The Tragic Event in Charleston and Loving Your Enemies

In light of the tragic events in Charleston last week the question we’ve been considering seems all the more relevant.  A group of faithful Christians gathered in prayer and Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday evening in Charleston.  They welcomed into their circle a young white man, 21 years old.  They probably thought he was there to find some answers.  But he was there on a mission.Charleston shooting

When the hour was up, the young man pulled out a 45 caliber handgun and began shooting.  According to reports, he shouted racial slurs and reloaded his handgun five times.  In the end nine people were dead, families would be changed forever, and a city and state and nation would be plunged into grief.

The young man jumped into his car and fled the scene.  The police captured him the next morning after his father, having recognized his son in the surveillance photographs, turned him in.  He and his family were devastated by what his son had done.

Initial reports indicate that the young man wanted to incite some sort of race war.  He wanted to set the world ablaze after several years of high-profile, racially-charged events in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore.

How do you love an enemy in a situation like this? What does  it mean to love the young man so troubled he thought it right to kill nine innocent worshipers on a Wednesday night?  If you really want to be a follower of Jesus, then you have to take what he said seriously in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-45):

43 You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.[e] 44 But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you— 45 in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven.He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner.

On Friday several members of the victim’s families had a chance to address the shooter directly.  Through tears and cracked voices these amazing, salt-of-the-earth people offered the young man prayer and forgiveness.  How could they so quickly speak  a redemptive, healing word?  I don’t know exactly. I believe, however, it was God’s work in them.

On Thursday the nation and the world woke up to unthinkable news; the young man bore witness to rage, racism, and hatred.  On Friday these family members wanted to bear witness to something greater: God’s love and grace.

Rediscovering Jesus

In a few weeks I have book coming out with InterVarsity Press.  It is called Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ.  I co-authored it along with Randy Richards and Rodney Reeves.  Back in 2007 we co-authored a book of a similar title on Paul.  Rediscovering Jesus

I was interested to see how Amazon.com described it.  Here is the description:

Who is your Jesus? Matthew’s teacher? John’s Word made flesh? Hebrews’ great high priest? What if it turned out that your Jesus is a composite of your favorite selections from the New Testament buffet, garnished with some Hollywood and Americana? Rediscovering Jesus takes us on a gallery tour of biblical portraits of Jesus, from Matthew through Revelation. Our expert guides point out the background and highlights of each New Testament image of Jesus. Then we hit the streets to visit other houses of worship and their scriptures, examining the Jesus of the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an. Popping into a bookstore, we browse the latest on the Gnostic and the historical Jesus. Then we’re off on a walking tour of Jesus in America, followed by a film festival of Jesus movies. All along the way our tour guides describe and interpret, but also raise questions: How is this Jesus different from other portraits? If this were our only portrait of Jesus, what would our faith be like? Rediscovering Jesus is an enjoyable, informative and challenging look at how we encounter Jesus in Scripture and our culture. With ample sidebars exploring contexts and the “so what?” questions, it takes us beyond other surveys by probing how our understanding of Jesus can make a difference for faith and life. From the authors of Rediscovering Paul, this is a textbook introduction to Jesus that guides us in our pilgrimage toward seeing Jesus truly.

Not a bad description of the book.  It is intended as a textbook for a sophomore class in college, but the way we’ve written it should make it accessible to interested lay people.  It should be out later this summer.  The release date is in August. If you’re interested it it, here a link to the amazon site:

REDISCOVERING JESUS

If you prefer, you can copy and paste the URL:

http://www.amazon.com/Rediscovering-Jesus-Introduction-Religious-Perspectives/dp/0830824723/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434462200&sr=8-1&keywords=Rediscovering+Jesus

Rediscovering Jesus

Professor Craig Evans Joins the Faculty at HBU

The announcement was made yesterday, Tuesday June 9, 2015, that Dr. Craig Evans will join the faculty of Houston Baptist University in January 2016.  Here is the official announcement:

http://www.hbu.edu/About-HBU/General-Information/HBU-in-the-News/Press-Releases/2015/June/Dr-Craig-Evans-named-the-John-Bisagno-Distinguishe.aspx

Craig has been a friend for a number of years, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of him being a part of our faculty.  He will add a great deal of expertise to the School of Christian Thought at HBU.  His current post is at Acadia Divinity School in Nova Scotia.  He will find the Houston winters much more agreeable, but he will definitely have to get used to the heat!  Welcome, Dr. Evans!Craig Evans

Reading Backwards: Toward a Figural Christology

Recently I had the privilege of serving on a panel discussion at the Lanier Theological Library.  The topic of the seminar was “Reading Backwards: the Old Testament in the New.”

Other panelists included

Richard Hays, Dean of Duke Divinity School/ Professor of New Testament

Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College

Carey Newman, Director of Baylor University Press

Mark Lanier served as the moderator of the panel.

