Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SBL 2014 highlights

What a tremendous time I had this year at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature! 

Above all, I had the honor of reading a paper co-written with John Kincaid. N.T. Wright, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Ward Blanton responded to it. It was incredibly gratifying to have these scholars carefully read our arguments and engage with us in conversation. I think it is safe to say that all three gave positive assessments to the paper's thesis, asking helpful clarifying questions.

After we were done, David Burnett presented a fascinating paper in the same section. Brant Pitre had an interesting exchange with N.T. Wright about it during the question and answer period that was fun to witness. I'd like to thank our student Luke Heintschel for the pictures as well as all those who came out to support us (including my wife!). 

"Already and Still More": The First Sunday in Advent

In this first Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to prepare in a rather urgent manner for God’s coming in the person of Jesus Christ. If you are anything like me, it is tempting to view the Advent Season as celebrating something that is “in the rear view mirror”, that is, a definitive event of the past that defines the salvation we can now rejoice in as believers in Christ.

While this is true, it is nonetheless incomplete at best and dangerous at worst, for the coming of God in Christ requires an ever-present vigilance, one that is always ready for the coming of God.

FIRST READING: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7 
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
In this first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of God in rather apocalyptic terms, that is, that Yahweh would “rend the heavens and come down” and bring salvation. In context, Yahweh does indeed come down and bring salvation, for he comes and liberates Judah from Babylon and brings them back to Canaan.

However, as Loren Stuckenbruck rightly notes, apocalyptic salvation in the faith of Israel entails an “already and still more,”[1] and this dynamic can be seen within Isaiah itself, for reading the book as a whole helps to reveal that not all aspects of Isaiah’s promised salvation is completely fulfilled with Judah’s return from exile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SBL/AAR 2014 sessions I am looking forward to attending (Part 2: Sunday - Monday)

I still have more sessions to read about and I'm on the fence on what to do during a couple of time slots, but here are some thoughts on Sunday-Monday.

Of course, somewhere in all of this I have to set aside time for the most important part of SBL: the glorious exhibit hall where all the major publishers will be selling their wares (at discounted prices!).

Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on the sessions so far.

If you are going to SBL, I'd love to get your feedback. What are you planning on doing?

SUNDAY - 11/23/14

9am - 11:30am

Once again, another painful decision. On one hand, there is a session on Pauline soteriology on "righteousness/justice" in Paul involving Gorman, Gaventa, and de Boer, with Eubank responding. On the other, there's a section on the Fourth Gospel and liturgical issues, with Keener responding. They both look too good to pass up.  

Pauline Soteriology 
Room: Indigo Ballroom H (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: Righteousness/Justice in Paul 
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary's Seminary and University, Presiding
Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Baylor University
Righteousness/Justice in Paul: The View from Romans (35 min)
Martin de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - VU University Amsterdam
Righteousness/Justice in Paul: A Comparison of Galatians with Romans (35 min)
Break (10 min)
Nathan Eubank, Notre Dame Seminary, Graduate School of Theology, Respondent (15 min)
Willie Jennings, Duke University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Discussion (20 min)
1pm - 3:30pm

Obviously, there's no question about what the most important session is in this time slot. The first paper is going to be dynamite. The paper by David Burnett, like the first paper, was presented earlier this year at the Paul and Judaism Conference at Houston Baptist University. It was fantastic. I'm looking forward to hearing that one again.

Anyone know who this N.T. Wright guy is who is responding to it?

Pauline Epistles 
Joint Session With: Pauline Epistles, Paul and Judaism/Paul Within Judaism, Disputed Paulines, Pauline Soteriology, Second Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making, Systematic Transformation and Interweaving of Scripture in 1 Corinthians

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Sapphire Ballroom M (Level 4 (Sapphire)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Chan Sok Park, Harvard University, Presiding
Michael Patrick Barber, John Paul the Great Catholic University and John Kincaid, John Paul the Great Catholic University
Cultic Theosis in Paul and Second Temple Judaism: A Fresh Reading of the Corinthian Correspondence (18 min)
David A. Burnett, Criswell College
"So Shall Your Seed Be": Paul’s Use of Gen 15:5 in Rom 4:18 in light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions (18 min)
Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology, Respondent (8 min)
Ward Blanton, University of Kent at Canterbury, Respondent (8 min)
N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (8 min)
Break (5 min)
Matthew E. Gordley, Regent University School of Divinity
Psalms of Solomon and Pauline Studies (18 min)
Hans Svebakken, Loyola University of Chicago
Romans 7:7-25 and a Pauline Allegory of the Soul (18 min)
Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology, Respondent (8 min)
Ward Blanton, University of Kent at Canterbury, Respondent (8 min)
N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (8 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Luckily, there are no other interesting papers at this time. None. Don't even look at the Program Book. There isn't anything else you need to be doing during this slot. *cough 

4pm - 6:30pm 

There are a number of sessions that interest me. I'm very interested in the section on Mark. It's hard to turn down an opportunity to go and hear Joel Watts. The paper on intertextuality in Mark 11-12 sounds interesting too.

