Monday, September 6, 2010

Last Supper Chronology

The Gospel of John offers a different chronology of the Last Supper than Mark and the other synoptic gospels.  For Mark, the setting for the supper is Passover (see Mark 14).  For John, the supper is clearly not a Passover meal.  And for John, there are no words of institution.  The central focus is not the sacraments (there are none), but the act of foot washing.  For John, the act of remembering Jesus is not accomplished by breaking bread and drinking wine as ritual, but by serving others (see John 13).

For a comparison of the two chronologies, see the chart below.

Days of Awe

This week begin the Days of Awe (or Days of Repentance) for the Jewish community.  This period spans ten days, starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur.  It is a time of introspection and of seeking reconciliation with people you have wronged.  See more at Judaism 101.
  • Rosh Hashandah - 9/9/2010
  • Yom Kippur - 9/23/2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Historically-Conditioned Scriptures

How are extreme liberals and extreme fundamentalists alike?  Larry Hurtado suggest both theological positions ignore the historically-conditioned nature of scripture as divine revelation.  To read his thoughts on the mater, click here.

Jews for . . . ?

Here are two sites that are polar opposites:  Jews for Jesus and Jews for Judaism.

Examine how both use scripture to support their belief that:
  • Jesus is the messiah (Jews for Jesus)
  • Jesus is not the messiah (Jews for Judaism)
 The purpose of Jews for Jesus to convert Jews to Christianity and the response of Jews for Judaism to these Christian missionaries, illustrates the problematic nature of Christian evangelism in a pluralistic age. 

And it specifically calls our attention the concept of "covenant" and asks us to consider what being faithful to God means, whether Christian or Jew.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Robert Kysar - John, the Maverick Gospel

In a recent post, I mentioned Robert Kysar's book John, The Maverick Gospel.  First published in 1976, it is now in an expanded third edition in paperback format.  Let me be direct.  Buy it.

This is one of the best introductions to the Gospel of John that I know.  But it is not the typical introduction that spends all its time on authorship, date, audience, etc.  Rather, Kysar wants to introduce us to the thought world and symbolism of this  literary/theological work in a non-technical fashion.  His hope is to accomplish three objectives:
  1. to stress the uniqueness of the Fourth Gospel among the literature of the early Christian movement
  2. to set the thought and symbolism in the broader context of the universal religious quest of humanity
  3. to keep the reader engaged in the text of the gospel itself
It is the latter objective that initially attracted me to this book.  It is structured almost as a self-study course with various reading assignments, called Reader's Preparation, scattered frequently throughout the text.  As you might guess, this is not a linear approach to the gospel, but topical and conceptual.  The four major chapters of the book are:

Chapter 1:  The Father's Son - Johannine Christology
Chapter 2:  Two Different Worlds - Johannine Dualism
Chapter 3:  Seeing Is Believing - Johannine concepts of Faith
Chapter 4:  Eternity Is Now - Johannine Eschatology

Each time I begin a new study of the John's Gospel, the first book to come off the shelf is John, The Maverick Gospel.  That's why I've got at my desk right now.  It clearly has the revJohn Seal of Approval.

Dale Allison - Constructing Jesus

 Mark November 10 on your calendar.  That's the publication date of Dale Allison's highly anticipated new book on Jesus entitled Construction Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History.  I'm really looking forward to the book's release.  Check out the information below.  I think you will be excited too.

Below is the Baker Academic's biography of Dale, publicity blurb, and  table of content.  For more at the Baker site, go here.  And for the Amazon listing, go here.
Dale C. Allison Jr. (PhD, Duke University) is the Errett M. Grable Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His recent books include Resurrecting Jesus, Studies in Matthew, and The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. He is also the author (with W. D. Davies) of the three-volume work on Matthew in the International Critical Commentary series.

What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? And can we answer questions like these on the basis of the Gospels? In Constructing Jesus, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus.
Presenting the fruit of several decades of research, Allison contends that the standard criteria most scholars have employed and continue to employ for constructing the historical Jesus are of little value. His pioneering alternative applies recent findings from cognitive science about human memory to our reading of the Gospels in order to "construct Jesus" more soundly.
All scholars and students of New Testament and Jesus studies will want to interact with the data and conclusions of this significant work.

1. The General and the Particular: Memories of Jesus
2. More Than a Sage: The Eschatology of Jesus
     Excursus 1: The Kingdom of God and the World to Come
     Excursus 2: The Continuity between John the Baptist and Jesus
3. More Than a Prophet: The Christology of Jesus
4. More Than an Aphorist: The Discourses of Jesus
5. Death and Memory: The Passion of Jesus
6. Memory and Invention: How Much History?

Stan The Man

Gene.  Roy. The Duke.  Mr. Dillon.  My heroes all.  But the truth be told, my heroes have not always been cowboys.

Mother of revJohn:  Who's your favorite ball player?
revJohn (before the rev):  Stan Musial.

ESPN calls him the most underrated athlete ever

Bob Gibson called him "the nicest man I ever met in baseball."

  • Stan had 3,630 hits in his career; 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road.  That's consistency.
  • Stan never struck out 50 times in a season. That's amazing.
  • Stan was NEVER thrown out of a major league game and he played from 1941 to 1963.  That's almost unbelievable!
Now Joe Posnanski, for my money, the best sports writer in the business, has written a fantastic piece for Sports Illustrated on Musial.  Do yourself a favor.  Click here and read about a great athlete and a great person.

"Whaddya say!  Whaddya say!  Whaddya say!  

I say Stan is still a hero to me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Word Cloud - John 14-17

Below is a word cloud that graphically illustrates the key concepts in Jesus' farewell address from the Gospel of John. If you're doing a study of this text, the graphic may help direct your study by showing the concepts that John emphasizes in this section of his gospel.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Paraclete in John's Gospel

John is the only New Testament writer who uses the Greek word parakletos (paraclete) to designate the Holy Spirit.  The multiple uses of the term are found in Jesus' farewell address in chapters 14 -16 of the fourth gospel.  Below is a graphic that shows some of the ways paraclete has been translated into English from John's Greek text.  It also shows how John conceived the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer.

Robert Kysar, in his book John, The Maverick Gospel, points out the two-fold function of the Paraclete: 1) He communicates Christ to the believer and 2) he puts the world on trial. But what I would like to get a better handle on is how John's community understood this to happen in practice.

How did the Paraclete teach them all things about Jesus?
How did they experience revelations of the future?
How did the Spirit guide them into all truth?

Let me know what you have discovered in practice (not conceptually) about the Paraclete's workings?

