A challenge for pastors of tomorrow. . .

At  the beginning of a new year one might ask; what kind of education does a person need to be a pastor? How should a relevant curriculum be set up? There are various responses out there to such a question, the variety mostly being due to the kind of denominational traditions involved.

But if we are engaged in pastoral education, such questions should always be considered relevant. How should a theological curriculum be composed to best equip a person to serve as a pastor in a church today?  Our social wold is becoming more and more influenced by what is often called globalization: influences that were rare are now becoming common, religious ideas that were exotic and strange are being held by our neighbors across the street, or at the next door, and religion as such is being scrutinized, evaluated and criticized to an extent unknown to many only a few years ago.

In a book published in 2007 by Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Zondervan, 2007), I found the following statement of opinion:

The purpose has been to widen the perimeterof theological reflection so that the theologians, church leaders and missionaries of tomorrow will be more adequately equippedto respond to the changing global context in which we live. Why do theological students in the West continue to spend countless hours learning about the writings of a few well-known , now deceased, German theologians whose global devotees are actually quite small, and yet completely ignore over one billion living, breathing Muslims who represent one of the most formidable challenges to the Christian Gospel today? We must be far more intentional about fostering a more engaged, missionfocused theology that is informed by actual global realities. The effectiveness of our global witness as the church of Christ depends upon it.

Looking back on the first decade of this millennium, I think two challenges are particularly relevant for pastors and thus for
a theological education that want to be relevant; namely a) the challenges from Muslim communities and theology to Christian theology (in a wide sense of the term), and b) the challenges from the growing and aggressive forms of atheism associated with writers as e.g., Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger, just to mention a few.

The former is relevant because it challenges our pictures of God, Jesus, and in fact of many other aspects of Biblical Christianity; the latter presents itself as a more scientific challenge, but I am not so much afraid of that as the vulgar picture they draw up of religion in general and Christianity in particular, and the impact it may have on those in the pews who never hear a sermon in which such aspects and issues are dealt with.

Surely, there are challenges out there;

but nevertheless: have a happy and healthy year in 2010!

Jesus-era house found in Nazareth

Several news papers report on a supposed Jesus-era house having been digged out in Nazareth.

Israeli archaeologists said Monday that they have uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the northern city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of JesusThe find sheds a new light on what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus’ time, said the archaeologists, indicating that it was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.

You can see the ha’aretz version here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1136599.html . I have not yet seen any more scientific reports presented on the internet, but I may have missed something.

Philonic Hermeneutics in the Letter to the Hebrews

Thanks to a posting on Polymeros kai polytropos, I became aware of a new book published on Philo and the letter to Hebrews:

Stefan Nordgaard Svendsen.
Allegory Transformed: The Appropriation of Philonic Hermeneutics in the Letter to the Hebrews. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Reihe 2. Mohr Siebeck, 2009.

The publishers own presentaation of the book runs thus: “Scholars have long discussed whether the writer of Hebrews might have been influenced by Philo of Alexandria. In spite of any disagreement, though, academics have almost universally concurred that even if bits and pieces of Philo’s thinking should have filtered through to Hebrews, Philo and Hebrews certainly differed with respect to their biblical hermeneutics. Philo, the philosopher, read the Old Testament allegorically, whereas the Christian author of Hebrews committed himself only to typological exegesis. Stefan Nordgaard Svendsen challenges this consensus, arguing that the writer of Hebrews not only employed Philo’s allegorical method, but also developed his own readings of Scripture through critical rereadings of Philo’s exegetical results. This study sheds new light on the intellectual framework of Hebrews as well as on the letter’s purpose and rhetorical strategies.”

1 Peter and Paraenetic Strategies

SBL’s Bookreviews.org has another set of reviews being published, among them one on a book on Paraenetic Strategies in 1 Peter. Trying to keep up with some readings on recent works on 1 Peter, these reviews are of good help.

Dryden, J. de Waal,
Theology and Ethics in 1 Peter: Paraenetic Strategies for Christian Character Formation
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2/209
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006 pp. xi + 226. €49.00

The review-work is done by John H Elliott; another guy who never quits his interest in 1 Peter. He has some praises for the work, but also some rather critical comments:

“Certain aspects of the study make it a productive contribution to the discussion of the moral exhortation of 1 Peter. The discussion of paraenesis and paraenetic letters in the Greco-Roman sources contributes to our understanding of this frequently employed but
rarely defined concept. Comments on the theology and ethical content of the letter are generally on target, summarizing key points of scholarly agreement and disagreement in an accurate and fair manner. Dryden adeptly lays out the modes of the letter’s moral
instruction and its integration with the community’s theological tradition and worldview. The study, however, is plagued by a fatal flaw that unfortunately is its chief premise and arguing point, that the letter’s chief aim is the character formation of individual believers and that Hellenistic paraenetic letters are its closest literary analogue. Paraenesis, as defined by Dryden and as already noted, has individuals, not collectivities, in view. It is aimed at individuals and their individual moral growth. First Peter, however, like most New Testament writings, addresses not individuals alone but as members of groups and households of dispersed people claiming a common allegiance to a common cause.”

