New Book: The Bible Among the Myths

Courtesy of Jesse Hillman at Zondervan I got a copy of John N. Oswalt’s The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?  (Zondervan, 2009).   It just came out this month!  It came yesterday but I’ve been too busy to really look it over but I am really looking forward to it.  It’s only 208 pages too so it’s not overwhleming reading!  It’ll help me on my need to have a better grasp on Hebrew Bible/Old Testament issues.   He does address the life of Jesus and Bultmann too so that should be interesting since Bultmann is really taking some hits lately around the biblioblogsphere!  And I know he has a solid pastoral approach to things so I know it will help me as well in that respect. 


From the Zondervan Website:

OswaltThe Bible Among the Myths is a sometimes controversial, always engaging corrective to a growing rejection in Western society of the revelation found within the Old Testament regarding a transcendent God who breaks into time and space and reveals himself in and through human activity.

Sixty years ago, most biblical scholars maintained that Israel’s religion was unique—that it stood in marked contrast to the faiths of its ancient Near Eastern neighbors.  Nowadays, it is widely argued that Israel’s religion mirrors that of other West Semitic societies.  What accounts for this radical change, and what are its implications for our understanding of the Old Testament?  Dr. John N. Oswalt says the root of this new attitude lies in Western society’s hostility to the idea of revelation, which presupposes a reality that transcends the world of the senses, asserting the existence of a realm humans cannot control. While not advocating a “the Bible says it, and I believe it, and that settles it” point of view, Oswalt asserts convincingly that while other ancient literatures all see reality in essentially the same terms, the Bible differs radically on all the main points.  The Bible Among the Myths supplies a necessary corrective to those who reject the Old Testament’s testimony about a transcendent God who breaks into time and space and reveals himself in and through human activity.

Looks pretty interesting!  Review forthcoming! 

ps. I know too I want to get his commentaries on Isaiah too.

Gordon Fee on “the center” of Pauline theology

Though Gordon Fee wrote his massive work on Paul’s theology of the Holy Spirit way back in 1994 titled God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson, 1994), he discusses why he thinks “the center” of Paul’s theology remains elusive.  If I understand correctly, this center is still under debate and still as elusive today as it always has been.  He writes on page 12:

It is my conviction that the reason the center is so “elusive” is that Paul’s theology covers too much ground for one to simplify it into a single phrase.  It would seem far better for us to isolate the essential elements of his theology that lie at the very heart of matters for Paul and around which all other concerns cluster.  In such a view, at least four items must be included:

  • The church as an eschatological community, which compirses the new covenant people of God;
  • The eschatological framework of God’s people’s existence and thinking;
  • Their being constituted by God’s eschatological salvation effected through the death and resurrection of Christ;
  • Their focus on Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Son of God.

To put it another way:

  • The foundation: A gracious and merciful God, who is full of love toward all.
  • The framework: Eschatological exzistence as already but not yet.
  • The focus: Jesus, the Son of God, who as God’s suffering servant Messiah effected eschatological salvation for humanity through his death and resurrection, and is now the exalted Lord and coming King.
  • The fruit: The church as an eschatological community, who, consistituted byt Christ’s death and the gift of the Spirit, and this restored into God’s likeness, form God’s new coveant people.


Note: unless I missed it, I didn’t see “justification by faith” anywhere on the list….  not that it isn’t important but is it possible we over play that card?

T. F. Torrance on the task of Christology

Beginning in chapter one of his book Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (pages 1-2) it reads:

christ31Our task in christology is to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God’s self revelation in its objective reality, Jesus Christ.  A primary and basic fact which we discover here is this: that the object of our knowledge gives itself to us to be apprehended.  It does that within our mundane exisitence, within our worldly history and all its contingency, but it does that also beyond the limits of previous expereince and ordinary thought, beyond the range of what is regarded by human standards as empirically possible.  Thus, when we encounter God in Jesus Christ, the truth comes to us in its own authority and self sufficiency.  It comes into our experience and into the midst of our knowlege as a novum, a new reality which we cannot incorporate into the series of other objects, or simply assimilate to what we already know….