The Long Goodbye - The Farewell Address of Jesus

The Gospel of John is unique in a number of ways, but one important way it differs from the Synoptic Gospels is the narration of Jesus' last supper.  Read the account of the last supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke; each account covers only a few short verses.  In John, on the other hand, the narrative covers five chapters, including a lengthy farewell address that Jesus delivers to his disciples ("the long goodbye").  Among the distinctive features of this material (John 13-17), Jesus:
  • washes the feet of the disciples
  • teaches about the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit)
  • gives a new commandment (love one another)
  • prays at length for his disciples
And significantly missing from the text is any mention of the word's of institution of the Lord's Supper, the focal point of the synoptic narratives of the supper.

Take some time and reread these significant chapters.  What did John's account mean for those Christians who first heard/read it?  How should contemporary believers make use of his insights?  What needs to be translated into a 21st century perspective?

And lastly what does John's remembrance of the Jesus tradition tells us about how we continue to celebrate the Lord's Supper?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who Is the Beloved Disciple in John's Gospel?

Mark Goodacre's latest podcast explores the identity of the beloved disciple in John's Gospel.  Listen to it here.

Accurate and Adequate Information

In the business world, ethical retailers give much consideration to how their Associates communicate product information.  Three terms enter into how information is provided to customers:
  1. Representation - any statement verbal or written) that is made to influence a purchase decision.
  2. Misrepresentation - any statement that contains inaccurate information.
  3. Failure to Disclose - occurs when there is inadequate information or something important is left out or concealed. 
What if church leaders were held accountable for their representations, misrepresentations, and failures to disclose.  I am thinking particularly of sermons/adult education offerings where no use is made of scholarly research, where denominational loyalty supplants critical study, and where, under the guise of protecting the flock, outdated theological concepts and discriminatory rhetoric passes for bible study.  And perhaps worst of all, the failure to disclose differing perspectives and intentionally ignoring the advances of science, literary criticism, archaeology, etc. because it conflicts with long held prejudices or congregational dogma.

In the business world, customers would have legal recourse against firms not providing accurate and adequate information.  In the church, we just say, "good sermon/class today," no mater what the quality or the accuracy of the representations.

Faces of America

I missed this series when it initially aired on PBS, but you can view the first episode online here. Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. shows us the faces of America through the family history of 12 well known Americans.  Here's how PBS describes the program:

About the Program
What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Harvard scholar turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans — professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Will Campbell's Grandma Bettye

If you don't know of Will Campbell, you should.   He escorted the black students who integrated Little Rock, Arkansas, public schools, and he was the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  And he ministered to Klu Klux Klan members.

He believes in justice and grace.  And family.  For a slice of his life and ministry, consider his 1977 biography Brother To A Dragonfly.  Below is one of four portraits of his grandparents that begins the book:

Grandma Bettye
Grunting every breath, sometimes twice,
  with neuralgia and lumbago.
But smiling, too.  Because her lover
   (for sixty-six years her lover)
never one forgot to say: "Mighty fine supper,
   Mrs. Campbell."
No matter what the fare.
And once she cried when he asked if the bread, hon,
was cooked yesterday
   or the day before.
That being as close to irreconcilable differences as
  the years ever knew.
And she talked about the Glory Hole,
meaning the place just above the bridge
where we baptized
  And where
boys went bathing with her nod,
but girls' bodies made it a naughty sacrilege.
And McComb City was the wickedest place in the world.
Camphor Balm from the Rawleigh Man and
  aspirin from the store
were good for lumbago
But not as good as salt mackerel
  and knick-knacks Uncle Tiff brought from Louisiana.
She sat on the pew that ran crosswise
  to the congregation.
Right up front.  With Miss Emma, Miss Lola, Miss Eula,
Aunt Donnie, Aunt Ida,
not one of them either "Miss" or "Aunt," but old, like
  Grandma was old.
  For old began at thirty.
And she wore the flannel bathrobe to church
the very first Sunday after Christmas.
Because it was the prettiest thing she
  had ever seen,
  and the Lord deserved the best.
And because it was 1933 and she didn't have a

Don't Get Above Your Raisin"

Sometimes in relationships, if not careful, we can begin to think more highly of ourselves than we should. It sometimes happens in families when one generation begins to see itself as better than past generations because of "economic success" or higher levels of "education," both achievements usually made possible by the sacrifices of the older generation.

So I thought we should listen to brother Ricky Skaggs preach on the subject. His sermon topic: Don't Get Above Your Raisin'.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rudolf Bultmann 1884 - 1976

Yesterday, August 20, marked the birth date of one of the 20th century's greatest theologians, Rudolf Bultmann. To lean more about Bultmann, see the brief biography here. To sample his writing, read an online version of Jesus and the Word, his view of the historical Jesus. And while you're exploring his work, the David Fergusson at St. John's Nottingham in the a video below discusses Bultmann's work and his influence on New Testament studies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Mosque at Ground Zero

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, is a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader. He is the ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

At the National Council of Churches USA website he comments on the controversy around building a mosque near Ground Zero.

Praise & Blame

Speaking of Las Vegas, a name synonymous with casino entertainment, like Elvis and Frank Sinatra, was (is) Tom Jones. So who would think that Tom, at this stage in his career, would do a gospel (and blues) CD? But he has, entitled Praise & Blame, and it has some great cuts. Two in particular are Ain't No Grave and Didn't It Rain. Here is a live performance of the latter at this year's Latitude Festival.

Ain't No Place

I've been away on business most of the last two weeks. Last week it was Las Vegas. I was far from the Strip, but Gram Parsons has got it right in the opening lyrics of Ooh Las Vegas:

Ooh, Las Vegas
Ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Ooh, Las Vegas
Ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Every time I hit your crystal city you know
You're gonna make a wreck outta me

Here's a cover by Whoosh.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Huffington Post - Religion

The Huffington Post has a rather extensive religion section.  They have also started a gospel commentary section.  Here Dr.Emillie Townes shares her thoughts on Matthew 7:24-27, A House Built on the Rock of Righteousness.

Alternative Worship and Inculturation from Keith Watkins

Keith Watkins continues his series here on worship in progressive churches.  As a bonus in this post, he also provides a link to an article he authored on inculturation entitled:  "Each of Us in Our Native Language:  Connecting Classic Worship and Popular Culture."

Anyone interested in making worship relevant to contemporary life should take some time with this article.  In it Dr.Watkins explores the challenge of finding adequate cultural forms for worship.  One source of conflict, he suggests, is "the conflict between modes of worship in heritage churches and the aesthetics and patterns of popular culture."

Heritage churches are another way of saying mainline Protestant Churches.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dunn and Hurtado

This week I received my much awaited copy of James Dunn's just released work here in the U.S. entitled Did The First Christians Worship Jesus.  At about the same time Larry Hurtado posted a note about his review of Dunn's work now included among his essays.  As you may know, Dunn's work engages the views of Hurtado and that of Richard Bauckham.

