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Richard Bauckham to Deliver A. O. Collins Lectures, HBU

A.O. Collins Lectures

Featured Guest: Professor Richard Bauckham

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 7.00 pm, Belin Chapel

The School of Christian Thought is pleased to announce that Professor Richard Bauckham will deliver the A. O. Collins Lecture for fall 2013.bauckham

 Professor Bauckham’s title for this lecture is: “Mark’s Topography: The Cognitive Map of a Capernaum Fisherman”

The geographical information in Mark’s Gospel, especially about Galilee, has often been thought to be confused and certainly presents some problems. The lecture uses the idea of a ‘mental map.’ The way we construct our spatial environment in our minds is very different from the maps we see on paper or on screen. A close look at Mark’s geography shows that it makes very good sense if it reflects the mental map of a Galilean fisherman based in Capernaum.

A Brief Biography:

Richard Bauckham was until recently Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor in the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is now Professor Emeritus at St Andrews.  He was born in London in 1946, and educated at Downhills and Merryhills primary schools and Enfield Grammar School. He then studied at Cambridge, where he read history at Clare College (gaining a B.A. Honours degree, first class, and a Ph.D.), and was a Fellow of St John’s College for three years.  After teaching theology for one year at the University of Leeds, he taught historical and contemporary theology for fifteen years at the University of Manchester, before moving to St Andrews in 1992.  He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He retired in 2007 in order to concentrate on research and writing, and is Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he does some teaching for the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. He is also a Visiting Professor at St Mellitus College, London. From 1996 to 2002 he was General Editor of the Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series. He is an Anglican (but not ordained), and was a member of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England for some years. In 2009 he was awarded the Michael Ramsey prize for his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, and in 2010 the Franz-Delitzsch-Award for a volume of collected essays, The Jewish World around the New Testament. He has traveled widely giving lectures and conference papers. Though his permanent home is now in Cambridge, he returns to St Andrews frequently. When he can find the time, he writes poetry, and has also written two children’s story books about the MacBears of Bearloch (published on his website: http://richardbauckham.co.uk/).

His published works include:

  • Jesus and the God of Israel (Eerdmans, 2008)
  • Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2008)
  • Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (T & T Clark, 2000)
  • 2 Peter, Jude in Word Biblical Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1983)
  • The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John (Baker, 2007)
  • The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge, 1983)

The lecture will be held in Belin Chapel in the Morris Cultural Arts Center on the campus of Houston Baptist University.

The A. O. Collins lectures began in 1993 with the goal of bringing recognized scholars to address the university community in current trends in theology, religious studies and philosophy.  The series is named for Dr. A. O. Collins who chaired HBU’s Department of Christianity and Philosophy until his retirement in 1990. Over the last two decades, due to the generosity of former students and friends of the university, top scholars from around the world have lectured on our campus on a wide range of topics on religion and philosophy.

Some of our past lecturers have included:

Dr. James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Dr. Charles Talbert, Baylor University

Dr. Ellen T. Charry, Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University

Dr. Alan Segal, Barnard College, Columbia University

Dr. Samuel Proctor, Duke University

Dr. John Howard Yoder, University of Notre Dame

Dr. James W. McClendon, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Michael J. Gorman, St. Mary’s Seminary

Dr. Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh

Please join us for this lecture.  It is an important event for our campus and community.  Should you have questions, please contact the acting chair of the Department of Theology, Dr. Ben Blackwell, at 281-649-3000.



Paul and Scripture (Part 2)

Scripture in Paul’s Day

We have used “Scripture” and “Old Testament” interchangeably.  That is because the books Paul called “Scripture” are roughly equivalent to what we call today the “Old Testament.”  The phrase “Old Testament” is, of course, a Christian expression inspired by Paul’s discourse (2 Cor 3:14).  Many scholars refer to this collection today as the Hebrew Bible because of the pejorative connotation of  “old” in OT.  But Paul didn’t use either expression; he used the word graphē (translated “writings” or “Scripture”) to refer to the collected, sacred writings of Israel. rembrandt-saint-paul-in-prison

