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


The gospel for Jews and Gentiles according to Romans: a summary

Here’s another response to a comment that has outgrown itself and become an ad hoc summary piece. Peter Wilkinson points to Romans 3-4 as evidence that the gospel for both Jews and Gentiles was that Jesus died for their sins:

The argument is addressed to Jews and Gentiles v.9, v.19b. The righteousness through the faithfulness of Christ is “to all who believe. There is no difference, for all….are justified….through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus….a sacrifice of atonement….the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus….Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also?”

I maintain, however, that Paul’s gospel is that God has appointed Jesus as Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead, and that this is to be interpreted in “political” terms on the basis of Psalm 2:7-8:

The restoration of the kingdom to Israel: a summary

Todd asks a question in respect of an old post on the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-8).

Is the restoration of Israel, then, during a future Millennium? If so, how do Gentiles fit into this, and where is the Church during this time? Is the kingdom of Israel different than the Church, the heavenly Zion? Will Hagar, Jerusalem below, and her children, have their own kingdom, or will they return to Sarah and submit to her?

To bring it all up-to-date, here’s a brief summary of my understanding of the future of Israel as seen from the perspective of Jesus and Paul, with a few links to the relevant posts.

The appointment of the Son of God

If we think that the New Testament always presupposes the pre-existent, divine identity of Jesus as the eternal Son of God, we have to understand Paul’s statement in Romans 1:4 that Jesus “was declared (horisthentos) to be the Son of God in power” (ESV) to mean that, while Jesus was always the Son of God, the fact that he was Son of God in power was not announced until after the resurrection. There are two problems with this theological interpretation of the passage—on top of the fact that it could have been stated more simply.

Trinity Sunday from the perspective of John in the throne room of God

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (Rev. 5:6)

Is this a good example of what might be described as latent or incipient Trinitarianism in the New Testament—a vivid heavenly tableau in which God the Father and the Son are worshipped in the presence of the Spirit which speaks to the churches? Trinity Sunday is coming up, and we would do well to think about such things. In a spirit of orthodox generosity I would say, “Yes, but….”

The Pope bowdlerizes the Lord’s Prayer

It appears that Catholics in Italy, France and Spain are getting revised translations of the Lord’s Prayer. The problem is the line “Lead us not into temptation”. The Pope complained in 2017 that this is a bad translation, not on exegetical grounds but on theological grounds:

It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation. I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation—that’s his department.

Revelation and the “alter-empire” of Christ

This monograph addresses the question, “How does Revelation interact with the Roman Empire?” As the subtitle suggests, it contributes especially to empire studies, which have typically offered the response that Revelation is anti-Rome or anti-imperial. However, Shane J. Wood argues that, although Revelation draws on the “sovereign narrative” of the Roman Empire, it does so to construct an “alter-empire.” By “alter-empire,” Wood seems to have in mind (although this is never stated explicitly) an empire centered upon Christ and his death, constructed over against an enemy far greater than Rome: the Dragon, Satan.

This is the opening paragraph of a recent review of a book which I haven’t read. The book is The Alter-Imperial Paradigm: Empire Studies and the Book of Revelation, by Shane J. Wood (Leiden: Brill, 2016). The review is by Joshua J. Coutts and is published in the SBL Review of Biblical Literature. You have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing.

Is the Bible story or poetry? Or something else?

This piece by Andrew Bunt on the Think Theology site caught my eye. He takes issue with the now rather commonplace view that the Bible is basically a story, running from creation to new creation, and asks whether perhaps “the Bible is better understood as poetry.” His brief analysis is based on a TheoEd talk by Brent Strawn, who is an Old Testament scholar. There is some point to the critique of the Bible-as-story hermeneutic, but I would suggest that neither Strawn nor Bunt have come up with the right solution.

Who came to seek and save the lost sheep of the house of Israel?

There is an argument that when the Synoptic Gospels speak of Jesus coming to Israel, we must imagine him making a journey from heaven to earth to fulfil God’s purposes.

The demons ask Jesus, “Have you come here to destroy us?” (Mk. 1:24 par. Lk. 4:34; Matt. 8:29). Jesus says that he has come to preach the gospel (Mk. 1:38; cf. Lk. 4:43), not to call the righteous but sinners (Mk. 2:17 par. Matt. 9:13; Lk. 5:32), not to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfil them (Matt. 5:17), to cast fire on the land (Lk. 12:49), not to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34 par. Lk. 12:51), not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45 par. Matt. 20:28), and to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).

Defending the narrative-historical definition of the kingdom of God

The last post on (re-)defining the kingdom of God in nine words elicited a couple of fair and well articulated objections to the narrative-historical approach on Facebook. I was invited to respond. The basic complaint, I think, is that the method is reductionist, leaving the church with too little to work with today. My response in a nutshell is that 1) in certain respects, yes, it is too reductionist; 2) in other respects the reductionism is necessary; and 3) the church needs to find new ways of working with the historically reduced narrative of the New Testament. Now in a bit more detail….

(Re-)defining the kingdom of God in nine words

I know this has been a recurring theme here, but a concise statement about the kingdom of God on the Gospel Coalition site gives me another opportunity to stress the importance of a fundamental biblical-theological distinction, one that I have been making here for the last ten years and more.

It’s like watching your kid on the merry-go-round, yelling at him each time he spins past: “That’s not the right way to sit on a horse! You’re going in the wrong direction! How many times do I have to tell you?” Actually, it’s probably more like shouting at someone else’s kid.


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