It is extremely helpful in sorting out ones own view to see such distinguished scholars looking at the content of scripture, disagreeing on key points of the evidence, but doing so in irenic fashion.

The Faith Matrix - Pareto Goes to Church

Pareto's Law states that 80% of the results you achieve come from 20% of the activities, activities that can be described as "high leverage."  A four-box matrix is often used in analysis and problem solving to apply the law, for example Stephen Covey's Time Management Matrix.

Let's think for a minute about personal spirituality and the local church.  Consider two primary aspects of any faith community:  Critical Thinking (Theology) and Serving Others.  Given those two aspect of faith, what are the high leverage activities (the 20%) that individuals and churches need to engage in to be successful in growing in grace and knowledge?  And what are the more frequent activities with little leverage (the 80%) that limit or make less likely spiritual growth and truly helping others?

Make a list of some of the most frequent activities in your church and then ask:  Are these really high leverage?  And also consider how would you categorize the activities, as Thinking or Serving?

When finished, decide which quadrant you and your church are in.  If other than Quadrant 2, what needs to happen to get your there?

Study Resources - Recommendations From Marcus Borg

If you are interested in book recommendations from Marcus Borg, you are in luck.  A tab on his new website lists a number of study resources with a brief comment from Marcus about each book listed.  While you are there, you might take a look at his article on mysticism and his personal experience of God.

Friday, July 23, 2010

National Geographic - The Dead Sea Scrolls

National Geographic will air Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls on their cable channel this coming Tuesday, July 27.  It features Dr. Robert Cargill that you met here yesterday.  Get an overview, view photos, facts, and a video at the National Geographic site by clicking here.  The video is an interesting teaser; give it a watch.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More from Keith Watkins on Progressive Worship

Keith Watkins continues his posts on worship in progressive churches.  He considers five generalization on alternative worship from Lutheran theologian Thomas Schattauer.  They are:
  1. Recovery of historic practice toward a distinctive community witnessing to God’s purpose in the world
  2. Use of cultural materials toward a wider embrace of people (be it the unchurched or particular ethnic groups)
  3. Attention to the experience of the marginalized toward justice and inclusion of God’s reign
  4. Focus on relational community toward social belonging and wholeness
  5. Openness to the movement of God’s Spirit toward personal healing, holiness, and hope
Watkins provides a hint for the direction of his series when he says:  Schattauer’s list gives insufficient attention to another impulse that I encounter with increasing urgency in theological literature and in conversations with church people week after week: the need to restate central Christian doctrines in ways that can be affirmed by people who have dismissed older ways of stating Christian beliefs and who are searching for believable ways of describing their faith.

The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill

Another blog to bookmark is that of Robert R. Cargill.  Here is a link to his blog bio.  One of Cargill's responsibilities is that of Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project, a real-time reconstruction of the site of Qumran.  Dr. Cargill's course at UCLA can be found at U-Tunes University.  And here is a sample of his writing from Bible and Interpretation.  The piece's title is:  Forget About Noah's ark; There Was No Worldwide Flood.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ethnotheological Models - Practical Application

Before leaving the subject of Charles Kraft's ethnotheological models, let me share a couple of observations based on teaching the Bible in a church setting. Let me pick a recent subject: the food laws in Leviticus. Here's what I've found:
  1. Conservative Christians tend to see these laws as God's will and given to protect Israel from diseases by banning unhealthy eating practices, for example the danger of trichinosis is overcome by banning the eating of pork. But of course Jesus abolished these laws for his disciples, and they have no meaning for Christians other than providing some interesting historical information about God's care of his people.
  2. Progressive Christians tend to see these laws as a product of ancient Israel. The laws are based on a misunderstanding of God and are little more than a collection of primitive taboos. As with Conservative Christians, the laws have no application for modern Christians.
But now comes the studies of structural anthropologists such as Mary Douglas and the study of Leviticus by brilliant scholars such Jacob Milgrom and the food laws are seen in a new light. New questions arise. What do these laws tell us about the meaning of food in the culture of ancient Israel. And how did those meanings shape their concepts of purity and holiness.

Now transition to our culture and begin to think ethnotheologically about food. Consider:
  • What role does food play in your family? Your church? Your community?
  • How do your values shape your food choices?
  • In what ways might obesity be considered a theological issue as well as a health issue in America?
  • Are there foods you would not eat on ethical grounds? Why?
  • What choices did Jesus make about food?
  • Should his choices inform the choices of modern-day disciples? Explain why or why not.
Maybe, just maybe, there is something still to learn from those ancient laws that goes beyond form and cultural specifics? Could it even inform contemporary faith communities What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ethnotheological Hermeneutics - Model #2

The second of Kraft's models deals with interpreting scripture, what he calls ethnotheological hermeneutics. This model has four aspects to consider:
  1. Human perception of God's truth may be adequate, though never absolute
  2. Study of scripture must include awareness of the insights of contemporary anthropology and linguistics in addition to using the perspective of history and philology.
  3. Attempting to understand supracultural meaning involves the necessity to discern differing levels of abstraction. Three levels are postulated: a) cultural specific level; 2) general principle level; 3) basic-ideal level.
  4. The total process of biblical interpretation involves attention both to the original biblical cultural contexts and to the cultural context within which the interpreter lives.
Example focusing on aspect #3:

Basic Ideal Level:
Everything must be done in a proper and orderly way (1 Cor 14:40)

General Principle Level:
Christians should live according to the rules of the culture (as long as they don't conflict with Christian principles

Specific Cultural Form/Symbol Level:
a. Women should learn in silence in Greek culture (1 Tim. 2:11)
b. Women may speak up in mixed groups in the USA

How would you evaluate Kraft's models? Strengths. Weaknesses.

How might you use his models in teaching and communicating about the Bible?

Monday, July 19, 2010

God, Humanity, and Culture - Ethnotheological Model #1

As mentioned in the previous post, Charles F. Kraft in his book, Christianity in Culture, articulates two ethnotheological models to aid in theologizing cross-culturally. I find this model helpful in dialog about scripture with two vary diverse cultures found within my (many) churches: 1) conservative and 2) progressive Christians.

Kraft calls this model God, Humanity, and Culture and uses it to demonstrate the relationship between God, human beings, and the culture within which they interact. The model has five aspects:
  1. God stand apart from culture but works through culture to accomplish his purposes.
  2. Theology is a culture-bound enterprise even though the meaning of Scripture (truth) originates outside culture with God.
  3. The primacy of such supra-cultural meaning over their cultural forms must be recognized.
  4. Human beings are culture bound; there is no God-endorsed culture (whether Hebrew, Greek, or Western-American).
  5. God's interaction with humans are relative to their culture; God does not seek to impose their forms of one culture upon another.
Example: Churches have argued (split) over church structure. Consider the difference perspective on church government in the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Church of Christ. Each group would suggest their form of of church structure is God ordained. The key word is that their doctrinal stance focuses on "form." With Kraft's model, the ground shifts from cultural form to supra cultural meaning: "Churches should be governed."

