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Eschatology, mission and the theological formation of the church I spent a day this week with a group of leaders from a network of churches in the UK who were discussing how best to teach theology across the movement. They went about it with a refreshing candour: “We have an anti-intellectual history—we need to embrace learning.” The discussion revolved around... (2nd Feb. 2013 | 7 comments)
Misreading the parable of the minas from the post-Christendom margins There is a strong dissident view that the nobleman in Jesus’ parable, who gives ten minas to each of his servants to “do business with” before travelling to a far country to receive a kingdom, is an unjust rather than a just “lord” and that his “kingdom” is quite antithetical to the kingdom of God... (28th Jan. 2013 | 6 comments)
Review: Richard Horsley, The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel (part 2) In the second part of The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel: Moving beyond a Diversionary Debate Richard Horsley first discusses a number of methodological issues, then outlines his view of Jesus as a prophet leading the renewal of Israel against the rulers of Israel. I will give a quick... (26th Jan. 2013 | 0 comments)
Review: Richard Horsley, The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel (part 1) I have read a fair bit of Richard Horsley’s work on the social and imperial background to the New Testament. It’s always been interesting stuff, but my impression is that he has been more interested in the critique of political and economic injustice in the abstract than in the particular Jewish-... (21st Jan. 2013 | 0 comments)
Jesus as judge of the living and the dead in the Apostolic Fathers I recently outlined what I see as the apocalyptic Christology of Acts and suggested that most of what is said about the post-Easter Jesus in the New Testament needs to be interpreted within this narrative framework: Jesus was unjustly killed by the rulers of Israel and the Gentiles; he was raised... (14th Jan. 2013 | 4 comments)
The parables: Jesus was just being obtuse It’s remarkable how pervasive the assumption is that Jesus told stories for the same reason that aspiring preachers and teachers today are urged to tell stories—to get people’s attention, entertain, illustrate the point in a homely and accessible fashion, provide vividness, bring clarity, and so on... (11th Jan. 2013 | 1 comment)
The christological narrative of Acts The book of Acts tends to get overlooked when we try to explain who Jesus was and why. We go to the Gospels for an account of Jesus earthly existence and to Paul and Hebrews for an account of his heavenly existence—an approach that reflects the fact that we have been conditioned by later... (8th Jan. 2013 | 5 comments)
Are we religious, spiritual, or something else? Most of us will have observed that in the western context religion is out and spirituality is in, and we may well have adjusted church life, preaching styles, and mission strategies with that observation in mind. Religion is institutional, spirituality is personal; religion is controlling,... (4th Jan. 2013 | 3 comments)
Review: Naomi Alderman, The Liar’s Gospel I read Naomi Alderman’s book The Liars’ Gospel: A Novel because a friend was trying to get her to speak at a debate in Westbourne Grove. Sadly, he failed, but the book, for all its profound Jewish distrust of the madman Yehoshuah and the unfriendly religion that his followers devised, is worth... (29th Dec. 2012 | 0 comments)
Some dull but seasonal reflections on the historical context for the fulfilment of the Immanuel prophecy These notes are an attempt to clarify, for myself at least, the historical setting for the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, following the helpful feedback given to yesterday’s post: Are Immanuel and Wonderful-Counselor-Mighty-God-Everlasting-Father-Prince-of-Peace the same person? Thanks to all... (21st Dec. 2012 | 4 comments)
Are Immanuel and Wonderful-Counselor-Mighty-God-Everlasting-Father-Prince-of-Peace the same person? When Matthew applies to the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit the words of Isaiah that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”, he is not saying that Jesus is God incarnate. The meaning of the allusion derives from the story that is being told in... (20th Dec. 2012 | 6 comments)
The conception of Jesus, Trinity, and the search for an appropriate metaphysics: it’s nearly Christmas, after all In a recent blog post entitled “Avoiding Trinity” Dave Bish discusses Christian squeamishness about sharing Jesus with Muslims using John’s Gospel on the grounds that it is too Trinitarian. He suggests that such a strategy of avoidance betrays two assumptions—first, that we think that the doctrine... (18th Dec. 2012 | 9 comments)
What is the benefit of Jesus’ death for the Gentiles? I have been asked “how the death of Jesus (instead of the Maccabees, for example) had the effect of abolishing the law which divided Jews and Gentiles”. (It’s what the contact form is for. Feel free to use it.) This seems a fair question. The deaths of the Maccabean martyrs were thought to have... (14th Dec. 2012 | 7 comments)
Forgiveness of sins in Romans The thesis I am exploring in these articles on the forgiveness of sins is that Jesus is primarily understood to have died for the redemption of Israel, as part of a corporate and political—rather than a personal and existential—narrative. The diagrams in this post illustrate the distinction. Jews... (11th Dec. 2012 | 5 comments)
Sweet and Viola’s a-historical kingdom of God In Jesus: A Theography Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have attempted to write a different type of book about Jesus. Not a biography but a “theography”: “we are telling the story of God’s interactions, intersections, and interventions with humanity through the life of Jesus”. It runs from... (7th Dec. 2012 | 4 comments)
The forgiveness of Israel’s sins in Hebrews The Letter to the Hebrews is addressed to Jewish Christians and is, therefore, thematically much closer to the Gospels and the early part of Acts, which is why I want to look at it before we come to Paul. The argument is by no means an easy one, so if you’re not interested in the sordid details of... (4th Dec. 2012 | 7 comments)
Forgiveness of sins in Acts At the end of Luke the resurrected Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Lk. 24:47). In Matthew they are told to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19), which is presumably a baptism specifically of... (30th Nov. 2012 | 7 comments)
Forgiveness of sins in the Gospels My intention was to write a fairly straightforward piece on the connection between forgiveness of sins and the death of Jesus for my Lexicon of theological terms in narrative-historical perspective, but it’s become too unwieldy to fit into one article. In Forgiveness and the wiped out document... (28th Nov. 2012 | 14 comments)
Forgiveness and the wiped out document nailed to the cross One of the implications of a narrative-historical hermeneutic is that the community, not the individual, is made the locus for New Testament theological reasoning. So, for example, eschatology—the “end” stuff—is not about what happens to individuals when they die but about what happens to... (26th Nov. 2012 | 17 comments)
A couple more problems with the narrative-historical premise. Will it never end? In The narrative premise of a post-Christendom theology, which stands as an introductory piece for the approach to reading the New Testament that I think an “evangelical” church somehow needs to take on board, I suggest that: The New Testament presupposes, describes, and predicts a long, tumultuous... (23rd Nov. 2012 | 3 comments)
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