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.