Paul encountered the Scripture primarily in the synagogue.  The synagogue served not only as a center for worship; it also provided the meeting place for boys and men to study Torah.  Literary references in the period to Scripture refer to the law, prophets and the rest of the books (see the prologue to Sirach).  This indicates that the threefold division of the present Hebrew Bible has ancient roots.  Since the Scripture was written in Hebrew, Aramaic-speaking Jews needed it translated into their language.  These translations took place at first informally after the Hebrew text was read in the synagogue.  Later generations of Jews formalized these translations and codified them in the Aramaic targums.  A similar procedure likely produces the Greek versions that distill eventually in the Septuagint (LXX), the standardized Greek Old Testament version used by early Christians.[1] 

Close analysis of Paul’s quotations and allusions to Scripture demonstrate that the apostle depends more heavily on Greek versions than Hebrew.  Although he referred to himself as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Phil 3:5), the fact that he writes his letters in Greek may account for some of his dependence on the Greek versions.  An earlier generation of scholars addressed the issue of whether Paul’s OT citations were closer to the Hebrew masoretic text or the Greek Septuagint.  They assumed that Paul drew from standardized Greek and Hebrew texts.  The variations in the quotations from those standardized texts were interpreted as memory lapses or Paul’s interpretive comments.  Recent work has set aside this working assumption and shown that the Hebrew and Greek biblical texts were not standardized at this time.  In particular, the biblical manuscripts founds among the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit the fluidity of the textual tradition within a single community’s library.[2]

When quoting Scripture explicitly, Paul often uses a variety of introductory formulae.  Here are several examples:

 “it is written” (gegraptai)        29 times

“the Scripture says”                6 times

“for it is written in the law of Moses” (1 Cor 9:9)

“as it is written . . . and again it says . . . and again . . .  and again Isaiah says” (Rom 15:9-12)

“and David says” (Rom 11:9)

“first Moses says . . . then Isaiah also says boldly” (Rom 10:19-21)

“now the righteousness from faith speaks in this way” (Rom 10:6)

Obviously there is no one way Paul introduces a scriptural citation.  In some cases there is no introductory formula even when quoting a passage explicitly (e.g., 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 3:11-12).  Parallels to Paul’s introductory formulae in later rabbinic texts suggest that the apostle’s practice of quoting Scripture is not unique.  He stands within the stream of Jewish exegesis.[3]

[1] The Letter of Aristeas is a legendary account of the origins of the Septuagint.  It tells the tale of seventy scholars summoned to Alexandria by the king to produce a systematic translation of the Pentateuch in the 3rd century BC.   It is more likely that the Greek Old Testament developed in three phases: (1) extemporaneous oral renderings of the Hebrew into Greek are (2) later standardized before they are (3) written down.  Even after being written down, however, the textual tradition remains fluid.  Perhaps a fourth phase is the standardization of the written text.

[2] For example, E. C. Ulrich,”The Qumran Biblical Scrolls—The Scriptures of Late Second Temple Judaism,” in T. H. Lim (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls in their Historical Context (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2000), pp. 67-87.

[3] Ellis, 48.

Paul and Scripture (pt. 1)

Paul’s theology developed in large part due to charismatic exegesis, i.e., Spirit-inspired interpretations and proclamations of Israel’s sacred Scripture.  For the apostle the gospel of Christ fulfills God’s promises to Israel.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are “according to Scripture” (1 Cor 15:3-8).  This does not mean that the OT predicts the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah.  It does mean that Paul finds the story of Jesus a compelling climax to God’s covenant with his people.  In this sense all of Scripture finds it focus in the man from Nazareth.St. Paul 

Paul is a man immersed in Scripture.  He speaks its language.  He thinks, hopes and imagines in its symbols.  He writes his letters with it resonating in his ear.  Like a tuning fork it provides for him pitch, even as he produces the timbre.  He situates his discourses within the symbolic world created by Israel’s sacred texts. But already these Scriptures are awash in intertextuality with fragments of earlier stories echoing in the later chambers of sacred words and promises.   Paul continues the intertextual practices of his ancestors in faith, extending Scripture beyond their day to his own, finding its fullness in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s considered the Scriptures “holy” and prophetic (Rom 1:2).  They are the oracles of God entrusted to Israel (Rom 3:1-2).  He proclaims that all Scripture is God-breathed and beneficial for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).  He appeals to Scripture at key moments as the final word (Galatians 3-4).  When God speaks, that settles the matter.

