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”).
I’ve never been one to take anything wholesale, including the theories and/or hypotheses I agree with.1 So, when it comes to reading Warren Carter, I do have my problems with him. I have thus found something more to agree with Joel Willitts than the awesomeness of his first name.
Willitts is sympathetic to Carter (84) although changes the direction of Carter’s Empire away from Rome to that-which-is-not-Jesus’s. The essayist displays Carter’s genius easily enough, and then precedes to challenge the extent to which the scholar has taken his conclusions. I must agree with many of the points in Willitts’ evaluation, including the all or nothing approach Carter seems to employ. To suggest Matthew is writing directly against the Empire from start to stop is to first deny Markan priority and second the historicity of the person of Jesus. Is Jesus just a literary vehicle for Matthew? Hardly. Further, as Matthew pulls a great deal from Mark, but loosens the anti-imperialist message found in that Gospel, I would argue Matthew’s main goal is not Rome, but Antioch.
I will not bore you with anything else, saving that for the review later; however, I must engage one area, and explain why I think Carter has at least one point in this round. Willitts only engages Carter and not Carter’s foundation. The Essayist does speak to Carter’s methodology (85–9) and does so without polemical swipes. However, when speaking about the “cultural intertextuality” (what I have called the memetext) and “hidden transcripts,” Willitts only engages Carter and not the originator of those concepts. The essential concept to investigate is Scott’s idea of transcripts, but throughout this entire essay, Scott is not mentioned. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to completely agree with Willitts, but the points Willitts raises must force the Empire Critic to carefully reexamine any full reliance upon Carter’s methodology. The role of the hidden transcript must not be underplayed, as it seems Willitts has done.2
Another point I will raise is Willitts’ objection to the use of Matthew’ genealogy in Carter’s empire critical studies (85). A genealogy tracing back to David and then to Abraham does not mean it is not related to Rome. What better way to treat Rome as a temporary plaything of long dead gods than to toss it aside by highlighting the promises made to King David, but further, before time really began, back to Abraham? Thus, it is not the lineage of the Flavians that matter, but the linage of a conquered people rescued always from the garbage dumps of history. Unfortunately, we must be skeptical here, as the genealogy is just as likely to point to the doubt many may have had in Jesus as a rightful messiah. Further, I would personally argue that the genealogy argues more for continuity with David and Abraham for the Church rather than have anything to do with either Rome or Jesus himself. Yet, the anti-Rome flavor of it remains.
There is rarely, anymore, a book I want to savor, to take apart piece by tender piece. This one, however, is one of them.
Well, except for the Farrer-Goulder Law. I take that wholesale because it’s true. ↩
I have looked ahead, into Pinter’s essay on Luke, to discover a mention there. Therefore, I want to save any discussion on the role of these transcripts for such a time. ↩
“The church’s life already centers around the wealthy and those with influence, those at the center on our society. Seminaries that cooperate with prosperity ministries remain complicit in working against the spirit of Christmas. Christmas, the Holidays, Thanksgiving, these are not just times to be giving charity. Charity is the last thing on Luke’s and Matthew’s mind when they told the birth story of Yeshua the Messiah.
First, I will start with the good. I like the book’s focus on story. In a sense, the first chapter of the book does on a much smaller scale what John Goldingay does in the first volume of his massive three volume set Old Testament Theology. Wright begins by tracing out the story of Israel up to the point of the New Testament. I was also happy to see that he includes a section on what he calls the “intertestamental period” – Protestant terminology. I appreciated this especially in light of the fact that one of the things I thought didn’t work in Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology (vol. 1) was his lack of focus on this time period. In my opinion, the story doesn’t flow as well without reference to this time period.
I also appreciated Wright’s focus on the fact that the story of Israel is unique, but at the same time familiar. In other words, there is obviously something special going on in the history of Israel according to the authors of the Old Testament; however, the Old Testament also has a great deal to say about God being at work among the nations. Wright brings into the discussion Amos 9:7, which is a text that I always like to make mention of when teaching Exodus.
Second, I like that Wright takes a broader approach to the concept of promise-fulfillment. He makes a clear distinction between promise and prediction, which I think is helpful. He does this in connection to acknowledging the strange way that Matthew sometimes cites Old Testament passages. Wright doesn’t go as far as someone like Peter Enns in situating Matthew’s use of Old Testament texts within Second Temple Jewish interpretation. But, he does at least make readers aware that the New Testament authors were handling Old Testament texts differently than many modern readers would and that prediction is not the best way to think about this. I do, however, wish he would have done something with the word “fulfillment” as well, though I’m not sure what word he might have used.