And yet Jesus Christ gives himself to be known as the object of our experience and knowledge, within our history and within our human existence – but when we know him there, we know him in terms of himself.  We know him out of pure grace as one who gives himself to us and freely discloses himself to us.  We cannot earn knowledge of Christ, we cannot achieve it, or build up to it.  We have no capacity or power in ourselves giving us the ability to have mastery over this fact.  In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered.  He manifests himself and gives himself to us by his own power and agency, by his Holy Spirit, and in the very act of knowing him we ascribe all the possiblity of our knowing him to Christ alone, and none of it to ourselves.

But let us note: it is only when we actually know Christ, know him as our personal saviour and Lord, that we know that we have not chosen him but that he has chosen us; that it is not in virtue of our own capacity to give ourselves the power to know him; that it is not in virtue of our own power or our own capacity that he gives us to know him, but in virtue of his power to reveal himself to us and to enable us to know him; that is, faith itself is the gift of God.  Or let me put that in another way; when we know God in Christ, we do not congratulate ourselves on our own powers of intuition or discovery, and pat ourselves on the back because we have been able to see that there is more in Jesus than meets the eye, that God is there himself.  No, we do the exact opposite: we acknowledge that in knowing God in Christ, we do so not by our own power, but by the power of God.

New books in the mail: doorstep edition

Today as I took out the garbage, I nearly tripped over a box!  It had the label InterVarsity Press on it!   I opened it up to find three books I had requested to review:

community-of-the-kingThe first one is one written by Howard Snyder ( out of Asbury Seminary) called The Community of the King Revised Ed (2004).   In this work Snyder explores the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the church by asking questions such as “what is the kingdom of God?” “what role does it play in history?” and “what does it mean for the church to be an agent of the kingdom?”   Snyder seeks to explore implications of the kingdom for the church in daily life.  The church, he avers, “is part of God’s dramatic plan to reconcile all things to himself.”  It is through the church, his people, that God wants to accomplish his ultimate purposes in the the world.   It seemed interesting enough so I decided to check it out.  I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.


paul-the-missionaryThe next one is on missions called Paul the Missionary: realities, Strategies, and Methods (2008 ) by Eckhard J. Schnabel.  Schnabel, himself a former missionary to the Philippines, previously wrote a 2 volume magnum opus on Early Christian Mission that is recognized as one of the most authoratative and complete works on the missionary efforts of the first century church.  Now, in this book he condenses that research and focuses in on Paul and his missionary work. 

An excerpt from the IVP site:

Schnabel first focuses the spotlight on Paul’s missionary work–the realities he faced, and the strategies and methods he employed. Applying his grasp of the wide range of ancient sources and of contemporary scholarship, he clarifies our understanding, expands our knowledge and corrects our misconceptions of Paul the missionary.

In a final chapter Schnabel shines the recovered light of Paul’s missionary methods and practices on Christian mission today. Much like Roland Allen’s classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? of nearly a century ago, Schnabel offers both praise and criticism. For those who take the time to immerse themselves in the world of Paul’s missionary endeavor, this final chapter will be both rewarding and searching.

Christian mission, I believe, is an issue close to the heart of God.  In essense, it is why Jesus Christ came into the world – he came on a mission, sent by the Father to seek and save that which was lost.  Now, just as the Father sent him, he has sent us – we are on a mission: to see God’s salvation reach the ends of the earth.  I look forward to reading this massive work (518 pages)! 

incarnation1Finally, along with Nick and Robert, I got T.F. Torreance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (2008).   Incarnation is the first in a two part systematic theology on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The next one due out will be on the Atonement. 

From the inside book cover:

[Torrance’s] new book on Christology addresses both heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ centered and trinitarian theology.  Torrance presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – real God and real man united in one person.  Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ – from his birth, through is ministry, cross, resurrection and ascension to his second coming – is of saving significance

All I can say is wow.  I look forward to getting into this and learning more of the Lord we love and serve!  Ps. would anyone happen to know which icon is used for the cover of this book?  If you could let me know I’d appreciate it.

