A Word in Edgewise

Early Praise for THE DIVINE CHRIST

This week (Dec 2-7, 2017) I’m working through the page proofs for my new book The Divine Christ: Paul, the Lord Jesus, and the Scriptures of Israel (Baker Academic, March 2018).  Not long ago I received word of the cover art for the book which I present here for the first time.The Divine Christ

Recently I have received endorsements from a number of scholars whom I deeply respect.  Here are few of those:

“What is the most amazing thing the New Testament writers do to exalt Jesus of Nazareth? Is it reporting all his ‘I am’ sayings in the Gospel of John or calling him ‘the Messiah, God blessed over all’ in Romans 9:5? Maybe it’s all the ways he is worshiped, starting during his life but especially after his death and resurrection? Perhaps, but when do we consider all the New Testament texts that quote the Old Testament and apply to Jesus what is said about Yahweh, the one and only God of creation? English readers don’t usually think of these passages because we just see the word ‘Lord’ and move on. David Capes leads us on a sleuthing exercise to discover and understand the significance of these passages. Readers will be astounded at how many there are and will be greatly encouraged by what their meanings add up to.”—Craig L. Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

“What does it mean when Paul says ‘Jesus is Lord’? In a clear and engaging style, David Capes takes us to the heart of Paul’s theology, revealing the depth and nuance of this seemingly simple claim by showing how it is shaped by Paul’s Old Testament citations and allusions. Capes extends the conclusions of his seminal work on Paul’s early high Christology and makes the best of contemporary scholarship accessible without getting lost in the weeds. Both beginning students and seasoned scholars will benefit from this valuable work.”—Ben C. Blackwell, assistant professor of Christianity, Houston Baptist University

“In this volume Capes extends the argument he first presented in his important book Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul’s Christology and responds to some recent developments in scholarly discussion. By pressing home useful distinctions and carefully attending to textual and contextual features, Capes elucidates crucial aspects of the earliest and fully divine Christology. This volume sparkles with common sense and judicious judgment, shedding light on a perennially contentious issue. These debates concern matters of great significance, and I am grateful that Capes has once again contributed to these discussions.”—Chris Tilling, senior lecturer in New Testament Studies, St. Mellitus College

“Every generation of students has to struggle anew with complex questions regarding the status and nature of Christ in the New Testament and early Christian thought. Capes proves himself an expert guide through Paul’s Letters, especially Paul’s use of Old Testament texts that apply the divine title ‘Lord’ to Jesus. When Christians called Jesus ‘Lord,’ what did this mean? Did the first Christians consider Jesus divine? How did they conceive of the unique lordship of Jesus in relation to the one God? To this weighty subject Capes brings proven expertise, crystal clarity of expression, and penetrating analysis of interpretations past and present.”—Nijay K. Gupta, associate professor of New Testament, Portland Seminary

“Capes offers a brilliant examination of the meaning of ‘Lord’ in ancient Judaism, in modern scholarship, and in the Pauline Letters. What Capes demonstrates, with acumen and insight, is that Paul was among those who considered Jesus as Lord in the strongest possible sense, and the highest Christology we can imagine was indeed among the earliest. This erudite and learned volume is for anyone interested in the Christology of the early church.”—Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, AustraliaN

Thanks to all these scholars who took time to read the book and take it seriously.

Now . . . back to work . . .

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Biblical Wisdom: Ancient and Relevant

Not long ago I was invited to moderate a panel discussion at the Lanier Theological Library featuring three top Hebrew Bible specialists: Dr. Tremper Longman (Westmont College), Dr. Lawson Younger (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Dr. James Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).  The topic of the symposium was Biblical Wisdom, inspired by Tremper Longman’s new book (The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom, [Baker Academic]).

Mark Lanier, who normally moderates these panel discussions, was out of town and not able to join us.  So I was grateful for the opportunity to work with the panel of experts that day.

Here is a link to the conversation. It was a good introduction to the wisdom tradition in the Old and New Testaments.  Few traditions bring together both Old and New Testaments in a more elegant and personal way.

Christian Women

My friend, colleague, and collaborator in all things good at Wheaton College, Dr. Lynn Cohick, and her former student Amy Hughes have written an important and timely book on the role of many key women in church history in the second to fifth centuries (Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority and Legacy in the Second through Fifth Centuries [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2017]).  It has just been published and I’ve had a chance to read through much of it in digital form.  I’m looking forward to getting my SIGNED copy when I return to Chicago in a couple of weeks. Christian Women book by Cohick and Hughes

When most of us took church history, we were introduced to dozens of men who defended the nascent community and/or led it during tumultuous times.  Names like Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Justin Martryr, Athanasius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine were just a few of the men we studied.  But fortunately the record of many women who defended and led the church still exists, and there are scholars eager to tell their stories.