Third, I appreciated that Wright discusses at length the title “Son of God.” I don’t think most people I teach realize the background of this title. Learning that Israel is called God’s “son” in the Old Testament (e.g. Hos. 11:1) adds a whole new layer of depth to this title for many people that I teach, in both parish and undergraduate contexts, since they typically associate this title only with Jesus’s divinity. Wright’s discussion of this title spans about 30 pages and would be beneficial reading for many people.
In terms of negatives, I would mention two. First, the book is a bit light on critical scholarship. For example, in the section on the “inter-testamental period” Wright states:
The canonical history of the Old Testament comes to an end in the mid-fifth century, with Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah (p. 24).
Unless I missed it, Wright doesn’t make mention of the fact that many believe Daniel to be the latest book in the Old Testament. I realize, of course, that this may not be widely accepted by evangelicals and that, even if this is the case, Daniel is set during the Babylonian exile. Yet a brief nod to critical scholarship, at least acknowledging differences over the dating of Daniel, might have been helpful.
Second, I also didn’t like that Wright steers clear of Matthew 2:23. He steers clear of it on p. 56 and comes back to it briefly on p. 104. But, I don’t think he ever really does a good job of dealing with the text. I think this is one of the things I appreciate the most about Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation, namely he doesn’t steer clear of texts that seem exceptional, though this did lead him in a direction that many evangelicals didn’t like.
Overall, I would recommend Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. The positive aspects of the book far outweigh the negative ones. If, however, you are looking for something more thorough, I would recommend John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology (vol. 1) – also from IVP-Academic. He gives much more on the story and includes a final chapter attempting to do something like what Wright has done in his entire book.
No doubt, you’ve read of my struggles with Matthew 16.18-19 (here as well). For my final exegesis paper in my NT class, I am working on 1 Peter 2.1-10, which deals the Church being living Stones, just as Christ is the Living Stone.
So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (1Pe 2:1-10 NLT)
If we take the traditional Petrine Authorship, might we infer then some historical reality to the words of Christ to Peter in Matthew?
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16:18-19 NRS)
I have to wonder if Peter then wasn’t taking what happened as Caesarea and interpreting it to his audience?
Willing pondering such things, I recalled the Shepherd’s vision of the stones and the tower. If you recall, the Shepherd (a better name of a Pastor, in my humbly, browncoat, opinion) was a brother of one of the Bishop’s of Rome.
His vision is this:
And then she again took hold of me by the hand, and raised me, and made me sit on the seat to the left; and lifting up a splendid rod, she said to me, “Do you see something great?” And I say, “Lady, I see nothing.” She said to me, “Lo! do you not see opposite to you a great tower, built upon the waters, of splendid square stones?”
For the tower was built square by those six young men who had come with her. But myriads of men were carrying stones to it, some dragging them from the depths, others removing them from the land, and they handed them to these six young men.
They were taking them and building; and those of the stones that were dragged out of the depths, they placed in the building just as they were: for they were polished and fitted exactly into the other stones, and became so united one with another that the lines of juncture could not be perceived.
And in this way the building of the tower looked as if it were made out of one stone. Those stones, however, which were taken from the earth suffered a different fate; for the young men rejected some of them, some they fitted into the building, and some they cut down, and cast far away from the tower.
Many other stones, however, lay around the tower, and the young men did not use them in building; for some of them were rough, others had cracks in them, others had been made too short, and others were white and round, but did not fit into the building of the tower.
Moreover, I saw other stones thrown far away from the tower, and falling into the public road; yet they did not remain on the road, but were rolled into a pathless place. And I saw others falling into the fire and burning, others falling close to the water, and yet not capable of being rolled into the water, though they wished to be rolled down, and to enter the water. (HV3 2:4-9 APE)
Throughout the rest of the book, the vision is interpreted.
Anyway, just some thoughts on later interpretations of Christ’s words as He looked at the Gates of Hell. Or, are they later interpretations….
You don’t have to a Kindle to enjoy this… since there are free apps for your phone, iPad 2, pc. Anyway, you can get the book here, for free. I already did!
A lively, readable and up-to-date guide to the Synoptic Problem, ideal for undergraduate students. Arguably the greatest literary enigma in history, the Synoptic Problem has fascinated generations of scholars who have puzzled over the agreements, the disagreements, the variations, and the peculiarities of the relationship between the first three of our canonical Gospels. Yet the Synoptic Problem remains inaccessible to students, soon tangled up in its apparent complexities. But now the author offers a way through the maze, with the promise of emergence at the end, explaining in a lively and refreshing style what study of the Synoptic Problem involves, why it is important and how it might be solved. This is a readable, balance and up-to-date guide, ideal for undergraduate students and the general reader.
Well, at least I feel like we have the author of Matthew’s Gospel on our side:
There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
I guess he “abandoned” Sola Scriptura too because I don’t know of any prophet who plainly or clearly said that.
Of course, I’m kidding. Even if I was to concede Jim’s point in his last post, I don’t think that pointing out examples where Catholics potentially violate the clear teaching or plain sense of scripture makes his case any stronger.
I could easily enough look at the Protestant world and say the same sorts of things … Grape juice for communion anyone? Do we abandon Sola Scriptura any more than self-professed Protestants do?
What I think Jim fails to do is recognize is that Pentacostalism and Emergent-ism are a product of certain communities applying Sola Scriptura. It would be nice if we could all just not claim those within our communities that we disagree with. There are certainly enough Catholics that I’d like not to claim. But, I can’t just say they’re not Catholic.
[Anyway, this is it for me today. I've got to work]
The question last week was to take a perspective on Scripture and examine it. I chose the Catholic on on Matthew 16.18-19. I shouldn’t have. I’ll be honest – I do see Matthew as a typological author. So, I have struggled with this one. It is by far, my least enthusiastic assignment. But, alas, it is an honest one. How would you answer?
I am responding to Catholic interpretation on Matthew 16.18. Here, here, and here.
Matthew 16.18-19 is a substantial verse upon which to base the primacy of Rome upon for the Catholic. It was a verse which we, in my previous fundamentalist sect, was required to memorize and if possible, during preaching, bring it up. Here, I am faced with the fact that another interpretation is offered, one in which Rome is declared, through Peter, to be the Rock. For me, it was always my previous sect. To be frank, my hesitancy about calling anyone one group the ‘it group’ is based upon, in part the experiences of the past, the reasoning against such a viewpoint, the tradition of differences which allowed various groups to co-exist and Scripture which doesn’t seem to point to one central locale for the one, true church. Hahn and others, however, believe that this portion of Scripture refers distinctly to the Roman Papacy.
Hahn’s viewpoints are biblical. He sees Matthew’s gospel as one of fulfillment and lapping over the brim with typology. I agree and have agreed for a while now, but where I might would disagree is on the fact that the Pope is not the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of God. While I believe that the connection between the two passages is evident, we have a host of other passages to consider, as well as Matthew’s setting apart of Old Testament passages. For ‘prophetic’ passages, God is seen giving to David or his son the rule of Jerusalem in the realized eschatology. But in Isaiah, we see that a Prime Minister is given the power. Yes, this may allude to the foundation on which the modern papacy sits, but was this what Christ was really speaking about, especially in light of the over passages in which the singular was used for the plural or when in John 20.21-23, the same power given to Peter in the singular was given to the Apostles in the plural?
Further, much is made of the renaming of Peter which mean pebble whereas the rock means rock mass. It wasn’t Peter himself which the rock was, but Peter’s revelation. And, if we are to take a canonical look, we find that the same authority, albeit in a much more spiritual form, is given to the Apostles as a whole in John 20.21-23.
Yet, I am finding that many of my answers here are solidly apologetic for Protestantism. I am not in favor of solidly apologetic answers. I am not sure how I will struggle with this issue, as I have told my dear Catholic friend that I disagree with the centralized hierarchy of Rome, although I admit the changes as suggested in Vatican II, if they were ever fully carried out, would be an enticement to be Catholic. Here, though, I am struggling with Hahn’s suggestion that Matthew is writing typologically. Yet, to that I question why in Acts we do not see Peter’s primacy suggested. Further, even in the early Church, we do not see the primacy of Peter suggested, not at least for a few centuries. Even then, both Cyprian and Irenaeus made their own apologies against the primacy of Peter, with one under the rule of Rome!
I am currently reading this book for my NT class (one of several books, actually). We are discussing Matthew at the moment (what, you couldn’t tell?) and well, this quote caught my eye. For those of you still looking for a contemporary Catholic Theologian, you might try Brown:
The Matthean sense of the genesis or origin or advent of Jesus Christ, however, goes beyond recalling the OT; and that is why I would insist it must be preached. I am not at all the first to claim this. In thinking about the initiators of the Protestant Reformation most Roman Catholics would recall Martin Luther and John Calvin; but there was a third famous Reformer, perhaps the most radical, Ulrich Zwingli, who was based in Switzerland. While he was still a functioning Catholic priest, he became pastor of the Cathedral of Zurich. Already imbued with the growing stress on the supreme importance of Scripture, he conceived the idea of preaching on the whole NT—yes, from the first verse of Matthew to the last verse of Revelation—an idea that in a sense found ultimate acceptance in the Catholic Church after Vatican II with the three-year lectionary of readings that cover most of the NT and invite even daily homilies. Accordingly, in January 1519 Zwingli began his project by preaching on the Matthean genealogy, a homiletic challenge that would have caused most preachers then and there to retreat in despiar. But Zwingli maintained that if one understood it correctly, this genealogy contained the essential theology of the Reformation. I would be even bolder: it contains the essential theology of the Old and New Testaments that the whole Church, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestants, should proclaim. (p52-53)
I believe that the passage refers to the rabbinical idea of ratifying the decrees of Heaven. In other words, the Rabbi’s saw it as a judicial measure when they were interpreting Scripture, much in the way pastors do so now with Scripture. Scripture was from God, but to ratify it was to interpret it according to the situation at hand. How to apply the Levitical law or the like. in other words, I believe that this passage refers to Scripture as our bedrock but the Church as the magisterium of those words. By keys, I think that Christ is referring to the Apostles as the gate keepers, as the preachers and ministers to God’s household. To sum, this passage is not so much about binding or loosening anything, but about the Church’s authority to preach Scripture.
It may have been Christ’s way of initiating a new Jewish sect, with His Apostles as the Sanhedrin, giving them the authority to interpret Scripture in light of Christ. We know that ‘Matthew’ had to craft a lot of the Jewish Scriptures to fit the life of Christ and this gave him the authority to do so.
Once there was this guy, who was an accountant. He was the son of an accountant, who was the son of an account, as far back as they can remember in their history. From the time he was born, he was raised to handle money, to value money, and to know how to be successful with money. He excelled at school in Maths (yes, in New Zealand we say/spell it properly.. Mathematic_S_ = MathS — see?), and later at accounting and bookkeeping. He went on to study commerce and business management and get the appropriate post graduate degrees.
He carried on the family business and made it a huge success. The company became known as one of the leading firms in the country and everyone wanted to employ them. He married, had children and raised them up as He had been raised.
There was though, a problem, the man was not happy. Oh sure, he loved his business and put alot of work into it, but there was something missing in his life. He was unsatisfied, and over time became more and more miserable. Eventually people began to notice and sent him to a counselor. After a long period of soul searching, discussing with his wife and family, and trusted advisors, the man decided to give up the family business, and move to the country, and buy a farm.
Now, the accountant loved to grow things, and had a wonderful garden at home, everyone said he had green fingers, and so he ripped into his new farm with gusto. After time though, he discovered that things were not working out how he planned them. Projects he started never finished, seeds planted never grew, crops that did grow never looked great and seemed small and pasty looking. Occasionally he would meet another farmer who would give him a pointer or two, but he seemed out of his depth. He loved the country life, but he started to get more and more disillusioned.
Eventually his bank manager spoke to him and said, look, its just not working, are you sure you are cut out for this? The accountant thought about it and said, yes, I am sure I am called to do this, its my passion, but I am not making any headway. The bank manager suggested a short course at the local high school on horticulture, in the evenings. So he went off and learned a little bit. Over the course of a year he got a 30minute class every week, and he learned a bit. He did still not seem to be making any headway, although some of his crops he managed to grow.
Finally the accountant met one of his neighbours (yes this is the correct spelling too who ran a successful farm a few miles away. The old farmer said to him, well son, the thing is, i was born and raised on the farm, the son of a farmer, who was the son of a farmer, but I still had to go to school and learn how to farm. You’re never too old to learn.
The accountant thought about it, and realised the truth, he had to forget everything he knew, and relearn how to live like a farmer. He asked the Old Farmer if he could, in return for some advice, help him out on his farm, and learn a bit from him. The old farmer agreed, and took him on as though he was one of his own sons.
The accountant also signed up at the local PolyTech (in NZ its a place where you do post high school “technical” education – focussed on the practical), and did a course. Hungry now for knowledge, he went on to University and did post grad studies in his area. Eventually, with help from the old Farmer, and his studies, the farm began to prosper. Crops grew, machinery worked, seasons came and went, and eventually the accountant began to teach others, just as the old farmer had done for him. With some years of experience, he went into the local farming community and began to help out new farmers. The farmer finally felt like he was making a difference, that he was successful, and that he had finally left behind “the accountant” and was now “the farmer”.
Matt 18:3 “.. I tell you the truth, unless you become like little children and start again from the beginning, you will NEVER enter the kingdom of heaven”
How many of us become Christians, move from the darkness into the light, from one world into another, and try and exist on 20 mins of learning about “how to be successful in God’s world” a week?
In the western Church the numbers are huge. Its no wonder we get laughed at, we’re like 3 year olds trying to run a marketing company.