Welp, I’ve got a lot of reading to do!  Be blessed!

Titus 2:13 – The Blessed Hope

Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (TNIV)

Here is in the Greek: προσδεχομενοι την μακαριαν ελπιδα και επιφανειαν της δοξης του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων Ιησου Χριστου,  (sorry, still getting the accents down).


Question: to what does επιφανειαν της δοξης refer?   The rapture of the Church or the Second coming in general?  Why?



New Book by Seyoon Kim on Paul and Luke

christ-and-ceasar1Chris Tilling shared a while ago some books he got for review.  One that I took interest in and would like to read is Seyoon Kim’s recent work: Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke (Eerdmans, 2008). 

I’ve read one other book by Seyoon Kim and it was really good, though pretty heavy in its academic approach – it’s not light reading.  It is Paul and the New Perspective: Second thoughts on the origin of Paul’s Gospel (Eerdmans, 2001).  In this work Kim dialogues with James Dunn on issues related the New Perspective on Paul and just how and when did Paul formulate his gospel.  For the NPP folks and others, they see a progression in the development of Paul’s gospel from his Damascus conversion to his writing of Romans (one of his last letters).   Kim argues otherwise and asserts Paul got his gospel message nearly instantly (and completely) at the moment of his Damascus Road conversion.

Now, in this book, Kim takes on everyone’s beloved Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright.   Wright leads the way in arguing that much of Paul’s writings are anti-imperialistic in their tones.   Kim takes on Wright and his NPP cohorts and challenges the notions that Paul is as strongly anti-imperialistic as Wright makes him out to be

I know Gordon Fee takes a similar position as Wright – he spoke at a Chi-Alpha Retreat once right after his work on Philippians and talked some about Paul’s use of κυριος (Lord) and how it was menat to be in contrast to the Roman usage of καισαρ (Caesar)and also that the Caesars, with their self-imposed diety status (the Imperial Cult and Ideology), insisted the people refer to them as “Lord.”  Thus, the implication that any claim that “Jesus is Lord” (over and against the Caesars) is anti-imperialistic.   The wonder was, how could a crucified messiah figure be Lord over and against the young robust Caesars of the Roman Empire?

Here are Chris’ thoughts:

Kim argues, against Wright, Crossan and co, that an anti-imperial interpretation is actually unlikely. I look forward to reading this exciting contribution and having my own views challenged. It simply makes sense to me that some of Paul’s important language would have naturally struck cords in people’s minds concerning the empire, and that this was no accident on Paul’s part. Kim may just change my mind on how, or even whether, I see this happening. Of course, he may not and I am not altogether convinced of the rather mathematical approach he takes to the Damascus Road experience and Paul’s theology, but Kim is a scholar of considerable standing so I expect to be challenged and to learn a lot reading this new book.

Here is the product description from the Eerdmans site:

The slogan “Paul and the Empire” is much in vogue in New Testament scholarship today.  But did Paul truly formulate his gospel in antithesis to the Roman imperial cult and ideology and seek to subvert the Empire? In Christ and Caesar Seyoon Kim first examines five epistles of Paul exegetically and shows how the dominant anti-imperial interpretation is actually difficult to sustain.

Next, he examines the Lukan writings (Luke-Acts) to see how Luke talks about the encounters of Paul and other gospel preachers with Roman imperialism.  Kim explores why it is that Luke makes no effort to present Christ’s redemption as materialized in terms of political liberation.  Finally, Kim compares the exaltation Christologies of Luke, Revelation, Paul, and Hebrews and inquires about the hermeneutical possibility of developing a political Christology in our present-day context.

This sounds like some pretty heavy stuff!  In my opinion, more folks need to pay attention to Kim’s work on Paul.

Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord?