Here is how the model would look (slightly modified for clarity):

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Charles Kraft - Christianity in Culture

Let me recommend a book that was first published in 1979: Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective by Charles F. Kraft. Kraft published the book from his missionary experiences and for use in in his classes in Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission.

Kraft sees the aim of his book as helping us to communicate more effectively the Christian message in a multicultural world. His work grows out his frustration as a missionary because "much of the theology taught to us n our home churches, Bible schools, and Christian colleges, a and seminaries turn out to be extremely difficult to use in cross-cultural context in the form in which we learned it."

So Kraft's initial audience is cross-cultural witnesses for Christ, but he also sees as a second audience those whose primary interest is in theological methodology.

Kraft's work addresses such question as:
  • What is the relationship between biblical content and the linguistic symbols in terms of which it is presented?
  • How clearly can we see revealed truth?
  • What is the core of Christian truth that we mus communicate to all peoples and what is peripheral?
  • What is relative and what is absolute in Christianity?
In a subsequent post, we'll visit Kraft's two ethnotheological models and how they can be employed in faith communities.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Keith Watkins - Worship in Progressive Churches

Disciples of Christ religious historian Keith Watkins begins a series of posts on worship in progressive churches. Follow Keith's comments, starting with his thoughts here on an alternative way of worship in progressive churches.

Atlases for Touring Israel

Philip Long at his Reading Acts blog recommends for those considering a trip to Holy Land the best atlases for touring Israel. For Part 1, go here and for Part 2, here.

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh has started a blog for faculty members. This should be a rich source of information from top flight scholars so make to bookmark their site. To read about the school and faculty, click here. For their initial blog, this one from Helen Bond, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Religion in the News

CNN and ABC News now have a significant web presence for reporting on religion and ethic.

A friend from many years ago, Richard Hughes, comments on the CNN belief blog on why Christian politicians should start acting Christian. Richard previously taught at Southwest Missouri State and Pepperdine University and is now Distinguished Professor of Religion at Messiah College.

Here also is the link to ABC News' Religion and Ethics site. Today's featured article has Sarah Coakley rethinking the sex crises in Catholicism and Anglicanism.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Where can you find a variety of "youngish" Disciples of Christ blogging on a variety of spiritual matters? Why [D]mergent of course. See there statement of purpose below and then visit the site here.

[D]mergent was formed out of our experience with the emerging tribes of Generation X & the Millennial Generation. As we sought to minister in this emerging context we became aware of the need to step out of the box and witness the Spirit moving in nontraditional spaces. When Disciples World ceased we thought that we might be able to gather together and reach out to the saints in an equally nontraditional manner. . . We hope to be a space where we as a collective, as a people may gather and equip each other as we vision together and don our prophetic imagination to be a people of God that unites beyond human division and works as one people to love those that are difficult to love, restore the radical and transformative nature of the gospel message, and offer a place for yesterdays legacy to nurture the reframing of what “church” is in these emerging generations.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

I'm a bit behind with this news, having just finished a week of vacation, but New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado has just started blogging. To have another first-class New Testament scholar beginning to blog regularly is cause for celebration. See his new site here.

Also take note of the essays tab and for fun take a look at Dr. Hurtado's publication list.

A Biblical Scholar's First Impressions of Israel

Mark Goodacre, Duke Professor and first-time visitor, begins a series on his impressions of Israel. His initial post finds Mark in Tel Aviv. Follow along on his journey starting here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Revelation at Bibledex

The folks at Bibledex now have video introductions to all the books of the New Testament. Here are their insights on the Book of Revelation. If you're interested in this problematic text, spend a few minutes with our British friends. But be warned. You'll meet the "beast" and learn the meaning of "666."

Black & White Night

One of my all-time favorite CDs is from 1987, Roy Orbison's Black & White Night.

This CD is just plain FUN! Roy's band includes Tom Waits on piano and a few guitar players like Bruce Springsteen Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, and T Bone Burnett. His back up girl singers number k. d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, and Jennifer Warnes.

Check it out, Dream Baby, and make my dreams come true.

James McGrath - Exploring Our Matrix

One of the most popular biblioblogs, and for good reason, is James McGrath's Exploring Our Matrix. James is Associate Professor of Religion and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana.

James consistently offers up thoughtful posts on a variety of subjects related to our understanding or the New Testament. As a sampler, here is his review of John Dominic Crossan's chapter in The Historical Jesus: Five Views. Bookmark Exploring Our Matrix and check in with James on a regular basis

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Good Sermon

Calling himself an aggressive cyclist, religious historian Keith Watkins reports on four sermons he heard this summer on one of his journeys. He asks: What makes for a good sermon?

He lists four characteristics from his experience:
  1. Personable speaker
  2. Biblically focused
  3. Oriented to life today
  4. Appropriate to the liturgical setting
Check Keith's account and tell me what you think makes for a good sermon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hayden in Hollywood - A Story for Bibliobloggers

My dad, Hayden Brentlinger, was born, raised, and lived most of his life in one small Missouri town. So it was no small thing when, in the the 30s, he left home for California to seek his fortune, like a lot of others from that part of the country during the "dust bowl" days. His destination - Hollywood!

And once in Hollywood he found work in one of the major motion picture studios, meeting stars such as Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, and the original Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller.

One day I asked daddy about his Hollywood days, wanting to learn more about this important story in our family's oral tradition: "Tell me, what did you do out there in Hollywood? What was it like working with those movie stars?"

"Well, Son, it was like this. I worked on a lot of Tarzan movies. My job was to stand by with a shovel. Every so often the director would stop the filming and yell, 'Brentlinger, bring your shovel. Tarzan's elephant needs a clean up.' And then I would run onto the set and start shoveling s _ _ _ ."

So bibliobloggers, on those days when the elephant visits your world (links that don't work, comments that miss the point, posts that fall flat, etc.), listen for direction:

"(Bird, McGrath, West, et al), Tarzan's elephant needs a clean up."

Then grab your shovel and get to work.

Winter's Bone

Missouri author Daniel Woodrell's 20006 novel, Winter's Bone, is now a movie and has won the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize. It should be on your "must see" list. Set in the Missouri Ozarks, filmed in Christian and Taney County, this movie is unrelentingly dark, but also unrelenting in its profile of courage and determination.

The plot is straight forward. 17-year-old Ree Dolly's dad, Jessup, has been busted for cooking meth. He has put his family's home up for collateral to make bond and, as the movie begins, has skipped his court date. Unless he's found, Ree, her two siblings, and invalid mother will lose their home.

This story will show you a side of the Ozarks beyond the shows in Branson and the rides at Silver Dollar City. Here's the movie trailer.