Yet Goodacre interacting with Kloppenborg on Q? How do I pass that one up!

Finally, there's a paper that seems to suggest animal sacrifices were in fact offered at Qumran. If true--and that seems to be a big if--that's huge. I'm interested to see what evidence can be cited--and equally keen on seeing what kind of reaction the paper gets. Finally, Stuckenbruck's paper looks intriguing.

Not sure what to do about this one.

Markan Literary Sources  
Room: F (Level 3 (Aqua)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: Literary Sources for Mark 11 
Adam Winn, Azusa Pacific University, Presiding
Joel L. Watts, University of the Free State - Universiteit van die Vrystaat
There and Back Again, A Jesus Tale: The Poetics of Apologetic Reversal (10 min)
Discussion (35 min)
Matthew R. Hauge, Azusa Pacific University
The Creation of Person in Ancient Narrative and the Gospel of Mark (10 min)
Discussion (35 min)
Dennis R. MacDonald, Claremont School of Theology
Intertextuality in Mark 11–12 (10 min)
Discussion (35 min) 

Joint Session With: Q, Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity 
Room: 303 (Level 3 (Aqua)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: Q’s Difference: Contents, Silences, and PerspectivesThis session, sponsored jointly by the Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity Section and the Q Section, revisits the question of how “different” Q seems to be given its contents, silences, and perspectives, especially where issues evidently crucial to other groups (such as the death and resurrection of Jesus) are concerned. Does Q make a difference to constructions of Christian origins? 
William Arnal, University of Regina, Presiding
Daniel A. Smith, Huron University College
What Difference Does Difference Make? Q’s Place within Christian Origins in Recent Research (30 min)
John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Respondent (10 min)
Mark Goodacre, Duke University, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Break (10 min)
Joseph Verheyden, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Is There a Place in the Inn? Some Reflections on How to Take Care of Q (30 min)
John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Respondent (10 min)
Mark Goodacre, Duke University, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (20 min) 

Room: 501 C (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: New Perspectives on Archaeology, Material Science, and Texts 
Eibert Tigchelaar, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Presiding
Ira Rabin, BAM Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing
Did 1QIsaa and IQS Come from the Same Parchment Workshop? (30 min)
Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Were Sacrifices Offered at Qumran? The Animal Bone Deposits Reconsidered (30 min)
Helen R. Jacobus, University College London
Two Aramaic Zodiac Calendars: Why 4Q318 Is Related to the Synchronistic Calendar of 4Q208-4Q209 (30 min)
Bernard M. Levinson, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Correcting the Restorations of Temple Scroll (11Q19) 2:8-9 (30 min)
Shani Tzoref, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
The Temple Scroll as Prequel and Interquel (30 min) 

Meals in the Greco-Roman World  
Joint Session With: Meals in the Greco-Roman World, Meals in the HB/OT and Its World 
Room: Room 5 B (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC) 
Theme: Meals and Justice 
The joint session between the "Meals in the Greco-Roman World" section and "Meals in the HB/OT and Its World" will focus on meals and justice, discussing how individual and divine justice are brought into connection with the table. The session will seek to bring together perspectives from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and rabbinical texts, seeking the commonalities and divergences present between the various bodies of texts. 
Carol Meyers, Duke University, Presiding (5 min)
Walter J. Houston, University of Manchester
'To Share Your Bread with the Hungry': Justice or Charity? (30 min)
Michael Satlow, Brown University
Beggar at the Banquet (30 min)
Peter-Ben Smit, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Convivial Justice - Meals with Meaning in Early Christianity (30 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (35 min)
MONDAY - 11/24/14

I have a number of commitments on Monday morning and so I can't make it to anything at that time.

In the early afternoon there are a number of sessions that look fascinating. I'm going to have to make some hard decisions here.

First, there's a review of N.T. Wright's new book on Paul that features, among others, Douglas Campbell. After watching the recent dialogue with Wright at Duke, taking a pass on this one is going to be difficult.

In addition, in the Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds section there are two papers that have caught my attention. First, there is one on wine consumption in antiquity and the story of the wedding feast in John 2. Second, one on Mark 10:1-12.

There is also a section on Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism which focuses on priesthood and sacrifice. The papers here look very appealing.