I preached Sunday night about Jesus being Savior and Lord in our lives but that it seems often people want Jesus to be Savior but not always Lord (or only when it is convenient). Can we have one without the other? This prompted me to wonder is Jesus Christ “Savior and Lord” or “Lord and Savior”? Does the word order matter or not? Donald Bloesch has a book in his Theology Series Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord. But to me it seems that is how some people live their lives. To them, Jesus Christ is first Savior, then if they get around to it, he is Lord or until trouble arises and then they turn to something else such as their alcohol or drugs or food, even their blogs!

The following is a brief survey of Scripture from Bible Gateway. I noticed the majority of verses noted God/Christ as Lord then Savior. There are at least three important verses that do have Savior then Lord (Luke 2:11, Philippians 3:20, Jude 1:25). The following are verses that seem to list the order as first, Lord, then Savior (all from the TNIV).

Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.”

Isaiah 45:21 “Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”

Isaiah 49:26 ‘Then the whole human race will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Jeremiah 23:6 “In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”

Hosea 13:4 “But I have been the LORD your God ever since you came out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

What say you? Is Jesus Christ Savior and Lord or is Jesus Christ Lord and Savior? Does word order matter?

The blood of Jesus explained

Be forewarned: not all will agree with what follows.

So one may hear this term a lot or one like it: the blood of Jesus, the blood of Christ, the shed blood of Jesus, the blood, etc.  What does this term mean?  What is it’s significance? Does it mean he bled like one does after cutting one’s finger?  Is that all he had to do to redeem mankind form sin?  Cut his finger and shed a little blood? 

Here is what I shared in my recent sermon on the blood of Jesus:

What do we mean by the shed blood of Jesus?  While he did bleed and shed blood was needed for the forgiveness of sins, the term “the blood of Jesus” is a reference to the violent sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of humanity (that’s you and me and everybody else).  It is not the blood itself that saves because Jesus had normal human blood as we all do.  There is no magical power in the blood itself but rather it plays a symbolic role in that by Jesus shedding his blood, as a sinless man, through his violent sacrificial death on the cross, so that the wrath of God towards sin and sinful man is both averted and the penalty for our sin is wiped out.  We are set free from sin and its hold on our lives, our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God and given access to him because of the blood of Christ, or his death on the cross.  

It can be a challenging topic to talk about but In the Bible, Blood plays a significant role throughout both the Old and New Testaments and in the life of God’s people.  From Genesis chapter 3 on, blood is shed because of sin.  Because life is in the blood – when life is taken blood is required to make restitution for the life taken.  Blood is used to establish a covenant between God and man.  In this case it becomes the blood of the covenant.  In Leviticus 14 God ordained that blood be used for ritual cleansing.  Blood is used to purify parts of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus to designate them holy to the Lord.  Blood is required for the payment of sin – in a sin offering an animal’s blood is shed and it is offered up as a sacrifice.  In this sense the life of the animal is offered up in substitution for the person making the sacrifice.  When blood is shed it does not mean simply cutting a hand so one bleeds.  When blood is shed it often refers to a violent death or taking of life.   Blood is needed to pay for sin.  It’s either our blood or the blood of another, usually an animal.  In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were sufficient for a person’s sin offering.  But in the New Testament, we find out that in reality, it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Our own blood was needed to pay for our own sins but we could not do that and God knew it.  So, Jesus Christ came to give his life in our place so that we might live. 

Thank God for the shed blood of Jesus on the cross!  

New Book: The Many Gospels of Jesus

Over at the NLT blog Keith Williams gives a plug to one of Tyndale’s books The Many Gospels of Jesus by Jason Driesbach, Philip W. Comfort, who both are involved in some degree in the NLT. It looks like the book just came out in June 2008.

Here is a blurb:

In the wake of The DaVinci Code book and movie and the recent discovery of The Gospel of Judas, there has been an increased interest in the ancient books written about Jesus in the third century A.D. that aren’t part of the Bible’s canon–commonly known as the Gnostic Gospels. Decide for yourself the truth behind all the “hidden gospels.” Compare what the Gnostic Gospels have to say with the four Gospels in the Bible. Discover the truth about Jesus for yourself.

Definitely looks like a must have!

The cleansing power of the blood

Hebrews 9:11-14

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (TNIV)

Thank God for the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ!