Thursday, February 28, 2008

Benedict on Christ's Temptation in the Wilderness

The following is taken from Pope Benedict's, Jesus of Nazareth, 28-29, 35-36. Here he is treating the testing of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness.
Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil―no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: What’s real is what is right there in front of us―power and bread… God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he?....
The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the forma of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents himself here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story ‘The Antichrist.’ The Anitchrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev’s portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certaian type of scholarly exegesis current at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and necessary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle faith… [T]he Anticharist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times. The theological debate between Jesus and the devil is a dispute over the correct interpretation of Scripture…

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Texas

What a weekend!!!

Brant mentioned that we would be in Texas for a "big" conference (because, of course, in Texas everything is big!)--but we had no idea just how "big" it was going to be!

Over a thousand people crammed the Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Saturday. Moreover, we were graced with the presence of Bishop Plácido Rodríguez, CMF, who remained for the entirety of the conference! We were overwhelmed and amazed with his generosity and support. What a shepherd! Here's a man who truly has a heart for his flock. We were so moved by his love for the Church.

It was great to see so many lay Catholics come out--from every walk of life--to study God's Word. Brant and David did an amazing job. Of course, it was an absolute blast spending time with them. So much could be said, but suffice it to say, it was a truly grace-filled conference.

Special thanks to the Powell family and the Footsteps in Faith Board for putting this conference together. They did an excellent job.

The talks are available on CD through St. Joseph's Communications. It's hard to find the conference on their website (, but you can reach them by phone:

(Pictured above, from left to right: yours truly, David Currie, Most Rev. Bishop Plácido Rodríguez, Terry Barber, and Dr. Brant Pitre).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Eschatology Conference This Weekend!

For those of you who don't already know,
Michael and I will be in Lubbock, Texas this weekend speaking at a conference on:

Jesus and the End Times:
A Catholic View of the Last Days

It's going to be tons of fun. Here are some of the (working) talk titles:

1. The Destruction of the Temple and the End of the World (Pitre)

2. The Tribulation, the Antichrist, and the Resurrection (Pitre)

3. The Final Judgment and the New Creation (Pitre)

4. Who is the Whore of Babylon? (Barber)

5. The Davidic Kingdom, the Lost Tribes of Israel, and the Church (or something like this-Barber)

We are also very excited to be speaking with David Currie, a good friend and a master of biblical eschatology. He will be discussing rules for reading apocalyptic and prophetic literature as well as giving a talk rebutting the novel Darbyian doctrine of the secret "Rapture." (My apologies to Chris Tilling, I know you're a big-time rapturist!)

If you're one of the unlucky ones and can't go, you can always go to my website and purchase my own full-length Bible study on Jesus and the End-Times (got to feed the kids, you know!) at

Monday, February 18, 2008

King Herod's Mein Kampf and the Genre of the Gospels

Hello everyone!

Sorry Michael and I have been away. He has been extremely ill for a couple of weeks; I have no such excuse but the mountain of writing I'm engaged in.

Anyway, I was recently in Barnes and Noble and noticed a paperback edition of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and passed over it with a disdainful look. I know such books are important for historical value, but that one is WAY down on my list of "to read..."

By contrast, this morning I was reading my new copy of Emil Schurer's revised and updated History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (T. & T. Clark)--which only goes for about $400-$600 for the whole set!!--when I learned something I had not known before: that another insane and murderous leader had written a book about himself: King Herod the Great! (Put "great" in quotes, please.)

As Schurer states: "Like other princely persons of that period, such as Augustus and Agrippa"--both really great guys--"Herod the Great also wrote his 'memoirs', which are mentioned once by Josephus":

And this account we give the reader, as it is contained in the memoirs of king Herod..." (Josephus, Antiquities 15.174; see Schurer, History, 1.26-27)

What is fascinating about this reference is that the Greek word for "memoirs" (hupomnemasin) can be found (in varying forms) as referring to the historical "memoirs" of great historical figures or their disciples (e.g., Xenophon's "memoirs" of Plato). Even more importantly, various forms of the word (e.g., Gk apomnemneumata) are used by Justin Martyr to describe the genre of the Gospels, which he calls "the memoirs of the apostles" (see discussion in Burridge, What are the Gospels?)

What is intriguing about this is that it shows that the writing of historical "memoirs" was not something that was confined to Greek culture, but that Herod the Great--half-Jew though he was--was evidently familiar enough with the historical memoirs of Augustus (or others) to desire to imitate them. Thus, we have evidence not only for biography in first-century Judaism, but autobiography that is referred to as a "memoir."

When we find Justin Martyr giving "memoir" as the earliest generic designation of the Gospels, this should be a strong clue against the Form-Critcial claim that they are "folkloric" compendia of anonymous collective oral tradition and rather the "memoirs" of eyewitnesses and those who consulted them (e.g., Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). This was evidently a genre of literature that was alive and well in first-century Judaism.

(I don't know about you, but while there are many ancient works which I lament having been lost, I won't lose any sleep over this one...)