Not sure what I'm going to do about these yet.
Pauline Soteriology 
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM 
Room: San Diego Ballroom Salon B (Lobby level) - Marriott Marquis (MM) 
Theme: Panel Review: N. T. (Tom) Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God 
Ann Jervis, Wycliffe College, Presiding
Steve Mason, University of Aberdeen, Panelist (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University, Panelist (25 min)
Alan J. Torrance, University of St. Andrews, Panelist (15 min)
Break (10 min)
N. T. (Tom) Wright, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
1:00 PM to 3:45 PM
Room: Room 30 B (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC) 
Theme: Papyrology, the New Testament, and Early Christian Egypt 
Lincoln H. Blumell, Brigham Young University, Presiding
Hans Foerster, Universität Wien
Wine at the Wedding at Cana and in the Papyri: Some Observations on Wine-Consumption in Antiquity (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Annelies Moeser, Brite Divinity School (TCU)
Reading Mark 10:1-12 in Egypt: Marriage and Divorce (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jennifer Strawbridge, University of Oxford
A School of Paul? The Use of Pauline Texts in Early Christian Schooltext Papyri (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
James R. Royse, Independent Scholar
The Neglected Texts in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus of Philo (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Iain Gardner, University of Sydney
The Kellis Coptic Papyri and Christianity in Fourth Century Egypt (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 202 B (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: Priests, Meats, and Sacrifice: Representation and Praxis 
Gil Klein, Loyola Marymount University, Presiding (5 min)
Philippa Townsend, Ursinus College
“Priest of the Uncircumcised”: Melchizedek and the Gentiles in Hebrews and Beyond (25 min)
Mika Ahuvia, University of Washington, Seattle
Priestly Depiction of Sacrifice in the Mishnah: The Case of Tractate Tamid (25 min)
Anthony R. Meyer, McMaster University
From Praxis to Text: The Scripturalization of Priestly Ritual in the Mishnah and Invoking the Divine Name YHWH (25 min)
Jonathan P. Wilcoxson, University of Notre Dame
What Is Strangled? The Cultural Resonances of “Strangled” Meat in Acts, the Mishnah, and the Ancient Mediterranean (25 min)
Daniel Ullucci, Rhodes College
Who Sacrifices? Christian Experts and the Redefinition of Religion (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)
In the late afternoon, I am planning on attending the Blogger section. However, there is a section that is going to be hard to miss--and it features a prominent blogger, Mark Goodacre.  
Blogger and Online Publication
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room 1 B (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC)The session will conclude with a panel of scholars who blog (including Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne, among others), talking about key moments in the intersection of academic blogging and Biblical studies from recent months. One of the great things about blogging is that it allows discussion of Biblical studies and other academic news over the course of the year. This panel thus makes room for discussion of topics that could not be foreseen when the program was finalized in April. Expect mention of specific topics and panelists on the scholarly blogs prior to November! 
James F. McGrath, Butler University, Presiding
Kimberly Majeski, Anderson University (IN)
Biblioblogging: A Bridge for Church and Academy (30 min)

Maria, Mariamne, Miriam: Rediscovering the Marys  
Room: 202 A (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB) 
Theme: Does Which Mary Matter?The papers in this session investigate the multifaceted early Christian traditions of the Marys—Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany—in biblical and post-biblical contexts. 
Ann Graham Brock, Iliff School of Theology, Presiding
Deirdre Good, General Theological Seminary
Mary and Jesus in the Garden: Ban and Blessing (25 min)
Mark Goodacre, Duke University
The Magdalene Effect: Misreading the Composite Mary in Early Christian Works (25 min)
Deborah Saxon, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
The Care of the Self in the Gospel of Mary (25 min)
Judith M. Davis, Goshen College
Virgin Mary Co-Priest or Not: The Continuing Trend of Redaction and Revision (25 min)
Ally Kateusz, University of Missouri - Kansas City
Collyridian Déjà vu Part Two: Male and Female Altar Priests (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)

Solemnity of Christ the King: The Readings

Congratulations, everyone!  God has seen fit to let us live to complete another liturgical year!  We have journeyed with Our Lord from his birth through his ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and into the growth of the Church and the spread of the Gospel to all the nations.  Now, at the end of the year, we reflect on the Final Judgment, when Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, will pass sentence on each and every human being, establishing justice, punishing evil and rewarding love and self-sacrifice.  The Feast of Christ the King is a profession of our faith that ultimately there is a moral standard to the universe, that all is not in flux or random, that the Good, the True, and the Beautiful triumph in the end over darkness, ugliness, and selfishness. 

Our First Reading comes from Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17:

Monday, November 17, 2014

SBL/AAR 2014 sessions I am looking forward to attending (Part 1: Friday - Saturday)

The annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature / American Academy of Religion kicks off this week. I have downloaded the handy-dandy app for the conference, updated my profile, combed through the online program book, and begun to set my "agenda" on the app. 

Here are the sessions that I have assigned to my schedule (so far) for Friday and Saturday. I'm sure that I'm far from done--I keep finding sessions I've missed.

This is going to be extremely stimulating. There are a number of painful decisions to be made though.

FRIDAY - 11/21/14


Two words: Paul and Apocalyptic. Is anyone not going to this?

Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination 
Room: 300 A (Level 3 (Aqua)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Session 1 
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Presiding
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Welcome (5 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - VU University Amsterdam
Apocalyptic as Eschatological Activity (25 min)
N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Apocalyptic as Sudden Fulfilment of Divine Promise (25 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism (25 min)
Philip Ziegler, University of Aberdeen
Apocalypticism in Modern Theology (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (15 min) 
Session 2 
Ben Blackwell, Houston Baptist University, Presiding
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary's Seminary and University
The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit (25 min)
Edith Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Apocalypse as Theoria in Paul: A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Paul's Apocalyptic Epistemology (25 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University
Romans 9–11: An Apocalyptic Reading (25 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham
Apocalyptic Investments: First Corinthians 7 and Pauline Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Word of Thanks, Book Promotion, and Adjournment: John Goodrich, Moody Bible Institute
7pm - 9pm

Craig Keener will be speaking on the historical plausibility of miracles. I only wish there were some skeptical scholars responding so that there could be a dialogue after the lecture.

Friday, November 14, 2014

RBL review of Hahn's "Consuming the Word"

In the latest RBL, there is a very positive review of Scott Hahn's book, Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church (Doubleday, 2013), written by Sonya S. Cronin (Florida State University). 

Cronin offers a masterful survey of the book's contents: 

A few quotes:
"While not specifically geared to the academic, it is rich enough in its logical progression to appeal to the intellectual, yet simple enough in its explanations to be accessible the lay reader."  
"This book is valuable for Catholics, non- Catholics, academics, and laypeople—anyone who wishes to understand the role of Scripture in Catholic confessional lives and liturgical worship." 
I couldn't agree more! 

As Cronin writes, "Although this is a very theological project, Hahn has used textual evidence to make his historical claims."

Indeed, this book is very well researched and convincing. Among other things, it discusses the way scripture emerged out of the liturgical life of the early church and shows how the question of "canon" was essentially a liturgical issue ("canon" = which books are to be read in the "churches")

One key point: Hahn shows that "testament" was really just a Latinization of the term "covenant". That translation issue has obscured the link between the books of the "New Testament" and the eucharistic celebration of the "cup of the New Covenant" in early Christianity. 
"The documents weren't complete till the end of the first century, and even then they were not called 'New Testament' till the end of the second century. The documents only gradually took that name, again because of their liturgical proximity to the covenant sacrifice, the Eucharist. They were the only books approved to be read in the Eucharistic liturgy, and they were 'canonized' for that very reason. Thus, precisely as liturgical books, they were called the New Testament." (CTW, 40-41)
Indeed, on the back cover there's a great quote from patristic scholar, John Cavadini (Notre Dame): 
After reading Consuming the Word, I will never hear the the phrase 'New Testament' in the same way again. This book offers a soul-satisfying account of the organic connection between the liturgical life of the Church and Scripture, between the Incarnation in flesh and the Incarnation in words. . ."
The historical argument regarding the meaning of "New Testament" is just one of the many insightful elements of this book though. There's a lot more to it, obviously. 
If you subscribe, I'd recommend reading the whole review at RBL. . . and then buying the book. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paul's face revealed!

If you are a serious Pauline scholar, you apparently know what he looked like.

Michael Bird, Chris TillingNijay Gupta, Ben Blackwell, Nathan Eubank--take note. If you decide on using a different picture of the Apostle on your future books on Paul, be forewarned that you will risk being marginalized. Go the safe route. Go with the majority opinion. Don't question the emerging consensus on Paul's appearance and opt for a more controversial position.
You've been warned. Your academic credibility is on the line here. 

"The economics of salvation": Readings for the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Your reward shall be great in heaven."

That saying of Jesus, which appears in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel (Matt. 5:12), isn't actually found in the lectionary readings this Sunday. Nonetheless, that message does sum up their message quite well. 

Specifically, the readings teach us about what we might call "the economics of salvation". Let's dive into the readings and unpack that idea a bit. 

Before I go any further, however, I must mention the important work of Nathan Eubank on this topic (here is his blog). I will be drawing from his ground-breaking monograph on Matthew. Eubank builds on the work of Old Testament scholar, Gary Anderson (University of Notre Dame), offering (in my opinion) some crucial insights into Matthew's theology.

(In fact, his book will be the subject of a panel review at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature at the end of the month [S22-332 - Saturday at 4pm]. John P. Meier, Donald Senior, and A.J. Levine will be reviewing the book.)

As always, we encourage you to post your comments below. 

FIRST READING: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 
When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
The words of Lemuel's mother. Specifically, the passage is taken from Proverbs 31, the contents of which are actually ultimately attributed to a woman: “The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him” (Prov 31:1). 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Proper "netiquette" for comment boxes and a new policy for TSP

We are changing our policy here; for at least the near future, all comments will be moderated before they appear in the comment boxes.

That's not to say that we don't want to hear your thoughts. We most definitely want your input! (Yes, you. . . The more the merrier.)

However, we think we need to be more deliberate about supporting responsible, relevant, and thoughtful dialogue.

Be assured that this does not mean that all disagreeing comments will be rejected; far from it! Disagreement can be stimulating.

Nonetheless, we do believe we need to keep conversations here on track. Indeed, online discussions are famously prone to drifting off course.