When writing to his churches, Paul used the OT in three ways: (1) quotations, (2) allusions and (3) appropriations of theological themes. Some of these are intentional; others appear to be unintentional.  But this is what you would expect from someone steeped in Scripture.  Although it is not possible to distinguish accurately between a quotation and an allusion, most scholars have concluded that Paul cites the OT approximately ninety to one hundred times in his extant letters.  He quotes from sixteen books altogether, but mostly from the Pentateuch, Psalms and Isaiah.  The majority of his citations are found in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians.  Allusions to Scripture are more numerous; sometimes just a few words can conjure up the appropriate biblical image for Paul to make his point.  There are some letters without explicit citations; still one finds echoes of scriptural themes and appropriations of biblical imagery in nearly all the apostles correspondence.


Busy Isn’t a Virtue

In the January-February edition of Relevant magazine (relevantmagazine.com) there is an article by Christine and Adam Jeske entitled “13 Signs You Need to Get Unstuck.”  Number 7 in their 13 signs is this: “Your Standard Response to, “How Are You? Includes the Word ‘Busy.’”  Their article got me thinking about several things but especially about a problem which I think many of us have.  Whether we are “busy” or not—and we usually are—that has become everyone’s stock response.  How many times have you told someone you’re “busy” in the last week or heard others say they are “busy”?  I know I have.  It seems like we are addicted to busy-ness.busy image

We treat busy as if it is some virtue, but it is not.  Drug dealers and sex-traffickers can be busy.  So can health care workers and CEOs. But busy is not a virtue. In fact, it can be a real problem for our souls if we think somehow our worth is tied up with how busy we are.  Are we trying to justify our existence or our value?  Are we trying to underscore that we have skills that in short supply?  As Christine and Adam point out, we are all expendable, the sooner we realize that the better.

The real virtues, the real excellence of life, are found in other things.  Aristotle set the course for ethics when he defined the virtues as a balance between deficiency and excess.  The four cardinal virtues are: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice.  The Church over the centuries added to this number three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love (see 1 Corinthians 13). As you read carefully through the Scriptures, you will come across various lists of virtues.  Nowhere will “busy” be listed among them.  Here’s an example.  Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Do you see “busy” in there.  No.  I didn’t think so. Virtue, not busy-ness, is where true excellence and value are found.

The answer to our addiction to busy-ness involves repentance.  The Greek word which translates “repentance” means literally, “a change of mind.”  In other words, we have to change the way we think about these matters. We must realize that busy-ness can and will kill you physically and spiritually.  We must confess to God and ourselves that our true value is not found in how much we accomplish but in becoming a person “conformed to the image of  [God’s] Son” (Romans 8:29). We must create sacred times and spaces to rest and live according to a different rhythm.  The Scriptures call this “the Sabbath.” Take a nap. Read something just for fun. Go for a walk. Share a meal with a friend. Take a real vacation.  Your work—for yourself, for your boss, and for God—will become more meaningful and productive if you learn to live into a restful rhythm of life.  A friend of mine says it this way (pardon the alliteration): divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.  The point is this: God made us to rest regularly in order to be at our best as we partner with Him in the ongoing work of creation.

The next time someone asks you, “How are you?” Resist the temptation to justify your existence by saying , “Oh, I’m busy . . . “  Instead, break the cycle of addiction and try some other response like, “I’m learning to rest.” 

What do you think is the best response to the question: “How are you?”



Apple Pie

In The Story of The Voice (Thomas Nelson, 2013) I discuss certain features of the translation philosophy behind The Voice Bible.  In chapter 4 I deal with the claim that some translations are “word-for-word” while others are “thought-for-thought.”  This seems to be a straightforward and clear way of classifying translations, but there are many difficulties in attempting to draw any kind of strict line between a word and a thought.  After all, a word is a merely a thought that has been expressed.  I won’t go into the full argument here, but there is a side of it I’d like to talk about.Apple_pie

A word, as you know, has a meaning or a range of meanings, what linguists call “the semantic field.”  A word like “run” provides a good case in point.  In American English you can run a race, run a program, run for office, run a fever, run behind (be late), run amuck (go wild), and be run over.  In the long run or the short run, you can run afoul of the law.  After you run an errand, you can build a dog run in your backyard.  If you wish to run up to New York, make sure your ship doesn’t run aground. If you do, you will likely run into debt. Your favorite team may score the winning run in the last inning. In any case, time is running out for me to make my point. 

