is speaking directly about the historical Jesus, calling to his witness the use of “Jesus” only in 1 Th 4.14 and 2 Co 4.11-14. Pillar is, as he has been throughout the entire work, careful to draw attention to the peculiarity of Paul’s writing and his selection of words. In doing so, we are able to meet the Jesus of history in Paul’s first letter (to the Thessalonians) divorced from highly theologized titles such as “Lord” and “Christ.” If he is correct about Paul’s use of “Jesus” only, then Pillar has opened the door up to a deep and sincere reconsideration of the historical Jesus.  Further, Pillar’s argument regarding rhyomai will not be welcomed by those who do not agree with the anti-imperialism rhetoric in the New Testament; however, it again opens doors for those are seeking to investigate the ransom Jesus offered.

Edward Pillar has opened up a wide door into not only anti-imperialist rhetoric in Paul, but so too in the study of the historical Jesus. He cements his research with solid data and a fine-tuned methodology that does not allow for overly imaginative fantasies. My only complaint is that he seems to do so without consulting existing scholarship on this very topic and from this very angle in the Gospels. Other than that, and it is more of a personal thing, Pillar’s work is by far one of the most eye-opening books on anti-imperial rhetoric in the New Testament in a long, long time.

Review of @ivpacademic’s “Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language”

All but one of the twelve contributors is a member of the faculty of Wheaton College, easily the most identifiable institution of higher learning associated with modern American evangelicalism. When you see this, it will either worry you or fill you with security. Allow it to do neither. What the contributors have accomplished is not something that pushes one theological agenda, but attempts to answer the tougher questions posed by students, insiders, and outsiders — but with often times tougher answers than expected. Indeed, what is proved here is not just the worth of Wheaton, but the value of the intellectual tradition within American evangelicalism.

The twelve (symbolism?) topics selected for this book include,

  • What is Christianity? (answered by Timothy Larson)
  • How Does God Relate to the World? (answered by Gregory W. Lee)
  • What is Salvation? (answered by Keith L. Johnson)
  • How Should I Live? (answered by Vincent Bacote)
  • What is the Christian Hope? (answered by Beth Felker Jones)

I have selected these five, because I feel they give the best overview of the agenda of the book.

In Timothy Larson’s response, he aims to answer the simple question of what is Christianity. He suggests Christianity is not asking about the minimum requirements necessary, but “a commitment to orthodoxy.” (18) He recommends denying “unbelief” but turning to God to “become more truly Christian.” For him, it seems, the commitment to orthodoxy does not allow for reconsiderations and considerations within the Christian community. I find this troubling given the times segments of Christian has changed what it means to be orthodox. But, these are his most distressing viewpoints, his most strict limits. The rest of his chapter takes on the myths of secularization, science v. religion, and what it means to be an evangelical (I am not one, but he is). Larson’s chapter does not condemn openly those who oppose him, but sets out how to act and operate under a commitment to (evangelical) orthodoxy. I would like to suggest he is somehow wrong, but in the end, Christianity is not a religionless faith, but one with orthodox principles, doctrines, and even dogmas that should be adhered to because they inform us of who and what we are as Christians.

Gregory W. Lee suggests that science and faith are not opposed to one another (something of a hidden theme in the book). Sure, I disagree with him and other theologians, about ex nihilio, but by no means should we take him as a Young Earther. Rather, he is simply asserting God created the cosmos and as such, created reason and the laws reason has discovered. By this standard, Lee moves to side with Augustine and others in allowing that strictly wooden interpretations of Scripture are simply dogmatic assumptions that hinder faith more than preserve it. In fact, Lee argues for the allowance of evolution, citing the great minds of Fundamentalism and does so within a solid Evangelical framework. After this he moves into the free will v. determinism debate. Instead of delivering a soft, one-sided after, speaks to and upholds as important the tension between these two sides!

“Salvation is a trinitarian event,” Keith L. Johnson declares (120). I can hear this ringing in my ears, I believe, finding something of the author’s hidden shout still languishing on the pages. It is as loud as the day Johnson first wrote it down and I suspect will continue to echo through the run of this work. I do not intend any hint of hyperbolism or sarcasm. Indeed, Johnson’s article correctly summarizes the Christian salvic experience as one that incorporates all of the persons of the Trinity, even if I find his substitutionary atonement model rather limited.

Chapter 11, “How Should I Live?”, begins by defining what is “the world” and how a proper creation theology can have an impact on living here. Some readers will find Bacote’s understanding here a little stretched but if you read his chapter to the end, it becomes more clear. Even reading his section on politics should help the reader to understand there are different views about the world and our involvement, sometimes arising from the immediate contexts. His solution seems to be to become involved to the point of Scripture. He tackles several topics (military service, political party affiliation) and ends with the same answer, justice. While his take may seem distinctly American, it is better conceived as an examination of the life of a Christian under a democratic state where political participation is a prescribed part of the duty of the citizen.

Finally, Beth Felker Jones speaks to the hope of the Christian. Kingdom now, hell, and the such. This chapter, as you must expect, is filled with several questions and thus seems a bit choppy. However, Jones doesn’t need a lot of space to answer the questions. Some questions, well intentioned, deserves a simple “No.” Others, such as ones on hell get fuller treatment. Indeed, in her treatment of hell and the final judgment, she makes room for the minority voices, suggesting that while she believes with the majority, she is careful to listen to those of us who do not. Plus, she is careful to couch her theology in “Western Christianity,” knowing, I suspect, Eastern Orthodoxy differs from her.

As I said, the answers are rarely simple and soft. More than likely, you will find yourself with more questions, but I do believe that is the hallmark of good theology and good theological professors. While some contributors do gave a matter-of-fact answer, others give answers for your choosing with whispered instructions to tolle lege. And why not? Do we need set-in-stone answers or do we need to teach and to be taught how to think about these tough questions? I’d go with the thinking game that should be theology. Personally, this has raised my level of respect for Wheaton and many of these professors. Overall, a fantastic book for Evangelicals and Mainliners alike, for Americans and even the wayward Canadian.

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