This one qualifies for the revJohn seal of approval.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bible Atlas - Not One But Two

If you are looking for a Bible Atlas, two evangelical publishing houses are competing for your dollar(s). And both deserve a look.

Published in June, the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl G. Rasmussen is a revision of their NIV Atlas of the the Bible. Using 3D imaging and over 100 full-color maps, this work has spectacular graphics. You can browse inside part of the volume at the Zondervan web site by clicking here.

Not to be outdone, the publisher of the ESV Study Bible, Crossway, will release June 30 the the ESV Bible Atlas. Given the graphics in the study bible, I would anticipate this to be a stunning volume as well. See the promotion here.

Both volumes can be found at Amazon. Both are graphically pleasing. Both are theologically conservative. (caveat emptor)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marcus J. Borg Website

Marcus Borg has a new website and has started to post occasional theological reflections, as well as promoting upcoming speaking engagements and his many books. To visit, click here.

For a sample of of his approach to a biblical concept, see "Narrow is the way."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Comedy Central at a Church Near You

What role does "humor" play in worship?

None you say. We all know better. What preacher doesn't try to make the congregation at least chuckle once during the sermon? Sometimes it's a series of one-liners. And at a recent Conference on Homiletics, ministers were instructed on the 10 Commandments of Stand-Up.

Collin Hansen at Christianity Today raises his concerns about comedy in the pulpit.

So what is your experience with humor at church. Do we need more or less from our worship leaders?

By the way, did you hear the one about a priest, a rabbi, and a pastor who . . .


Ben Witherington continues his posts on the lands of the bible, this time Ephesus. Below are three posts with pictures and text that are worth your while.

Ephesus - Part 1

The Cave Church of Paul and Thecla

Ephesus - Part 2

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lands of the Bible

Ben Witherington has started a series on Lands of the Bible in conjunction with a DVD series he is filming around the ancient Mediterranean. These blogs have some great photos and supporting narrative that help us understand the setting of the our New Testament documents. Here is his most recent post, this one on Philippi.

Contemporary Worship - An Instructional Video

In a recent visit with my sister, we attended her church, which has a contemporary service. Since I do not normally attend a contemporary service, I was somewhat apprehensive about "how to" worship in this style. Fortunately, I was able to consult the following instructional video that provided many useful tips. I share it in case you may have the same concerns that I did.

BP Deals with a Coffee Spill

Thanks to Robert Cargill for posting this YouTube video that answers the penetrating question: How would BP handle a coffee spill?

Theological Diversity

New Testament scholar, David E. Aune, comments in Direction Journal on the importance of theological diversity.

Since most of our theological language is analogical rather than univocal, or metaphorical rather than literal, it seems to me that we do a basic disservice to the theological task when we transform diversity into contradiction, varieties into irreconcilables. Diversity is not only a sign of the vitality of the Christian religion, it is absolutely necessary if Christianity is to be meaningful and living for people of radically different social, cultural and historical contexts.

See all of his article here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mark Twain, Wales McCormick, and Alexander Campbell

Ron Powers, in Mark Twain: A Life, introduces us to Wales McCormick, a teenage chum of young Sam Clemens, who worked as typesetter along with Sam in the print shop of Joseph P. Ament in Hannibal, Missouri. Sam, writes Powers, was awed by Wales' "genial amorality."

As an adult, Sam, now known as Mark Twain, often told the story of what happened when Alexander Campbell, the famous preacher and a founder of the Disciples of Christ, preached in Hannibal. When Campbell's followers desired a copy of his sermon, he took his manuscript to Ament's shop and there encountered Wales McCormick.

In one version of the story, Twain insisted that when Campbell stopped by Ament's shop with the sermon, he overheard McCormick exclaim, Great God! The preacher took the the boy aside and admonished him that "Great God!" was blasphemy, and that "Great Scott!" would be one example of an acceptable substitute. McCormick apparently took this to heart; while correcting the proof sheet of the sermon, he dutifully changed Campbell's own pious use of "Great God" to "Great Scott." Taken with the spirit, he amended "Father, Son & Holy Ghost" to "Father, Son, & Caesar's Ghost," and then improved even that bit of euphemism - to "Father, Son & Co."

Wales's moment of divine reckoning approached when he removed the full name "Jesus Christ" from a line in the sermon to create more space, and substituted "J. C." For some reason, this infuriated Campbell as he read the proof sheet; he strode back to the print shop and commanded McCormick: "So long as you are alive, don't you ever diminish the Savior's name again. Put it all in." McCormick took this advice to heart: the revised line came out, Jesus H. Christ.

A Twain "tall tale" or truth?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Jesus We'll Never Know

Speaking of historical methodology, Scott McKnight, an evangelical and long-time Jesus scholar, has a lengthy article in Christianity Today in which he concludes that historical studies can do little to advance our understanding of Jesus. Here's how he concludes his article:

This is what I said to myself: As a historian I think I can prove that Jesus died and that he thought his death was atoning. I think I can establish that the tomb was empty and that resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb. But one thing the historical method cannot prove is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. At some point, historical methods run out of steam and energy. Historical Jesus studies cannot get us to the point where the Holy Spirit and the church can take us. I know that once I was blind and that I can now see. I know that historical methods did not give me sight. They can't. Faith cannot be completely based on what the historian can prove. The quest for the real Jesus, through long and painful paths, has proven that much.

McKnight is then challenged in the same edition by three other evangelical scholars:
N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, and Darrell Bock.

History and the Resurrection

Does scholarship exclude the possibility of resurrection? The question was posed by Brian LePort at Near Emmaus here.

See the response of James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix here.

See the counter response of Doug Chaplin at Clayboy here.

What is your take? Can historical methodology say anything helpful about a "non-repeatable" event? In the end, is resurrection a matter of faith?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bart vs. Craig

Recently here in Kansas City, Bart Ehrman (the skeptic) and Craig Evans (the evangelical) squared off in a debate on the reliability of the gospels. But some attendees did not view it as much of a "debate." As one said, it was "two scholars 'talking past' each other." See for yourself in the video link at this post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

Ain't No Grave

Here is the title track from the Man in Black's last CD. Preach on John.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Progressive Revival

Bruce Epperly, a Disciple/UCC pastor and professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, calls for a Progressive Christian revival in a guest post at Bob Cornwall's blog. Among a few of the positions that Epperly champions are
  • Evolution is compatible with faith in God.
  • Humankind isn’t necessarily the center of God’s plan and that other species matter as well.
  • The bible is inspired but not infallible.
  • Faithful persons can have serious questions about their beliefs.
  • Persons of other faiths also receive revelations from God.
  • Non-Christians, atheists, and agnostics can be “saved.”
  • Progressives have a prayer life and believe in divine healing.
  • Persons of faith are interested in saving the earth.
  • God treasures ethnic, sexual, religious and cultural diversity.
  • Persons can disagree without hating one another.
  • The Bible supports an ethic of social concern supports the rights of immigrants and the recent health care initiatives.
  • Jesus’ had female followers and these women were given the Great Commission before their male companions.
Check out the complete post and let me know what you think of his proposal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Downtown Church

If you haven't heard yet about this recoding, I'm happy to be the one to tell you about it and to suggest you check it out as soon as you can.

