Philonica et Neotestamentica

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Monthly Archives: December 2009

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.