I would find it strange if Dryden did not see these two aspects, paraenesis aiming at both individuals and the individuals as members of a group. I get s certain feeling, however, that Dryden is overemphasizing the individual aspects, while Elliott has a preference for the collectivistic.

But, by all means, I have not read the book yet, and might be totally wrong. Hence, I should read it for myself first.

You can find the rest of the review here:http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/7248_7887.pdf

Recent Readings I

One of the three main purposes of may in going to large meetings as the SBL Annual Meetings, is to see the bookmarkeds, that is, to thus be informed about new books published and take advantages of the great discounts usually offered (the other two purposes of going to such conferences is to meet colleagues and to present and/or attend some lectures).

In some postings to come here I will point to some of the works I bought last November at the SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Not in order to brag about how much money I was able to use (I wish it could have been much more…), but simply to point to some volumes I myself found so interesting and possibly rewarding for my self that I actually bought them. You may have other priorities, or have discovered something I missed, but these are mine preferences this time.
The first volume I would like to draw your attention to is this:

Stanley E. Porter & Mark J. Boda (eds.)
Translating the New Testament. Text – Translation – Theology (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2009). 360 pp.

I find this volume very interesting, informative and rewarding for my own work as an NT interpreter and lecturer. Its focus is not only on translation, but combines three slightly different aspects, namely the text, translation and theology, cf. the subtitle. And all writers were asked to focus on one specific text in their contributions, the story regarding the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
In the main chapter on TEXT, we meet B. Aland, M.A. Robinson. P. Comfort, each providing two chapters on issues of textual criticism. Firs each has a chapter on various aspects as NT textual research, methods and goals; Bysantine-priority perspective on NA27/UBS4, and on The significance of the papyri, then they focus on aspects in the selected text of Luke.
In the second main section (Translation), three other scholars deals with Assessing Translation Theory: Beyond Literal and Dynamic Equivalence (Porter); on Narrativity, Intratextuality Thetorical performance and Galatians 2 (A. Gignac); and Hebrews 10:32-39 and the Agony of the Translator (L.T. Johnson), again followed by applications of the theory to the common passage.
The third main section, (Theology) is not that usual in volumes on Bible translation, but nevertheless relevant and even important.
Here we meet F. Watson (Mistranslation and the Death of Christ: Isaiah 53 LXX and its Pauline reception); E. M. Humprey, (On probabilities, possibilities, and pretexts: Fostering a hermeneutics of sobriety, sympathy and imagination in an impressionistic and suspicious age); K.K. Yeao (An intertextual reading of moral freedom in the analects and Galatians), and finally E. Tamez (A Latin American Rereading of Romans 7), followed by applications of some theories to the common passage.
Finally. R. N Longenecker has some reflections on “Quo Vadis? From Whence to Where in New Testament Text Criticism and Translation.

As a whole, a very informative volume.

2. Philo Group session at SBL

Picture: Gregory Sterling presents his paper.

Monday 23, at 0900-to 1145am Philo scholars met for the second session in the Philo Group. The theme for this session was Philo and the Bible of Alexandria, with Robert A. Kraft, University of Pennsylvania, Presiding. The lecturers and topics this morning were:
Tessa Rajak, University of Reading
Philo’s Hebrew: The Etymologies Once Again (30 min)
Abstract: Philo’s biblical etymologies are often used as evidence for his ignorance of Hebrew. The argument comes down to a small number of test cases where an etymology appears to depend on the Greek Bible alone. Revisiting some of these cases, she asked what conclusions may legitimately be drawn from them. Furhtermore, she concluded with some suggestions as to the broader implications of re-opening the question of Philo’s Hebrew. Her final tentative conclusion was that the question seemed to her to be much more open than usually argued.

Benjamin G. Wright III, Lehigh University
The Septuagint in Philo: Translation and Inspiration (30 min)

Gregory E. Sterling, University of Notre Dame
Which version of the Greek Bible did Philo Read? (30 min)

Maren Niehoff, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Did Alexandrian Jews apply text-critical methods to their Bible? (30 min)

Hans Svebakken, Loyola University Chicago
Philo’s Reworking of a Traditional Interpretation of ‘Clean’ and ‘Unclean’ Winged Creatures (30 min)

Only Tessa Rajak had provided an abstract to the program catalogue, none of the papers were issued before the session, and none provided extensive handouts, providing arguments and conclusions. Hence it is diffucult to give a resyme of the various viewpoints set forth that will provide an acceptable impression of the various and advanced arguments set forth. Alas, the session was not as well visited as it ought to be.

Later on, some of the participants went out for dinner at an Italian restaurante.

