Daniel Kirk's Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? Blog Tour

A new book by Daniel Kirk has been released with great fanfare and a star-studded blog tour, to which I will make a contribution next week. The book is called Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? and is basically an attempt to show that Jesus and Paul are on the same page—or at least on different pages in the same story. Here is the product description from Amazon:

Readers of the Bible are often drawn to Jesus’s message and ministry, but they are not as positively inclined toward Paul. What should people who love Jesus do with Paul? Here Pauline scholar J. R. Daniel Kirk offers a fresh and timely engagement of the debated relationship between Paul’s writings and the portrait of Jesus contained in the Gospels. He integrates the messages of Jesus and Paul both with one another and with the Old Testament, demonstrating the continuity that exists between these two foundational figures. After laying out the narrative contours of the Christian life, Kirk provides fresh perspective on challenging issues facing today’s world, from environmental concerns to social justice to homosexuality.

The fog of biblical interpretation

You are lost in thick fog in open country. You don’t have a compass. You have a map but you have no idea where you are on the map and you can see none of the landmarks—a hilltop, a church spire, a radio mast—that would allow you to get your bearings, triangulate your position, move forward in the right direction. You can see the details of your immediate environment clearly enough—the muddy path, the gate in the fence, the cows watching you with bovine amusement from the other side of the fence. But none of this immediate, localized “clarity” is of much use if your intention is to get home in time for dinner.

Free e-commentary from Robert Gundry (and the clash between Christ and Caesar)

Baker Academic is promoting a new series of “ebook shorts” from Robert Gundry by offering his commentary on Ephesians as a free download for a period of 24 hours on Monday 9th January. You can get it from Amazon, CBD and Barnes and Noble. This is what the publisher says about the series:

In these verse-by-verse commentaries taken from Commentary on the New Testament, Robert Gundry offers a fresh, literal translation and a reliable exposition of every book of the New Testament.

Students and scholars will welcome Gundry’s nontechnical explanations and clarifications, and readers at all levels will appreciate his sparkling interpretations. Priced from $1.99 to $5.99 these affordable and convenient resources are available wherever ebooks are sold.

A parable of two sons

There was a man who had two sons. The older son loved to tell stories and would keep the relatives and servants that made up his father’s household enthralled for hours with his repertoire of tales—not all of them believable—from the family’s eventful history. The younger son was of a much more rational frame of mind and couldn’t tell a joke to save his life.

The weapons of our warfare: on the integrity of Christian ministry

This is one of the passages often cited in support of a theology of “spiritual warfare”—an activity popularly understood as one in which Christians engage in combat with satan and his cohorts through prayer, exorcism, and aggressive proclamation of the Word of God. It is not my intention here to deny the reality of spiritual evil or that there is a dimension of spiritual warfare, in some form or other, to the Christian life. But the way in which the New Testament is used to account for the theology and praxis of spiritual warfare is problematic at a number of points.

Interpreters of the New Testament should show more respect for boundaries

My argument about the historical frame of the Christmas stories and of Simeon’s prayer in particular has been subjected to sustained criticism by Peter Wilkinson, who is certain that at least in the latter case there is reference to the salvation of the nations.

Since Peter is unconvinced by the exegetical arguments, it may help to explore what is going here at the hermeneutical level. One way to account for the disagreement would be to view it as a question of how much respect we have for contextual boundaries. Peter takes the popular line that contextual boundaries may be disregarded in order to preserve traditional interpretations. We naturally want the Christmas stories to be about us. We have a hard time accepting the idea that the traditional discourse of Christmas—the carols, the readings, the nativity plays, the evangelistic sermons, not to mention the doctrine of incarnation—is all a massive over-determination of the texts. I take the view, on the other hand, that contextual boundaries should be respected, even if this means that traditional interpretations are weakened, sidelined, deferred or rejected.

How do we get our names into the book of life?

My Kindle book Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective is selling like hot mince pies on Amazon, which is quite a bit less than hot cakes but much more festive. Can you think of a better way to make a loved one very happy at Christmas for just $3.29 (or the equivalent in pounds and euros)? One person who has read it and found it “fascinating” is Andrew H, though he was surprised by the lack of hope in the ending and had this question to ask:

I wonder if I may ask though… how does one get their name into the book of life. I felt the ebook ended quite abruptly with little hope as you simply stated that people and non-martyred believers will be resurrected, and depending on their name being written in book of life they will be annihilated.

I’d be interested in your thoughts, as this seems quite depressing and arbitrary if not downright scary.

Christmas now and then

The true meaning of Christmas—as a Christian rather than a pagan celebration—is represented in the popular imagination most commonly by the serene tableau of the radiant baby Jesus in a manger, surrounded by his parents, a few inquisitive cherubs, rustic shepherds, and resplendent wise men, proffering their fabled gifts. Children’s nativity plays introduce a slight blur of movement and some noisy singing, but otherwise it is an overwhelmingly static moment—an ensemble of devout medieval personages, a clumsy arrangement of wooden figures—fixing the presence of the incarnate God. Static and comforting. The fact that representations of the biblical scene are often now banned from public places ought to release a whiff of subversion into the festive air, but even that caustic and disturbing smell is likely to be masked by the heady, sweet traditional scents of Christmas—mulled wine, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sage and onion stuffing oozing from the end of the turkey.

The idolatry of Christendom

It’s taken me a little while to get round to responding to a comment by Al Shaw regarding my argument that the main storyline of the New Testament effectively culminates in Constantine. Al writes:

One of my areas of concern is that you appear (to my mind) to place too high a view of the Constantinian moment in the history of the people of God, and even imply that it was in some sense a fulfillment of the gospel narrative of Christ’s vicory and reign over the nations.

I have addressed this very important criticism in a number of posts now, some of which are listed at the bottom of this piece. But it is an evolving argument, and I am happy to try to answer it again, though still only in a rather sketchy fashion.


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