In fact, this has become a real issue in higher ed, in particular in the burgeoning field of eLearning. Specifically, there has been a great deal of discussion around the issue of "best practices" regarding online discussions. Thus in conversations about eLearning there has been increasing attention on the importance of promoting "netiquette", i.e., "etiquette" for posting on online forums.

In light of this, to help support an effective online educational environment, we at JP Catholic University have developed our own "netiquette" for student posts in online message boards.

I think it is high time for us to take what we've learned in eLearning and apply it to moderating discussions on blogs--this one in particular.

Below, then, is a modified form of our JP Catholic Netiquette. I'd like to propose something like this for our comment boxes. I don't expect all who post here to read through these guidelines. I realize that the blogosphere remains an informal environment. Still, I think it is good to have some statement about some pitfalls to be avoided.

I'd truly appreciate feedback here. I'd be especially in learning if other bloggers have developed a kind of netiquette for their sites.

If you have any ideas on how what I have presented below can be tweaked, please speak up in the comment box. I do want to keep the netiquette list relatively short. Maybe we can somehow condense some of these. Perhaps we can crowd-source this a bit and then finally post a finalized suggested netiquette for comment boxes.

Consider the following a conversation starter.

Netiquette for
1. Those who post comments should be respectful of others' time. Comments should, as much as possible, be economical and to the point. Long-winded posts that involve multiple parts (e.g., "Part 1," "Part 2," etc.) should most definitely be avoided.

2. While comments certainly need not be "formal" in tone, to be taken seriously one should attempt to speak with clarity, use proper grammar, and be mindful of spelling. Writing in a sloppy fashion suggests carelessness of thought and undermines one's credibility.  

3. Comments should be on point. Comments should not digress into lengthy autobiographical accounts. Consider this: If your comment has more to say about you than the topic at hand, you need to rethink what you have written. In fact, avoid the attempt to "hijack" a conversation by seeking to turn the discussion away from the topic at hand. Never post commercial advertisements, self-promotional information, or other kinds of spam. 

4. At least one substantive reason should be given for disagreement. Merely expressing disdain for another's position without providing an evidence-based argument is frustrating and unproductive. 

5. Always take a respectful tone and remember that asking questions of others is always preferable to making accusations. In fact, always assume that others are sincere and attribute to them the best motives possible. If such is not the case, there is no use in continuing the conversation. Also, be aware of issues that might arise due to cultural and language differences.  

6. Do not dismiss others' perspectives by simply assigning a label to them (e.g., "conservative", "liberal"). Such categories are hardly ever helpful.

7. Avoid writing in all caps, especially when disagreeing. Such writing is perceived as shouting and is considered rude.

8. When someone else makes an error (e.g., incorrect spelling) and / or does not follow proper netiquette (e.g., becoming wordy), think twice about whether it is really helpful to correct them. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

JP Catholic West Coast Biblical Studies Conference this January!

I hope you'll plan ahead to come to the JP Catholic Biblical Studies Conference this coming January. Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre, John Kincaid, and myself will all be speaking. You can register here

What is the Church? Readings for the Feast of the Lateran Basilica

This year we have a special treat in the month of November, in that the Feast of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the City of Rome and Mother Church of Christianity, falls on a Sunday.  Usually only week-day mass goers get exposed to this wonderful feast and its Lectionary readings.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Temple of the Whole Christ: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica and the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome
On the Thirty
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, one of the principal sanctuaries in the entire Catholic Church. While it would be tempting to suggest that the Church is thereby suggesting that we are to simply celebrate the construction of central sacred buildings within the Church, there is something deeper at work here; something that includes the actual building yet transcends any one structure.

In the readings for this week, the deeper mystery at work is able to be viewed by means of the mystery of the temple.[1]

FIRST READING: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the southern side. He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
The importance of the temple in the covenantal life of Israel is hard to overestimate. Among the many important aspects of the Temple that we could mention here, the most pertinent point to emphasize is that many Old Testament texts envision a new (renewed) temple cult in the future age.

One important text is Isaiah 2:2–3:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:2–3; cf. Micah 4:1–2).
While Isaiah contains other texts related to this hope for a renewed temple (Isaiah 25:6-9, 28:16, 56:4-8, 66:20-23, etc), the prophet Ezekiel also has pivotally important things to say about the renewal of worship and the temple in the coming age. For example, in Ezekiel we find an extended prophecy concerning the renewal of the people of God for a renewed cult (cf. Ezekiel 36–37), with the book concluding by means of an extended and detailed account of the eschatological temple and its sacrificial cult (Ezekiel 40–48).

