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(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

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Telling our story (all of it) Last week I went with my friend Steve Knight to see Hamlet at the Barbican. Hamlet is a tragedy. By the end of the play everyone of any dramatic importance is dead. The old king has had a “leperous distilment” poured in his ear. Polonius is stabbed in error behind the arras. Rosencrantz and... (8th Sep. 2015 | 1 comment)
Narrative, a Jewish Jesus, and early high Christology I heard Rikk Watts from Regent College, Vancouver, talk this week to a group of church leaders about what’s currently going on in theology. He began with some good reflections on the challenges facing anyone trying to keep track of developments across the ever-expanding—or ever more boggy—field of... (3rd Sep. 2015 | 2 comments)
Why the end of the world is the end of the world What happens at the end? What sort of transformation does John have in mind when he says that earth and heaven “fled away” from the presence of God at the judgment of all the dead (Rev. 20:11)? Are we to suppose that the world-as-we-know-it must finally disappear—or perhaps be destroyed—to be... (27th Aug. 2015 | 41 comments)
Who says that this prophecy has two referents? It is often argued that biblical prophecies may have two or more frames of reference. For example, Middleton allows that the language of cosmic dissolution in Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse (sun and moon darkened, stars falling from heaven) may refer to events leading up to the war against Rome and... (20th Aug. 2015 | 5 comments)
The widow of Zarephath, Naaman the Syrian, and the redemption of the world One of the ways the evangelical church is attempting to correct the traditional notion that salvation has to do with individuals going to heaven when they die is to affirm instead the idea of salvation as the redemption of creation. J. Richard Middleton’s book, A New Heaven and a New Earth:... (19th Aug. 2015 | 2 comments)
J. Richard Middleton on salvation and the restoration of all things Who or what is saved? And how does salvation fit into the biblical story? In his book A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology J. Richard Middleton argues against an old model which defines salvation as a personal journey towards an otherworldly destiny: Jesus died for my sins... (13th Aug. 2015 | 1 comment)
Is the church in the post-Christian West in exile? Is “exile” a good word for the state of the church in the post-Christian West? The metaphor is commonly used, especially by those who see some missional potential in the marginalisation (another spatial metaphor) of the modern church. See, for example, Michael Frost’s Exiles: Living Missionally in... (6th Aug. 2015 | 9 comments)
The Son of Man according to Daniel, Enoch and Jesus: it’s the same old story Scholars disagree over who exactly the son of man figure is in Daniel’s vision. Is he a supernatural being—a great angel like Michael? A human individual, perhaps a messiah? Or is he a symbolic person representing the suffering saints of the Most High? I lean strongly towards the latter... (22nd Jul. 2015 | 3 comments)
Reframing the story that gets us to Jesus I watched one of Regent College’s Reframe videos with the Harlesden crowd earlier in the week. Old Testament professor Phil Long does what everyone seems to be doing these days—he tells the story about Israel that climaxes in Jesus. I’m all in favour of it, but I think that the video highlights... (16th Jul. 2015 | 4 comments)
The end of Gehenna Jeremiah foresees a day of judgment coming upon Israel because the “sons of Judah… have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it”, and have sacrificed their children in Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (Jer. 7:30). The Babylonian army... (13th Jul. 2015 | 18 comments)
Ben Irwin: The Story of King Jesus (a review) I came across Ben Irwin’s blog because he linked to the piece I wrote on Jesus having nothing to say about homosexuality, and quite a lot of people stopped by to look. I noticed that Ben has written a book called The Story of King Jesus, and since, in my view, the recovery of the narrative of... (10th Jul. 2015 | 1 comment)
Paul within Judaism and the challenge for the post-Christendom church I’ve tried this sort of exercise before, but reading Magnus Zetterholm’s chapter in Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle has prompted me to have another go at schematising the relation between theology and history and the challenge that this presents to the church... (2nd Jul. 2015 | 10 comments)
The Christianized Paul, the New Perspective Paul, and Paul within Judaism One of the most important questions driving current developments in our understanding of the New Testament—and therefore of what it means to be “Christian”—has to do with the relation between the early Jesus movement and Judaism. In practice this issue closely matches the hermeneutical question... (24th Jun. 2015 | 1 comment)
Mapping the hermeneutics of penal substitution: McGrath, Bird and me Yesterday’s post about Simon Gathercole’s little book defending substitution as an integral part of Paul’s understanding of the atonement got a brief mention in a piece by James McGrath along with a post by Mike Bird on the same subject. Here I attempt to map the three positions represented by... (18th Jun. 2015 | 8 comments)
Simon Gathercole defends substitution Simon Gathercole is worried that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is going out of fashion so he sets out to defend it in this brief book Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. It’s a very limited argument: in two main exegetical chapters he considers two statements that... (17th Jun. 2015 | 3 comments)
Did Jesus heal the centurion’s male sexual partner? I asserted a while back that there is no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus had anything to say, directly or indirectly, about homosexuality. I don’t think he threatened pederasts with drowning, or asked people if they had gone out into the wilderness to see a gay man in effeminate clothing, or... (11th Jun. 2015 | 17 comments)
10 good reasons to switch to a narrative-historical hermeneutic First, what do I mean by a “narrative-historical hermeneutic”? I mean a way of integrating the Bible into our self-understanding as the church—that is, a way of doing theology—that takes it to be the story told by a community about its historical existence over time, reaching back to the promises... (9th Jun. 2015 | 9 comments)
Does it matter whether it really happened? There are two parts to the narrative-historical hermeneutic that I am trying to develop and promote on this site. I argue, first, that the Bible should be read as the complex but essentially coherent story that a people told about its historical experience over a long period of time; and as a... (4th Jun. 2015 | 3 comments)
Tongues of fire Someone asked me yesterday whether “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3) points to the fact that the disciples were to proclaim that the kingdom of God was coming, meaning judgment on unbelieving Israel and the nations. I was at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt... (26th May. 2015 | 7 comments)
What is the church and what is it for? A dynamic definition What is the church and what is it for? In the West we live in a post-Christendom and increasingly post-Christian world whose fundamental beliefs are secular humanist. The great public symbols of Christian authority have been cast to the ground and trampled under foot. The last vestiges of a... (22nd May. 2015 | 7 comments)
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