1. Philo Group session at SBL

In this picture above (click on it to enlarge it), you see from left: Maren Niehoff, Albert Geljon, David T. Runia, Kenneth Schenk, David Konstan and James R. Royse.

The Philo Group had two meetings at the SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans this month; the first was on Sunday and was devoted to discussing ongoing work on Philo’s book De Agricultura.
Kenneth L. Schenck (Indiana Wesleyan University), was presiding, and Albert Geljon (Christelijk Gymnasium Utrecht)
presented a Sample Translation and Commentary on Philo, De Agricultura 1-25 (25 min), from the commentary he is working on together with David T Runia.
David T. Runia (Queen’s College, University of Melbourne) read a paper on The Structure of Philo’s Allegorical Treatise De Agricultura (25 min). After a short break, James R. Royse, (Claremont, CA) and David Konstan, (Brown University), respondented to the papers. Sarah Pearce (University of Southampton) was supposed to be a third respondent, but was not able to attend. In her place, Maren Niehoff had a response.

I was not able to attend this session because of other sessions had to be prioritized this time. Some of those who were present, however, said they were very satisfied with the seminar, its papers and discussions.

The Presidential address

I am one of those who found the Presidential Address at the SBL’ Annual Meeting this month somewhat surprising but also a refreshing event; surprising because – as usual- I was expecting to hear some lecture from the scholar’s special field of studies; refreshing, because Prof. Clines presented a very good lecture on student focused teaching:

David J. A. Clines, University of Sheffield
Learning, Teaching, and Researching Biblical Studies, Today and Tomorrow

I must admit that when I later attended some paper presentations, I could not avoid thinking about this lecture of Prof. Clines and wonder if the presenter had attended it.

I still become frustrated when I am listening to scholars who, being given 20 minutes to present a paper, go on reading as fast as they can (and sometimes even faster) as if they were to present a 45 minutes paper in 20 minutes.
It annoys me, and frustrates me, and keeps me wondering; have they ever thought about the fact that there might be persons in the audience who do not have English as their first language. If they looked up from their manuscript, they might have seen people in the lecture hall coming from Asia or Africa, and there might as well have been some from Europe (even Norway), who were struggling hearing and/or understanding what was said.

I know I had a posting on this some years ago, but I see little improvement. Nor see I much improvement in using pedagogical devices as Powerpoint or good hand-outs.

Hence prof Clines presidential address was an refreshing experience. I enjoyed it.

On my way to New Orleans

On my way to this year’s SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, I have made a stop-over in Indianapolis at my youngest brother.
Monday is supposed to be devoted to golfing, Thursday we are leaving for New Orleans.
Looking forward to buy Logos4 and some books I have on my list; to see friends and colleagues, and even to listen in on some lectures, preferably on Philo, and on the NT and postcolonialism. And best of all: for the first time my wife is attending me to the SBL Annual Meeting!

Divine and Human Agency

SBL’s Bookreviews.org has published a review on a book that also contains a chapter on Philo; I have not seen the book yet, but the topics as such and the books looks interesting:

Barclay, John M. G., and Simon Gathercole, eds.
Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment
New York: T&T Clark, 2008. Pp. x + 208. Paper. $44.95.
ISBN 0567084434.

The relevant chapter on Philo is this:
John Barclay, “”By the Grace of God I am what I am,” Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul.” (pp. 140-157).

The reviewer presents this chapter thus:
“John Barclay compares constructions of agency in Philo and Paul. In Philo’s view, God as creator is the gracious cause of all that exists. A key passage occurs in Legum allegoriae, book 4, in which Philo states that Moses “ascribes the powers and causes of all things to God, leaving no work for a created being but showing it to be inactive and passive” (145–46). What, then, is one to make of Moses’ legal/ethical injunctions? Such injunctions
serve merely as a “useful rhetorical pretense” designed for those who have not been, in Philo’s words, “initiated into the great mysteries” about the sole sovereignty of God and the “exceeding nothingness” of that which God has created, in that the latter lacks independent agency (146). Paul’s view of agency is exemplified in passages such as Gal 2:19–21. There Paul describes himself as crucified with Christ, with the result that the human “self” “is reconstituted in such a fashion that one has to speak thereafter of dual agency, and not simply of one operating in partnership with the other, but of Christ operating ‘in’ the human agent. But this new power is clearly non-coercive: Paul entertains the real possibility … that one can reject the grace of God” (152). In a finely nuanced reversal of the usual grace/works dichotomy, Barclay concludes, “If the ideal for Philo is the resting sage, who approaches the vision of God in pure passivity [i.e., by accepting the vision as gracious gift], Paul’s is the obedient Adam, Christ” (157). Paul’s view requires that human agency be located within the noncoercive agency of the Spirit by which it is transformed. Both “grace” (divine agency) and “works” (human agency) are simultaneously operative.”

You can read the rest of the review here.