Patty Griffin does not do gospel, until now. Recorded at Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church, this CD is for those who like music, regardless of musical genre. But "gospel" may be misleading. From the opening Hank Williams classic House of Gold to the concluding traditional All Creatures of Our God and King, this recording covers a lot of musical terrain. Did I mention Leber and Stoller's I Smell A Rat?

From the stark Death's Got A Warrant to the get-up-and-testify Move Up, you'll find yourself "feeling" a spirituality that can only come from music, and perhaps an old downtown church that still cares for the homeless and those in need.

Listen to all the cuts here, including the complete Little Fire video with Emmylou Harris.

Leprosy, Acne, and Afterbirth

This week's Torah study, Parashah M'tzora, covers Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33.

Will it preach? Sure, especially if you are Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport who is co-senior rabbi with his wife, Gaylia R. Rooks, at The Temple Congregation Adath Israel Brith Sholom in Louisville, Kentucky.

Enjoy the rabbi's humor and prepare to be surprised at what you'll learn. You can read the text but let me encourage you to listen instead.

An Introduction to the Pharisees

Helek Tov provides a concise post on the Pharisees for New Testament students. His timing is perfect because our Sunday Adult Education class is going to spend one or two weeks on this stream of Jewish thought during the time of Jesus.

Another concise online look at the Pharisees can be found among Felix Just's Electronic New Testament Resources.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


In a recent study of Jewish dietary laws, I had occasion to notice that official kosher foods receive a certification so that observant practitioners have confidence in the food product. That go me to thinking of the importance of certifications for other types of products, such as books, CDs, movies, and laxatives. Thus, henceforth, all products reviewed on this blog, if worthy, will receive the official revJohn seal of approval. Please use caution when purchasing products that do not bear this seal.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Passion Narratives

Holy Week and Christmas are times of devotion, time for matters of the heart. In a word, "worship."

Now that Easter is past, it seems appropriate to again approach the intellectual aspects of our faith. Below are the links to four podcast by Mark Goodacre of Duke University on the Passion of Jesus in each of the four gospels. And, of course, in my mind study is also a form of worship.





Hillside Prayer Blog

"Sometimes I find it difficult to pray." If you've ever felt this or wondered "what" to pray about or even "how" to pray, then do yourself a favor and bookmark Hillside Christian Church Prays.

Thoughtful. Timely. Helpful. Challenging. Contemporary.

This is a devotional resource you'll want to visit often. Click here to see for yourself.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Different Order of Time

Judith Shulevitz keeps sabbath and attends synagogue because she loves to hear Torah expounded. She also does not believe in God. Her new book is The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time. Read a short excerpt from her book and listen to her NPR interview here.

The Talmud asks, What if a person is traveling in the desert and forgets which day is Shabbat and there's no one around to tell him? The answer takes the form of a dispute, as do all answers in the Talmud. . . The question underlying the dispute, I think, is this: When time has disappeared and space is a comfortless ripple of white sand, should you imagine yourself inside the skin of the first man or inside the mind of God? The Talmud gives an answer to this question. It is, the mind of God. To save yourself, you re-create the world.

Second Inning

Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson talk baseball in their relatively new book Sixty Feet, Six Inches.

Here is NPR an interview with these Fall of Fame greats that's like setting in the dugout and hearing the tricks of the trade. Listen to Bob talk about "pitching inside" and when he would intentionally hit a batter. Or Reggie talking about the "little red dot" vs. the "big red dot," his ability to see the seams of a slider and know a good one from one that was going out of the park.

Why talk about baseball on a blog like this. Because I don't know anything that evokes true religion like baseball, unless it's studying the Book of Leviticus.

Play Ball

See a variety of off-beat baseball stats in graphic representation at Flip Flop Fly Ball here.

On Relics and the Shroud of Turin

At Religion Dispatches, there is a helpful and critical look at the recent History Channel documentary on the Shroud of Turin. See Jesus in 3D here.

Pondering Deep Theological Issues???

NO!!!!!!!!!!!! It's something more perplexing. Let the folks at the Sacred Sandwich help you out.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Messianic Secret in Mark's Gospel

Mark's gospel has been the center of preaching for the Lenten season at Hillside Christian Church. On several occasions we've had reason to note one of the key literary characteristics of this gospel: "the messianic secret."

Mark Goodacre from Duke University has new podcast that discusses this feature of the gospel. Hear his insights here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We Are The World - YouTube Edition

This video has gone viral, so you've probably already seen it. I hadn't until last night when Diane Sawyer on ABC News featured the singers as her Person of the Week.

The concept: just regular people doing their own remake of We Are The World to focus on Haiti relief. Recorded in bathrooms and kitchens by 57 "stars" around the world and edited into one video. Here it is in case you've missed it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Non-Believing Clergy

A study by two professors at Tufts University profiles five ministers who no longer "believe" but continue to minister. The five are UCC, Church of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Southern Baptist. I found these case studies intriguing and wonder: What do you think about ministers who cease to believe in God or core Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Christ? Should they resign? Share their spiritual pilgrimage with the congregation? Just keep quiet? To read the cases in the study click here.

The study, "Preachers Who Are Not Believers," is referenced in the religion section of the Washington Post, along with a section in which diverse respondents such as Marcus Borg, Martin Marty, Rabbi David Wolpe, and Cal Thomas share what they think such ministers should do. Check out their thoughts here. Share your own here at revJohn.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Lord's Supper in Stone-Campbell Churches

John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ institution has an insightful blog for Stone-Campbell Christians entitled: "The Practice of Table in 20th Century Churches of Christ." His research identifies four characteristics of how the Supper was conceived during this period:
  1. Cognitive and Mental
  2. Introspective and Penitential
  3. Vertical and Individual
  4. Legal Test of Loyalty
Based on my experience in Churches of Christ, Hicks is on target with his analysis. I would contrast those four concepts then with my experience within Disciples of Christ. Here are four characteristics of Lord's Supper that I've seen in practice in Disciple churches:
  1. Oneness - represented by both men and women serving at the Table
  2. Centrality in Worship - centrality of the Supper in worship, including times other that Sunday
  3. Vertical and Horizontal - awareness of participating as a community of believers as well as an individual
  4. Sacramental - where we experience the presence of the resurrected Christ
Here are three quotes from three Disciple authors about the Lord's Supper within the Disciple heritage.

