Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This statement seems to be a description of the God in the New Testament documents, but does that mean that God's description, or the person of God being described is the central matter of the New Testament documents? Certainly the N.T. documents consistently teach that God should be the main concern of human persons, but is God being thusly described the center of New Testament theology? Btw, New Testament theology doesn't mean 'new testament statements about God.' It means something more akin to 'summaries of the ideologies of the new testament authors, particularly how they describe God, Jesus, humanity, history, God's deliverance, etc.'
If we mean by 'center of N.T. Theology' a plausible unifying theme of all of the books of the New Testament, I think that perhaps the phrase, 'obedience to Jesus as risen Lord' is a narrow a theme that can be come by. Because despite the accuracy of the truth claims made by N.T. authors, the expressions they use to discuss God in light of what they believe Jesus does to the meaning of God, and differences of opinion amongst those authors the rhetorical function of each New Testament document seems to be somehow to call the recipients into what the author perceives as obedience to Jesus. That center could probably also be stated as 'adherence to the apostolic traditions.'
Just a thought or two.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Bird also spends some time in footnote 57 looking at the various 'turing to the gentiles' passages and concludes that they were temorary and localized in nature. I agree, I found this aspect very troubling in an undergraduate course on Paul, wherein I thought to myself, "why does he keep failing to live up to his word?" But he was only making those pronouncements concerning evangelism in the synagogues in the place he happened to be at the time.
Also, his point on page 18, that the propositio of Romans (1:16) that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, to Jews first, then to Gentiles, it paradigmatic not just of Paul's theology, but of his practice as an Apostle is definitely the case. To whom would one go to get a foot in the door for the message that a Jewish man is the resurrected Lord of history in a pagan town? The synagogue of course.
On the last page Bird points out that "Paul's vocation to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles was inexplicable and even impossible without some kind of missionary work among the Jews as well."
I highly recommend this article for your edification as a student of Paul's letters.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
There are two possible punctuations for this text. One renders only "and what shall I say" as a question, a move which leaves Jesus making a real petition to the Father. The other renders that clause as well as, "Father, save me from this hour" as a question, as if to have Jesus thinking such a request is foolish, this could be seen as a critique of the presentation of Jesus in the synoptic gospels as agonizing in prayer over doing the Father's will.
In english the two readings would look like this:
- Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour! But this is the reason which I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.
- Now my soul is greatly distress. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But this is the reason which I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.
I personally opt for reading 1. Here's why:
- The author has taken great pains to show Jesus' capacity for emotional distress elsewhere in his presenation, particularly in chapter 2 and 11.
- Jesus says, "my soul is distressed," presumably over the fact that God's glory means Jesus' crucifixion. So it would make sense for Jesus to make this request before he prays that God's will be done nevertheless.
- Since it is normal for God's glory to be manifested in delivering his servants from distress, it would make sense for Jesus to first pray for deliverance, before he nevertheless prays that as God's agent he would bring deliverance through the cross.
- F.F. Bruce agrees with me. (On a lesser note, so does Ben Witherington.)
- This is coherent with the picture painted by the synoptic gospels, except the language of 'glory' is not present in their versions. This is a mitigated version of Jesus' garden prayer, it does not include Jesus' multiplying of prayers, but the logia still serves the purpose of showing that, despite personal desires, Jesus lived worthily of the title "Christ" because he did God's will to the point of death and even prayed thus. (I personally think coherence should be assumed in matters like this for the reason that the gospel writers all had a similar subject matter and similar purpose in writing, so to presume utter incoherence first does not seem becoming. I do have reasons behind that presumption.)