In this temple, we discover a table that appears to also be an altar (Ezekiel 41:21-23), an altar that is described as having a mercy seat for its ledge (Ezekiel 43:14-27), and a prince who will provide sacrifices, which strikingly include peace and grain offerings that are described as having “atoning” significance (cf. Ezekiel 45:15).[2]

In our text for this Sunday, the prophet describes life-giving waters flowing from the eschatological temple and bringing life to anything it touches. In light of this prophecy, there is some evidence to support that during the feast of Tabernacles, large amounts of water were poured down the southern side of the Temple in a kind of liturgical anticipation of Ezekiel’s Temple.[3]

In summation, due to the nature and place of the Temple in the faith of Israel, the hope for a glorious Temple in the end times makes good sense, and in the responsorial Psalm, we are able to see just how important the Temple was in the faith of Israel.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
R. (5) The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!
God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth
In Psalm 46 we find an excellent example of the preeminent place the Temple played in the covenantal life of Israel. In direct contrast to the rather unstable nature of life, the life of the Temple is secure, for within it dwells the God of Israel. In fact, it is from the Temple that God reigns over the nations.

In fact, the temple and its very furniture were closely identified with divine realities. For example, while it is well known that in Exodus 33:20 God tells Moses that “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live,” it is less well known that Numbers 4:20 says something very similar regarding the furniture kept within the Tabernacle, “they shall not go in to look upon the holy things even for a moment, lest they die.”

As a result, it is possible to describe the sanctuary itself and its furniture as something akin to a physical manifestation of God. As the great Old Testament scholar Gary Anderson suggests, “these texts exhibit ancient Israel’s deeply held view that God really dwelt in the Temple and that all the pieces of that building shared, in some fashion, in his tangible and visible presence.”[4]

In other words, to behold the glory of the Lord in the Temple was life and peace for Israel. However, when Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, it was as if life itself for Israel had ended. This can be seen in Ezekiel’s famous “dry bones” prophecy, for Israel in exile without the Temple is likened to a valley of dry bones in need of new life (Ezek 37:1-14).

When Judah returned from exile in the latter part of the sixth century B.C., the Temple was rebuilt, yet it was clearly not the glorious end-times Temple prophesied by Ezekiel. Even after Herod’s restoration projects, the second-Temple was not the meeting place of the nations wherein life-giving waters flowed and brought healing to those who came in contact with it.

In turning now to the second reading, the Apostle Paul makes a rather startling claim: the promised Temple is at last being built.

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
In one of the more remarkable statements in his entire corpus, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth that they are the temple. In light of the temple’s profound participation in the divine presence and life, Paul’s identification of the church with the temple would appear to entail a rather startling statement about the community’s participation in divine realities.

As N.T. Wright concludes, “If the spirit of the living God dwells within his people, constituting them as the renewed tabernacle (or the new temple. . .), then the work of this transforming spirit can and must be spoken of in terms, ultimately, of theōsis, ‘divinization’.”[5]

Moreover, it also appears correct to suggest that Paul viewed the church as the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel regarding the promised end-times Temple (cf. 2 Cor 6:14-7:1, Eph 2:20), one in which the nations would come to Mount Zion and be renewed by life-giving waters.

In coming to the Gospel reading for this week, we are able to gain a clearer rationale as to how all of this fits together, for in John’s Gospel Jesus begins his public ministry at the Temple, an event that can be seen as the key to unlocking John’s Gospel.

GOSPEL: John 2:13-22
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
In writing his Gospel, John is clear that his purpose is to elicit belief in Jesus as the Son of God (John 20:30-31). In particular, John makes use of signs from Jesus’ life that point to his divine identity, climaxing with the last and greatest sign of the cross and resurrection.

Here in our reading we discover an important aspect in the disciples coming to believe: after the resurrection, they believed the Scripture and Jesus’ words. However, can we say more about what they come to believe in light of the overall context of our passage?

In order to answer this, it is important to take a closer look at this passage within the context of John’s Gospel as a whole.

When Jesus enters the Temple precincts, he casts out the money changers and then declares himself to be the temple. Yet it is important to ask: why? Is he simply upset about making money in the temple? Is he speaking hyperbolically to make a point?

Rather than hyperbole, it appears that Jesus is stating something essential to his life and mission, namely, that He is the promised temple. In fact, in John’s Gospel this can serve to unlock the inner purpose of the book, for John places this story at the very beginning of Jesus ministry, suggesting that Jesus identity as the temple is central to his life and mission, as well as the literary theme of the Gospel.

In John 1, Jesus is the Word made flesh who “tabernacles” among us (John 1:14), as well as the “lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:36) Beyond this, in the same chapter Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see angels ascending and descending on him, implying that he is the new Bethel, the house of God (John 1:51, cf. Genesis 28:10-22).

Coming to chapter two, before our passage is the wedding at Cana (John 2;1-11), wherein the symbolism points to Jesus being the bridegroom who marries the people of God. Yet in Isaiah in particular, God promises to both marry his people and feed them with choice wines. Where does this occur? In Isaiah 25:6-9, Yahweh defeats death on Mt. Zion and offers his people choice wines, while in Isaiah 62 it is Yahweh who comes to marry his people

This brings us to the reading for this week, a passage that serves to make explicit what has been implicit in John 1:1-2:12: the fourth gospel is about the life of the new temple, that is, of Christ and his church. With this being said, it is important to ask: how does one participate in the liturgical life of this new temple?