"They (Disciples) interpreted the Lord's Supper largely in terms of remembrance. Yet they viewed it as much more than a symbolic action designed to recall the death of Jesus. Disciples quite commonly think of this action as a communion - a term which refers to a present engagement, not a memory of the past." The Faith We Affirm: Basic Beliefs of Disciple of Chris, Ronald E. Osborn, 1979

"If as is commonly said, the sacraments are outward signs of an invisible grace which God gives his people, then Disciples, despite Alexander Campbell's disdain of the term, have two sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper." People of the Chalice: Disciples of Christ in Faith and Practice, Colbert S. Cartwright, 1987

"The oneness of the church lies at the core of why Communion expresses our identity as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) more than anything else we do together." Disciples: Reclaiming Our Identity, Reforming Our Practice, Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn, 2009

Note: All three of these Disciple authors would agree that historically "remembrance" has been central to Disciple interpretations of the Supper.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

For the Love of . . . Thomas

These two links let us in on a conversation between two scholars who disagree! The basis for their disagreement is how to read the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.

Stephen Patterson from Eden Theological Seminary initiates the "dialog" by reviewing April DeConick's book on Thomas. See his review here.

In response to his review, DeConick offers up a defense of her approach on her blog, The Forbidden Gospels. Read it here.

This interchange is instructive of scholarly methodology It demonstrates the difficulty of understanding the meaning of ancient texts. It also demonstrates why there is such diversity in the scholarly community over our canonical texts.

The next time you feel compelled to speak authoritatively on what Jesus or Paul meant when they said "this" or"that" think about methodology. What is the basis for your pronouncement?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Was Jesus' Last Supper a Seder

No, writes Jewish scholar Jonathan Klawans. Compare his conclusions with your understanding by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Imperial History of the Middle East

Here is 5,000 years of history in 90 seconds, thanks to Maps of War.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Philippians - Another Resource

Bibledex, from the University of Nottingham, did not have this video available at the tim of our Philippians class. But now here is their look at Paul's letter to the church at Philippi.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Purim 2010. And I Missed It.

What is Purim? Rabbi Brad Hirschfield describes it as a serious party, a socially responsible Mardi Gras. To learn more about this Jewish celebration, click here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God

Hear Heather Godsey and Hillside Christian Church's Lara Blackwood Pickrel discuss their new best seller Oh God, Oh God, Oh God: Young Adults Speak Out About Sexuality and Christian Spirituality. The interview takes place on God Complex Radio and has a lead in with Rabbi Laura Winer.

Arcing and the Bible

I was recently reminded of a class I took many years ago (1976?) while attending Fuller Theological Seminary. The course was Hermeneutics and was designed by Daniel Fuller. While Fuller did not teach the section I was in, all classes at the time used his method of working with the biblical text called "arcing."

What called this class to mind is a relatively new website, Bible Arc, that uses Fuller's arching method. The site both explains the methodology, and also make it easy for students to develop their own arcs. Check out the video explanation and the site by clicking here.

The Israel Museum and Jerusalem Model

Here's two sites for the price of one. Please visit the Israel Museum and see the exhibits on display. And while you're there, you've got to take the interactive virtual tour of the Jerusalem Model from the time of Jesus.

Adam Christology in the Philippians Hymn

Thank to Judy H who found this entry from the now defunct ntWrong blog (right, it's Wrong, not Wright). This post does a commendable job of showing two possible ways of understanding the Song of Christ in Philippians 2 and the difficulty we have in interpreting ancient texts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Philippians and Christology

One of the significant questions for New Testament scholars and people of faith is the matter of the development of Christology in early Christianity. We touched on the subject in our course on Paul and the Philippians when we looked at the Song of Christ in chapter 2. To consider one aspect of Christology, the question posed in that lesson was really: "What evidence do we have for the concept of "pre-existence" in the New Testament?"

Pre-existence certainly plays a large role in the Gospel of John, written toward the end of the first century. But does the concept go back to an earlier time? Is it evident in Paul's letters? Is the background for Philippians 2 "pre-existence" or is it something else, Christ as a second Adam?

Most of us read the New Testament through the lens of church teaching that gives primacy to the Gospel of John and the great ecumenical creeds. We are conditioned to believe that Jesus was seen as divine from the very earliest period. And, of course, that he was born of a virgin. And, of course, he was pre-existent with God from "the beginning." These assertions, no matter what your understanding, are theological assertions, not historical statements. To put it into the words of Larry Hurtado: "How in the world did Jesus become God?"

When phased in that manner, we move from a question of faith to a question of history and to doctrinal development. When on the plane of history was Jesus conceived as divine and as pre-existent? In our question to answer, we need to be careful and not merge disparate concepts. To say Jesus is the Son of God and quote evidence from Paul makes the mistake of assuming the concept "Son of God" implies divinity. It does not. To say Jesus was born of a virgin does not imply pre-existence. In fact, one could see it as evidence of thinking that contradicts pre-existence.

Below is an illustration that looks at many examples of Christological thinking. They developed at different times in different places. Each concept is worthy of exploring historically as well as theologically. From a purely historical stance, if the background of the Carmen Christi is based on a second Adam motif, what other evidence can we discover to hypothesize an an early pre-existent Christology?

360 Degree View of Jerusalem Sites

First, you likely would appreciate visiting the Bible Places blog site to learn more about locations of significance from the Bible.

Second, these 360 degree shots at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock, and the Western Wall are awesome!!! Make sure and view them in "full screen."

New Books

Bill Tammeus has given us a sketch of new faith related books at Bill's Faith Matters' Weblog. Check them out here.

Among the Gentiles

Luke Timothy Johnson's latest book is entitled Among the Gentiles. In it, he argues that early Christianity followed many of the patterns of pagan religion. Johnson briefly discuss the book here.

Two of his remarks are important reminders for church folks:
  • The danger of demonizing the religion of others (pagans, Judaism, etc.)
  • How much we are like others (looking for/finding commonalities)

How To Suck At Facebook

If you're up to a little online humor, The Oatmeal provides some clear examples of how to suck at Facebook.

More Historical Jesus Podcasts

Phil Harland posts the final of three podcasts that looks at the sources and problems in reconstructing the life of the historical Jesus.

Christian Carnival CCCXV

John Hobbins at Ancient Hebrew Poetry hosts another Carnival and does it his way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paul and the Philippians - Week 4

For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you . . . Paul to the Romans
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, . . . Paul to the Corinthians
I thank my God every time I remember you . . . Paul to the Philippians
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Paul to the Galatians

It's time for the final installment of Paul and the Philippians. I hope you're not too worn out to do just one more lesson. Paul's writings are often studied for their theological content. Church systematic theologians as diverse as Augustine, Luther, and Barth have found in Paul's work the essence of the gospel. And perhaps rightly so, but what about Paul as pastor, as shepherd of a diverse collection of Gentile (pagan) churches. As you do your study this week, use your preparation time to consider Paul, the pastor.

