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The theological interpretation of scripture and the dashing of babies against rocks Psalm 137 begins as a lament. The exiles in Babylon weep when they remember Jerusalem. They cannot sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land. The psalm ends, however, with a plea to YHWH that he will punish the Edomites for their complicity in the destruction of Jerusalem, and a chilling “beatitude... (9th Jul. 2014 | 13 comments)
Jesus’ protest in the temple I started writing a little piece on narrative-historical commentaries and how to get by without them and I was going to use the account of Jesus’ action in the temple to illustrate it, but it got too long. So here’s the part on Mark 11:15-19 and parallels. The rest will follow. The day after his... (1st Jul. 2014 | 4 comments)
Some questions about judgment and hell I got an email from Don Lambirth, who has read material on this site about hell and also my book Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective and has some questions. I have edited the questions slightly. Thanks, Don. Hopefully, my answers will be of interest to others. 1) On your view of Gehenna being... (26th Jun. 2014 | 9 comments)
Bart Ehrman on the Life of Brian, parody, and historical implausibility At the “Jesus and Brian, Or: What have the Pythons done for us?” conference at King’s College London this last weekend, Bart Ehrman gave a lecture on “Parody as Historical Method”. At the time it struck me as borderline pugnacious—he was the only one of the presenters I heard who felt the need to... (23rd Jun. 2014 | 0 comments)
Paul’s apocalyptic gospel: vindication, non-universalism and imminence I got so depressed watching England lose to Uruguay last night that I started reading the chapter on the “Apocalyptic Character of Paul’s Gospel” in J. Christiaan Beker’s celebrated book Paul’s Apocalyptic Gospel: The Coming Triumph of God. OK, it wasn’t technically the end of the world, but the... (20th Jun. 2014 | 0 comments)
Some standing here will not taste death... Sitting in the London School of Theology library yesterday I was flicking through David Turner’s Baker Exegetical Commentary on Matthew and came across his discussion of this passage: For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each... (18th Jun. 2014 | 8 comments)
Sinning against Christ and the argument for a divine christology Chris Tilling has taken the trouble to reply at some length to my review of his contribution to How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature. I want to address the issues he raises, not with a view to picking a fight with him—honestly, Chris—but because the points he... (12th Jun. 2014 | 1 comment)
Origen, Jesus, and the kingdoms of the world (in narrative-historical perspective) I’ve been reading the Fathers, trying to get a better idea of the catastrophe that befell the Jewish story about Jesus, which is part of the story of Israel, as the church put down cultural and intellectual roots in the Greek-Roman world. Somewhat by-the-by, I came across this passage from Origen... (6th Jun. 2014 | 8 comments)
Missional pneumatology: is the Spirit active outside the church? The piece I wrote last week on the difficulties that post-charismatics can have finding an honest place for the gifts of the Spirit in a justice-oriented “missional” framework provoked a rather aggrieved response from Michael Frost on Facebook. That appears to have been largely a matter of... (2nd Jun. 2014 | 10 comments)
How might the post-charismatic “missional” church rediscover the gifts of the Spirit? We had an interesting session on the gifts of the Spirit last night in Harlesden. Many in the church are from a charismatic background but seemed wary about pursuing the conversation. One young woman put the choice rather starkly—she could spend her time praying that someone’s back-ache would... (28th May. 2014 | 10 comments)
Why does Jesus give the kingdom back in the end and become subject again to God? Bob Macdonald is feeling a little grumpy but he asks a good question about Paul’s belief i) that at the end Jesus will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, and ii) that “the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor.... (23rd May. 2014 | 5 comments)
Is Jesus included in the “divine identity” in 1 Corinthians 8:6? Following a bit of an exchange on Facebook, I have been looking again at the now widely accepted contention, associated especially with Wright, Bauckham and Fee, that in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul has taken the extraordinary step of including Jesus in the Shema and therefore in the divine identity. The... (21st May. 2014 | 12 comments)
The book of Acts as political-religious narrative I’ve put this up for a couple of reasons. First, I’m pulling together some ideas for teaching on Acts at a mission conference in the summer, and a rough narrative outline is a good place to start, though how much use I’ll make of it remains to be seen.Secondly, someone got in touch recently asking... (16th May. 2014 | 6 comments)
Who are the “elect” in Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse? I argued in a couple of posts recently that Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse in Matthew 24 has reference exclusively to the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the significance of this catastrophe for Jesus’ disciples. I maintain, in agreement with Dick France on this point, that the... (12th May. 2014 | 5 comments)
Assessing Dick France’s argument about the parousia of the Son of Man in Matthew In a comment on my recent post It’s not eschatology, folks, it’s just a story Ian Paul kindly took me to task for not consulting Dick France’s The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) . I used France’s commentary on Mark when writing The Coming of the Son... (7th May. 2014 | 1 comment)
It’s not eschatology, folks, it’s just a story I spent some time with the staff of a church in south London this week talking about “eschatology”. Which is half the problem. As long as we treat eschatology as a more or less independent sub-section of—or worse, appendix to—our general theology, we have no frame of reference, nowhere to anchor it... (1st May. 2014 | 23 comments)
Plotting the kingdom: now and not yet and not like that In order to keep my knee-jerk prejudices against certain aspects of traditional evangelical theology in good working order I have been reading Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well , edited by Grudem, Collins and Schreiner. What I have been looking for is... (23rd Apr. 2014 | 9 comments)
Two narratives of the cross for Good Friday There is a simple, universal or cosmic or existential narrative of the cross—the horizontal beam. Humanity has fallen, every individual person has sinned and must go by way of the cross to gain eternal life. But, for all its merits, this is a theological abstraction. It is not the biblical... (18th Apr. 2014 | 3 comments)
Chris Tilling aims a relational christology at Bart Ehrman I’ll make this my last post on Bird, et al.’s lively—bordering on manic—response to Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee . Chris Tilling is a good friend, so I need to tread a little carefully here. His argument is based largely on his... (17th Apr. 2014 | 9 comments)
Simon Gathercole’s argument about pre-existence and divine identity in the Synoptics Bart Ehrman thinks that Jesus became God—not in reality, of course, but in the minds of the early Christians. Against Ehrman, Simon Gathercole argues in How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—-A Response to Bart D. Ehrman , much as Michael Bird did earlier, that... (9th Apr. 2014 | 10 comments)
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