How to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference


1 Jun 2023

Probably, for most people interested in biblical studies, “historicism” is a bad word, associated either with a positivist historical-critical methodology that hammers the theological life out of a text or with a certain mode of nineteenth century German historical idealism that culminated in the racist teleogies of Nazism.

The New Historicism is no longer very new—it emerged as a philosophical and literary critical movement, mainly in America, in the early 1980s. It has taken a while for biblical scholars like me to catch on to it, but it has attracted some attention over the last twenty years as a way of re-engaging with the historicality of texts after poststructuralism or, we might say, post-poststructuralism. Michal Beth Dinkler does quite a lot with it in her recent book Literary Theory and the New Testament (2019).

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I did a couple of podcast episodes recently with David Capes for The Stone Chapel Podcasts, talking about my book In the Form of a God: The Pre-existence of the Exalted Christ in Paul. Episode 140 “In the Form of A God” with Andrew Perriman, Part 1 Episode 141 “In The Form of A God… (23 May 2023 | 0 comments)
It is easy to visualise the traditional interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11 as a downward parabola or u-bend: Christ existed in heaven from eternity “in the form of God”; he descended into the world, becoming man and dying on the cross; then he is raised from the dead and restored to his position… (15 May 2023 | 6 comments)
This is a dull, and frankly unnecessary, technical note on the genitive construction with a preposition en morphēi theou (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ) in Philippians 2:6. I’ve had to look at this a bit more closely following a rather disjointed conversation with someone on Twitter who had different… (8 May 2023 | 12 comments)
John Baumberger has a question about my translation of en morphē theou in Philippians 2:6 as “in the form of a god.” He takes issue with the indefinite construction on a couple of grounds: 1. The word theos ‘without the definite article almost always refers to God himself (… (1 May 2023 | 5 comments)
The famous passage about Christ in Philippians 2:6-11 is usually described as a “hymn,” and is usually taken to celebrate the inverted parabola of Christ’s descent from heaven, his incarnation as man, the nadir of his death on the cross, followed by his return to heaven and exaltation to a position… (24 Apr 2023 | 9 comments)
Just for the sake of completeness, here is one final visual representation of the two-part significance of Easter. It’s now getting a bit overloaded, I know—two storylines, four landing points, and an unexpected back-reference to the flood; but I don’t want to give the impression that history has… (12 Apr 2023 | 0 comments)
This is a brief addendum to the earlier post this week about the two meanings of Easter. A bit of an exchange on Facebook suggested to me that modern theologies of Easter are a striking inversion of what we find in the New Testament. I have tried to represent this graphically. The… (6 Apr 2023 | 0 comments)