Consider the two driving forces of Paul's work: his mission to the Gentiles and his concern for the poor. According to his own words, his agreement with the Jerusalem church included both aspects.
  • Take a look at this succinct article on Paul's mission by a premier Pauline scholar, E. P. Sanders.
  • Read Galatians 1:15 - 2:10, an extended passage in which Paul discusses his calling.
  • Read Acts 15, the account of the Council at Jerusalem, for what it tells of Paul's work.

Section 1 – Philippians 4:2-8
1. What plea does Paul make to Euodia and Syntyche?
2. What is their relationship to Paul? To the church?
3. Paul instructs the Philippians to rejoice and for emphasis repeats his command. Is this a realistic imperative? How would you respond to an injunction to “rejoice”?
4. How are these Christians to deal with the anxiety that comes from being a cultural/religious minority?
5. What does Paul see as the result if the Philippians follow his suggested approach to anxiety?
6. What “how to” guidance does Paul provide for “right thinking” and “right doing”?
Section 2 – Philippians 4:9-23
7. What is the secret of Paul’s contentment with his life?
8. How did the Philippians share in Paul’s troubles?
9. What other mission church is mentioned here?
10. Paul identifies one particular group of saints (Christians). Who are they and what evidence do they provide as to Paul’s location as he writes?

Comment Question
How would you rate Paul's pastoral skills based on his interaction with the Philippian church? Use a 1 -10 scale, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 being the lowest rating. Provide examples from the letter to support your rating.

Other Resources
  • The New American Bible with study notes is a handy online tool to consult for your bible studies.
  • The IVP New Testament Commentaries are has available online at the Bible Gateway. Take a look at Gordon Fee's commentary on Philippians. All the volumes are written from a scholarly evangelical perspective.
  • As Paul Tells It is a web site with a variety of resources for the study of Paul and his letters. Check his argument for Ephesus as the location where Paul wrote Philippians.
  • Jesus and Paul is a collection of articles on Beliefnet that look at various aspects of Paul's ministry by a diverse collection of New Testament scholars. Some of the links are now dead, but most are active.
Thanks for dropping by revJohn. I hope you found this short study helpful, and I would appreciate any feedback on future courses and how to make your online study a better experience. As Paul often said, Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paul and the Philippians - Week 3

The contrast between Paul, on the one hand, and Jesus, Peter, and the other Galileans, on the other could hardly have been greater. Jesus was from a very small village; . . . he seems never to have traveled enough to have had the opportunity to compare different cultures and experience different societies and their values. Paul, on the other hand, was an urbanite and a cosmopolitan, moving easily throughout the Graeco-Roman world.
E. P. Sanders, Paul: A Very Short Introduction

Yes, it's already the third week of our study, so let's spend some time this lesson on Paul, the man. What clues does Paul give us about himself? Both in preparation and the textual study, look for evidence from Paul's own hand about his life and how it shaped his mission.

Look up the following passages and compile a resume on Paul. Use any other passages about Paul that you find helpful to the assignment. Think about being on a church Search Committee. What information would you present to the congregation about this prospective new minister? Here is another electronic bible research tool to help, the Bible Gateway.
  • Galatians 1:12-24
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
  • 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
  • 2 Corinthians 10:9-11
  • 2 Corinthians 11:22-33
  • 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Here are the next two sections for our study.
Enemies and Autobiography - Philippians 3:1-11
1. What autobiographical information does Paul share in this passage?
2. Who are the “dogs” and who are they contrasted with?
3. What was the personal cost to Paul of wanting to know Christ?
4. What do you think Paul meant by “knowing Christ”?
5. What are two views on righteousness that Paul identifies?
The Prize - Philippians 3:12 - 4:1
6. What is the “prize” that Paul strives to achieve?
7. What constitutes good citizenship according to Paul? How could this understanding cause problems for the Philippians in their community?
8. Why would Paul suggest they imitate him? Shouldn't he have suggested they imitate Christ?
9. Paul eagerly awaited the return of Jesus from heaven. What does he believe will happen at the return of Christ?
10. Based on the belief in the return of Christ, imperative does Paul give the Philippians?

Don't be bashful. Share a comment. Here's the discussion question for this week: What aspects of Paul's personality served him well in his mission work? What characteristics might have limited his success?

Other Resources

The PBS site from Jesus to Christ is much more that a site that looks at the historical Jesus. It is also a great resource on Paul and early Christan origins. Explore the sections on The First Christians by clicking here. While you're there, take a look at the online video resources and watch #9, Paul's Mission in the Aegean.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paul and the Philippians - Week 2

. . . When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.
Letter of Paul to the Corinthians

. . . be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Letter of Paul to the Ephesians

. . . they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before sunrise and reciting an antiphonal hymn to Christ as to God, . . .
Letter of Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

Welcome back. I hope you found the first lesson in this series helpful, challenging, and fun. And for those just joining us, take a look at the previous post to see the initial study activities.

This week's format is similar to last time, beginning with a few aids to help prepare for the study. Following the preparation section, we'll look at the next two sections of Paul's letter, and we'll interact with a key passage in the study of Christian origins, Philippians 2:6-11, sometimes know as the Hymn of Christ. Pay close attention to these verses as you study this week's text.



The Christian Life/Hymn of Christ - Philippians 1:27 - 2:18
1. In the face of opposition, what would be the evidence of the Philippians’ salvation and the destruction of their enemies?
2. What two privileges has God given the Christians at Philippi?
3. What do these Christians need to do to make Paul’s joy complete? What situation in the church might have precipitated Paul’s request?
4. What does Paul see as the role of humility in this church? How realistic is his advice?
5. If Philippians 2:6-11 is a hymn, what is the story line of the hymn?
6. What examples of Christ devotion do you find in the hymn?
7. What do you understand Paul to mean when he tells the Philippians to “work out their salvation”?
8. What does Paul believe he can boast in on the day of Christ?

Travel Plans - Philippians 2:19 - 2:30
9. How does Paul describe his relationship with Timothy? What is his plan for Timothy?
10. What can you discover about Epaphroditus and his relationship with Paul and with the Philippians?

Comment Question
Consider the role the hymn plays in Paul's letter? What do you think the Philippians would have understood Paul to be saying for their life together? What do you understand him saying to you, his modern reader?

As a springboard for your thoughts, consider the following two charts. Which one best represents the conceptual background of the hymn - Pre-existence (compare with John 1:1-18) or Second Adam (compare with Paul's thinking in Romans 5:12-21).

Other Resources
  • To listen to a performance of the earliest Christian hymn with musical notations, click here.
  • Here is a brief article on the mission and message of Paul by New Testament scholar James Tabor.