John’s Gospel offers some important clues, perhaps even “signs” as to how one joins the worship of the new temple. In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born again through water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

While some suggest that Jesus is simply speaking about the Holy Spirit in two interrelated ways, this interpretation fails on a number of fronts, not the least of which being this would mean that when Jesus states that one must be baptized by water and the Spirit, he would be saying that one must be baptized by the Spirit and the Spirit.

With this being said, it is clear that in John 7:37-39 the living water that Jesus gives is the Spirit. However, rather than seeing baptismal water and the Spirit as mutually exclusive, it appears best in light of John 3:5 to take them as directly connected. In fact, it is particularly interesting to note that when Jesus offers living water in John 7:37-39, it is during this is during the feast of Tabernacles, the same feast where it appears that at the time of Jesus water was poured down the southern side of the temple in anticipation of the coming of Ezekiel’s temple.[6]

All told, it appears valid to suggest that it is through the life-giving waters of baptism that the promise of Ezekiel is fulfilled and all nations can participate in the worship of the new temple. This appears to be further explained by Jesus in John 4, for he tells the woman at the well that the time has come where the location of worship is not as important as worship through the Spirit in Christ. In other words, the life-giving waters that Ezekiel promised have come through the waters of baptism, and through the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the new temple is at last being built.


In conclusion, our readings for this week point us toward the realization that the church is the promised temple, yet so is Jesus. So, which is it? Is the church the temple or is it Jesus? The answer is both, and perhaps the best way to understand this is through Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ, or what Augustine called the Whole Christ. Due to being one mystical person, Christ the head and the Church as his members, the Whole Christ is the fulfillment of the promised eschatological temple, and in this, we find the fullness of salvation and as members of his body become by grace what Jesus is by nature, sons and daughters of God, and the new temple. As paragraph 797 of the Catechism states:

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.” “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.” The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God.”

[1] For more on the Temple, see Yves M.J. Congar, O.P., The Mystery of the Temple, translated by Reginald F. Trevett (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1962); G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).

[2] See Andrea Spatafora, From the “Temple of God” to God as the Temple (TGST 27; Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1997), 38–47.

[3] For more in this regard, see Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B, The Gospel of John, SP 4 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press), 234.

[4] Gary A. Anderson, “To See Where God Dwells: The Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition,” Letter & Spirit 4 (2008): 18

[5] N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), 2:1021.

[6] For more see Moloney, John, 234-235.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The perennial challenge of exegetical and theological authority

In a stimulating article over at First Things blog, Stephen Webb addresses a topic that most theologians are forced to wrestle with at some point in their lives, namely, "Who has the Authority to Write Theology?"
Webb highlights the work of Robert Saler entitled Between Magisterium and Marketplace, where Saler suggests that the enterprise of contemporary theology boils down to a debate between the approaches of Schleiermacher and Newman.

 In Webb's summation, Saler suggests:

For Schleiermacher, theologians should hover above ossified religious traditions by perching on the precarious edge of daring creativity. For Newman, prudence alone should lead any theologian to conclude that private fancy is not enough to sustain theological discourse. Schleiermacher advocates for virtuosity, Newman for anonymity

 Webb continues by noting that Saler distinguishes between two contemporary groups under the broadly Newman camp:

Newman is the father of what Saler calls “polis ecclesiology,” which he divides into two camps, a “high magisterial” one dominated by the writers associated with this magazine (First Things; Reinhard Hütter, R. R. Reno, and Paul Griffiths) and what we could call a “magisterium by imagination” influenced by Stanley Hauerwas and John Milbank.

 For those who are interested in reading more from Webb's article, please look here:

Monday, November 03, 2014

Today is Nijay Gupta's birthday

Happy birthday to fellow biblioblogger, Nijay Gupta

To celebrate, I thought I'd write up a brief post on Nijay's fine book, Worship That Makes Sense to Paul: A New Approach to the Theology and Ethics of Paul’s Cultic Metaphor (BZNW 175; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010).

Readers of this blog know that my doctoral dissertation focused on the historical Jesus' relationship to what I call "cultic restoration eschatology". However, in revising my thesis for publication and in light of recent shifts in historical Jesus methodology, I've come to see that I need a section on Paul's cultic theology. 

In the past year and a half I have therefore dedicated a lot of my research time to this area. (That work, in part, produced the paper I presented with John Kincaid earlier this year at Houston Baptist University and the one we will be presenting later this month SBL).

Nijay's book has been very helpful in researching this area of Pauline thought. Gupta's study not only deals judiciously with primary texts but deftly handles the secondary scholarly literature as well. Below is a brief excerpt from pages 138-40. I highly recommend the book.