Here’s the point; every word has a dictionary meaning, often referred to as a denotation.  But every word or phrase also has a connotation, that is, associations that come along with that word.  Everyone who grew up speaking English knows the difference, for example, between a house and a home. No one has ever seen a sign saying “house sweet house.”  Any serious attempt to translate from one language to another must take into account not only the denotation of the word or phrase; it must also come to grips with its connotation.

I was talking about this recently at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City with students and faculty.  As we were discussing this issue, one of the people mentioned “apple pie.”  I immediately thought: “Brilliant!” Here is why.  Apple pie may be one of many tasty options on the desert menu, but it is the only desert item so closely associated with America.  The phrase “as American as apple pie” says it all.  The denotation of apple pie is clear. Apple pie is a baked food filled with sweetened apples and cinnamon surrounded by a crust.  But the connotation of apple pie goes far beyond a tasty desert.  Apple pie suggests America, family traditions, good times, everything good and decent about our country.  

As we worked to translate The Voice Bible, we tried to understand not only the meanings of words (denotations) but their associations (connotations) as well.  This is challenging because it means taking into account not only modern, cultural meanings but ancient ones as well.  Let me give a brief example, but there are many more described in The Story of The Voice. 

Take the word “love.”  It is an important word in the Bible.  In the modern world “love” is primarily associated with feelings. Love expresses what we like or whom we are attracted to.  We use the word “love” in many contexts like: “I love my wife”; “I love my job”; “I love my laptop”; “I love my car.” What we mean by all these loves is quite different.  At least I hope it is.

When we come to the Bible, however, the word “love” is not feelings-oriented but action-oriented.  Love expresses what a person does out of care and concern for another.  Consider John 3:16.  Most translations render it: “For God so loved the world, . . .”  Now this is a perfectly good translation of the meaning of the word, but does it capture the connotation. A modern person might tend to think that God had a warm, fuzzy feeling toward the world and that is why he sent His Son.  I’ve even heard sermons which said this.  But that reading seems to miss John’s point.  John 3:16 is about the action God took to express that love not the feeling that led to the action.  Again, love in the biblical period is action- not feeling-oriented.  This is why we chose to translate John 3:16 this way: 

For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.

John’s point—and it is not controversial—is that God has chosen in history to act in the best interests of those He has created by sending His Son.  In a covenant sense, God’s action constitutes God’s love.  Because love is action-oriented and not a feeling, love must be expressed.  Had God not acted, we would not know whether or not He loved. In fact, it would not be wrong to say, had God not acted, He would not have loved. 

As long as we read the word “love” in the Bible in some modern, sentimental way, we will be hard-pressed to capture much of what Scripture is trying to tell us.  If we will stop and consider not only the denotation (what a word means) but also its connotation (all of its relevant associations) we have a good chance of reading the Bible for all its worth.  A translation can go far in helping us draw these subtle but important distinctions, but there is no substitute for good, old fashioned study.

I think I’ll have a piece of apple pie.     

The Curse of the Law

There is a phrase in Galatians 3.13 which is often misunderstood:

 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree– . . . “ (RSV)

The phrase I’d like to consider is “the curse of the law.”  What did Paul mean by it?  How did/does Christ redeem us from it?  All this talk of blessing and curses probably strikes you as kind of strange.Torah scroll

Well, let’s back up to consider the broader context of the letter. 

Not long after Paul left the churches he founded in Galatia false teachers moved in and started teaching a form of the gospel which was not good news at all. These false brothers were insisting that non-Jews live like Jews in order to get in on the benefits of Christ.  What does it mean to live like a Jew?  Well, several things.  They would have to observe Sabbath as a day of rest, keep certain dietary rules and regulations, celebrate Jewish holidays, promise to uphold all of God’s law, which included men being circumcised.  Paul referred to these as “the works of the law.”