Here is a link to the video:

http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/seminar-videos-2/

The audio on the file is hard to listen to at points.  Still it is worth the effort!

Jesus in the Canonical and Gnostic Gospels

Recently, I had an opportunity to be on a panel discussion with Simon Gathercole, Peter Davids, and David Chapman.  The topic is “Jesus in the Canonical and Gnostic Gospels.”  The seminar took place in the beautiful chapel at the Lanier Theological Library.  Mark Lanier, the founder of the library, served as moderator or should I say cross-examiner.

Here is a link to the video: Jesus in the Canonical and Gnostic Gospels

If this does not work, please paste the following URL in your web-browser:

http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/seminar-videos-2/

A Show of Faith

You may not know but I have co-hosted a radio show in Houston on a secular station for the past 12 years.  It is called “A Show of Faith” and it airs weekly Sunday evenings 7.00 to 9.00 pm (Central) on AM 1070 KNTH The Answer.  It is part of the Salem Network.  I co-host along with a priest and a rabbi.  I know . . . I know . . . it sounds like a joke: “A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walked into a radio station . . . ”  But it’s no joke.  We’ve been on the air longer than most radio shows.

The mission of the show is to talk about events in the news from the perspectives of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.  We also have guests representing other faiths: Islam, Buddhism, atheism, Hinduism, etc.  A secondary mission is to show that it is possible to be friends across faiths. Recently, a new friend Matt Walker did a video for us.  Below is a link to the YouTube version.  It gives you a sense of what the show is about.

A Show of Faith

If the link does not work, then copy and paste this URL into your web brower:

Are Print Books a Thing of the Past . . . Like Scrolls?

Before the birth of the Christian movement, scrolls were the book-form used by most if not all people.  Scrolls, also known as rolls, were pages sewn or glued together end-to-end to create a long roll, sometimes up to 35 feet long.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are probably the best known and most significant collection of ancient scrolls, but rolls continued in use for 500 years after the birth of Jesus, mostly among non-Christian groups.scrolls

The codex form of the book was invented in the first century about the time Paul was crossing Asia Minor and planting churches in Macedonia and Achaia (modern Greece).  The codex form is the kind of book we use today with individual pages stacked and sewn together along the same edge.  We don’t know exactly who invented the codex, but we do know Christians popularized it and used it for most of their books for the first five hundred years.  With a  couple of exceptions the Greek manuscripts we have of the New Testament from the earliest centuries are written on codex.

Scholars have proposed a number of reasons why Christians adopted the codex book-form. First, codices (the plural of codex) are easier to use than scrolls.  If you want to see something at the end of a scroll, you have to unroll it first. With a codex, you can simply open up the stack to find the right place.  Second, scrolls were written only on the inside which wastes half the space.  A codex is written on the front and back of each leaf.  This makes better use of the pages.  Remember, paper wasn’t available to them so they wrote on papyrus, sheets made of a plant material, or on parchment, sheets made of a well prepared animal skin (the soft underbelly of a goat, cow, or ibex).  Both were expensive writing materials.  There is good evidence that the earliest Christians were poor so they wanted to use every square inch of the writing materials they could get their hands on.  Third, the codex form may help distinguish Christian books from Jewish books.  The Christian movement was started by Jews for Jews (Jesus was a Jew and all his disciples were too!).  But when more and more outsiders (non-Jews) entered the Church, tensions grew and eventually there was a parting of the ways. Judaism became one religion, Christianity another.  At first, there was no real need to distinguish these communities, but as time went on both Jews and Christians wanted to find ways to distinguish themselves from each other.  The scroll and codex form may have been part of that.  codex

For the first 1500 years of Christian history all books were hand-copied.  With the invention of the printing press (around 1450) books could be produced mechanically.  That presented a huge shift in culture.  Hand-copied books took a long time to create, were very expensive, and had variations in them.  A machine-produced book could be printed quicker, were less costly, and had fewer variations.

In the last decade of the 20th century another huge shift took place as digital technology became less expensive and more available.  Today you probably read on computers, a Kindle, a smart phone, or a tablet.  These digital technologies have made books even cheaper, easier to carry around with you, and more available.  When we started work on The Voice Bible project we were all well aware we’d create print copies and digital versions.  I read The Voice in paper sometimes.  My students read it on their smart phones in class.  I often research and write on the computer using www.biblegateway.com, which has The Voice translation (as well as many others).  Exactly where this is all headed it is hard to say.  Some have predicted the end of print books (that is, the codex form).  Others aren’t so sure.

Michael Hyatt, former president of Thomas Nelson Publishing, is a digital guru I like to follow. Hyatt  thinks for many applications and kinds of reading print books are still the best format and will endure.  In a recent article he acknowledges there are good reasons scientifically to continue to use paper books.  Here is a link to his on-line article:

http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=52d5c7778a3adfda535c3b349&id=93dec8a7d3&e=f2d6b7394f

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