An important part of Paul’s overall strategy of re-training [the Philippians'] worldview is his use of cultic language in 2.17: ‘But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering (σπένδομαι) upon the sacrificial service (θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ) of your faith, I am glad and I share my joy with all of you’ (my translation). Though the words here are common to the wider lexicon of cultic language in the ancient world, Paul is almost certainly drawing from the imagery of the Jewish sacrificial system. As Fee observes, this is his common practice (cf. Rom. 12.1) and Philippians 2.14-15 is infused with echoes and allusions to the Old Testament.[10] On face value, Paul’s language of being poured out, in light of his situation, would suggest that he is referring to his martyrdom (cf. 2 Tim. 4.6; Ignat. Rom. 2.2 [σπονδίζω]).[11] Others, however, see it in reference to Paul’s whole life.[12] But Morna Hooker is correct in not separating his death from his ministry work ‘since it is the manner of that ministry that is leading him into the danger of death—just as it was Christ’s self-emptying and manner of living that led to his death’.[13] 
Paul’s imprisonment and difficulties were not seen by him as marks of failure and shame. Rather, they are an offering to God through Jesus Christ. What about the Philippians’ ‘sacrifice’ and ‘service’? What does that entail? The only lexical clue we have is the association with their πίστις.[14] This polyvalent term could, of course, refer to their belief, but its use in Philippians overall leads one to the notion of faithfulness in the midst of suffering. In 1.27, Paul encourages them to maintain unity as they fight together (συναθλέω) for the ‘faith (πίστει)’ of the gospel. The concept is one of persevering in the cause of the gospel even under intense opposition.[15] The idea that faith/belief is bound up in suffering is found in 1.29 where the gift (ἐχαρίσθη) not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for his sake.[16]  Though persecution and social ostracization would have been devastating to the identity of the community, Paul's use of cultic language offered them a chance to see their experiences from God’s perspective. Not only that, but, if the Philippians felt such a bond with Paul that his persistent absence made them question their ability to remain steadfast in the gospel-mission (1.26; 2.12), the linking of his own ‘offering’ with theirs in 2.17 reminded them that they suffer together for the same cause and rejoice together as well (συγχαίρω; 2.17b, 18).[17] 
The πίστις of sacrificial (θυσία) worship should also be seen in terms ofChrist’s own self-giving. Though θυσία does not appear in 2.6-11, the reference to Christ’s death on a cross was clearly interpreted as a sacrifice in early Christian tradition (e.g., Eph. 5.2). Thus, although Christ’s own ‘sacrifice’ is not mentioned in Philippians 2, it appears to be the model for Paul’s language. This is more likely if the πίστεως Χριστοῦ in 3.9 refers to the ‘faithfulness of Christ’.[18] Paul, in making such statements, was using cultic language not just to show how significant their faithful suffering was, but also to make a point about how to suffer in the right way – as Christ humbled himself, believing in the God who raises up and exalts his servants. 
An interesting dimension of Paul’s imagery in 2:15-17 is the inclusion of λειτουργίᾳ in 2.17 which forms a hendiadys with forming one concept, ‘sacrificial service’.[19] Though λειτουργίᾳ has a wide range of meaning, given the cultic context, it almost certainly is referring to temple service. What it means here is unclear. But as λειτουργίᾳ generally notes service to a dignitary (and in the case of temple service, to God), the Philippians are reminded that their work is not in vain. If one takes the sacerdotal aspect as prominent, there may also be an underlying theme of mission – a priesthood that shines as light in the world (2.15-17; cf. 1 Peter 2.9).[20] This would serve to emphasize that their cultic activity is not just passive (suffering quietly as an innocent sacrifice), but propels outward as the covenantal ‘kingdom of priests’ (Exod. 19.5-6) were meant to be ‘a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’ (Isa. 49.6; cf. Isa. 60.3). Thus, it would take a fresh perspective to join the imprisoned Paul in his joy and exultation (Phil. 2.18) – one that saw life (2.16) in a dead sacrifice and profitable service in a grassroots mission thwarted by (some) Jews and impeded by the Empire.

[10] Fee 1995: 251n. 52; also Fowl 2005: 128. 
[11]  See, e.g., the comments by J.B. Lightfoot 1913: 118. 
[12] Bockmuehl 1998: 161. 
[13] Hooker 2002: 390. 
[14] Peter Oakes comes to the conclusion that Philippians bears the twin themes of suffering and unity, the former being such a prominent aspect of the letter that if Paul were referring to their ‘sacrifice and service’ as anything else (such as their ‘financial gifts’) would seem ‘absurdly trivial’ (2001:82). 
[15] See O’Brien 1991: 251. This, though, is not equivalent to the idea that ‘faith’ is a replacement term for ‘Christianity’ as Mundle proposes (1932-93). 
[16] See Jervis 2007: 60. 
[17] Hooker 2002: 390. 
[18] See Koperski 1996: 195; Bockmuehl 1998: 210-211. 
[19] O’Brien 1991: 306. 
[20] Ware 2005: 273.