When Paul heard his churches had been infiltrated by these Judaizers (as we call them), he fired off the letter we call “Galatians.”  His essential argument is this: no one—Jew or Gentile—is put into a right and proper relationship with God by doing “the works of the law.” Instead, the faithfulness of Jesus has made it possible for those who put faith in Jesus to be made right with God.

In Galatians 3 Paul argues that faith all along has been what made rightness with God a reality.  It started with Abraham and his covenant.  It’s evident in the message of the prophets as well.  Those who trust in “the works of the law”—remember, dietary rules, Sabbath observance, circumcision—soon find they are living contrary to the law.  For Paul, it is clear the law is not the means of salvation. To try to make the law into something it was never intended is foolish.  The law does not justify.  It never did.  It was never meant to. 

So here is where our phrase “the curse of the law” comes in.  Jesus, God’s Anointed, has redeemed us from the curse of the law.  What did Paul mean?  To some degree it depends on what “of” means? You need to know that the word “of” is not found in Greek.  It is commonly supplied in English to express the relationship between two words (e.g., the love of God, the friend of sinners, the rock of ages).  In Galatians 3 the words are “curse” and “law.” So what is their relationship? In large measure it has to do with how the Greek genitive case—now I’m getting really technical—is interpreted.  Let’s start with what Paul did not mean.  Paul did not mean that the entire law is a curse.  That would be what is known as an epexegetical use of the genitive.  So: “Christ redeemed us from the curse, namely, the law, . . . “ Some have taken this approach and unfortunately missed Paul’s point altogether.  No Pharisee like Paul would have ever thought of the law as a curse.  If you want to know what Jews like Paul thought of the law, read Psalm 119.  The longest chapter in the Bible is a celebration of the law, its goodness and its benefits.  After that, notice that even before he came to Christ Paul felt confident before God precisely because he was  blameless before the law (Philippians 3:4-6). I think we can safely rule out the epexegetical genitive.  Well the best candidate for understanding what “of” is may be found in the partitive genitive.  The partitive genitive expresses the relationship between a part and a whole.  For example, in the phrase “one of my friends”.  The set is “my friends.” The subset is “one.”  The “one” is part of a whole, “my friends.”  This is probably the best way to read the phrase “the curse of the law.”  The set is “the law.” The subset is “curse.”  The phrase “the curse of the law” could be rendered “the part of the law that pronounces curses.”

“OK,” I can hear you saying, “now in English.”  If you haven’t noticed, there are places in the law—especially Deuteronomy 27-28 (part of the law)—where curses are pronounced against those who violate the terms of the covenant.  Ancient treaties and covenants always included a list of blessings and curses, announcing what would happen if one party kept or broke their promises.  It’s much the same today in modern contracts when a lawyer spells out the trouble you’ll be in if you violate the agreement you made.  In those days the penalties for breaking a promise were called “curses.” I suggest the best way to read Galatians 3:13 is this way: Now Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, has redeemed us from that curse-part of the law. How? He did it by becoming a curse for us, that is, becoming subject to the law that said “everyone who hangs on a tree is under the curse of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Since Jesus hung on the cross, he fell under the curse. Now how did the cursed one—Jesus—liberate us from the part of the law that pronounces curses?  In a word, resurrection.  When God raised Jesus from the dead, he vindicated him as His Messiah and effectively reversed the curse, not just the single curse which affected Jesus but the entire system of curses which affected all of humanity.  In the resurrection Jesus became the curse-buster. As a result, the curses associated with the first covenant have been rendered null and void through Christ’s faithfulness. This apparently had been God’s purpose all along.GhostbustersLogoLarge

I’ve met Christians who question why we read the Old Testament.  “The New Testament has all we need,” they say.  “Jesus did away with ‘the curse of the law.’”  Well, yes and no.  He did away with that part of the law that pronounces curses, but he didn’t do away with honor your father and mother, or do not steal, or do not murder.  He didn’t do away with love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  In fact, Jesus repeats these directives, affirms them, and makes them central to his own teaching.  Yes, Jesus reversed the curse so that blessing might extend to all people who put faith in Him.  But the law in all its beauty and goodness remains.