In their own words this “book will educate readers who are exploring the patristic period about the lives of the most important women from this period, so that their influence can be better integrated into the history of the church.”  And that is the story they tell, a story of integration. They do not silence the men who contributed to the growth and development of the church, but they do correct them in gracious tones. I would characterize their approach to the evidence available as a “charitable feminism,” an advocacy for the role of women in church history as leaders, martyrs, examples in their own right, understood against a culture that in ways were hostile to women who dared to speak outside the private, domestic fear (though the male-public, female-private distinction is often overblown).  Both Cohick and Hughes clearly appreciate the cultural limits placed people living in 1500-1800 years ago.  Few of us have eyes to see beyond our own cultural limits.

If you are interested in church history—particularly the formative centuries that brought Christianity from its status as a persecuted sect to one of the most influential forces in the west—you will want to get and read this book. Don’t think you can claim any expertise in the history of Christianity, if you don’t take into account the contributions of Macrina, Felicitas, Thecla, Perpetua, Egeria, Helena and many others.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy, click here.

Paul: Surprises along the Way

A few weeks ago Mark Lanier invited me to speak to his Sunday School class at Champions Forest Baptist Church.  Mark teaches a class weekly of about 700 people, and I have been privileged to speak there are few times.

On this occasion Mark was doing a series on the apostle Paul, and he asked me to contribute a talk on “Paul: Surprises Along the Way.”  Essentially, Mark asked me to talk about the kinds of things I’ve learned about Paul that I would have never expected.  I have written a couple of books on Paul and it was a delight to spend some time thinking through a few of the surprises.  Each of Mark’s Sunday School classes are recorded and made available on YouTube.  I’ve included a link here, in case you are interested.  The talk is about 45 minutes.

 

Thomas Merton’s Prayer

Thomas Merton may be one of the best known Christian mystics of the 20th century.  He was a Trappist monk who experienced life in period few of us know or remember.  He was born in 1915 and died way too soon, by electricution, in 1968, in Thailand.  He was 53 years old.

Despite his shortened life Merton authored about 70 books.  His words and poetry have had an enduring influence on Christians and others who are delving deeply into the contemplative life. merton-photo

I came across the prayer below the other day. I thought I’d share it with you because we are all on a difficult, spiritual journey and knowing and doing God’s will seems so elusive.  Read it as Merton wrote it, as a contemplative prayer.  I do not know the attribution, that is, where it first appeared in print.  If you can point me that direction, I’d be grateful.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following Your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust You always,
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

 

International Orality Network

One of the most significant movements now in missions and missiology is the orality movement. Orality is the recognition that not all people can read or prefer to read, most of us learn by what we hear.  How often have you turned to watch a YouTube video of how to fix something rather than turning to the written manual?  And you’re a literate person, right?  Or else you couldn’t read this blog.  The orality movement recognizes that most learning throughout most of history has been based on what was heard, said, and—we might add—seen. orality

The International Orality Network is a network of scholars, church leaders, missionaries, evangelists, and business leaders who are rediscovering the power and truth of oral learning and story-telling.  It is truly changing the way we do business, teach, train, and do missions around the world.

Those of us from the text-based world at one time conducted missions this way.  A missionary would arrive in an area of unreached people.  He or she would spend time with people and learn their language.  Then two things had to happen: first, the language would have to be committed to writing; and second, the Scriptures would have to be translated into the target language.  Then the people  would have to be taught how to read before they could read the Scriptures.  Often, because they were in an oral culture, the only thing they had to read or could read were the Scriptures.  Now there is nothing wrong with this strategy; it is a good process.  It has helped to spread the Gospel in many places in the world.  But what if we could shorten the process by recognizing the power of storytelling and orality.  Then the missionary, after learning the language, could selectively begin to tell Bible stories and teach others how to tell those same stories.  As people in the orality movement say, this method is  “simple and reproducible.”

You might think this would work just fine in illiterate cultures but what about cultures that are highly literate like our own.  Good question.  The fact is that many people who can read and write prefer to learn in ways other than by reading a text.   These are called oral preference learners.  They may be living next door or in your own house.  I don’t know the exact numbers but there is a larger percentage of college graduates who never read a book after college (I’m not sure they read a book in college).  And the Bible is a big book.  People may read short items: webpages, blogs, newspaper articles, but getting them interested in a book with over 780,000 words, not likely to happen.

Orality offers us a significant step forward in sharing the gospel and living the gospel.  In the great commission Jesus instructed his followers to go, make disciples through baptizing and teaching others all that Jesus had taught them.  And what was Jesus’ preferred teaching method? (trick question) . . . orality. Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, pastors, educators, missionaries, and heads of charitable organizations across the world are learning the power of orality.   Pastors are changing their preaching to contain more orality and it is transforming their preaching.  An orality training event may be coming to your city soon.  If so, go and take part.  It is fun and exciting to HEAR what God is up to.

According to Mark

I recently had the privilege of teaching a class for Mark Lanier at Champions Forest Baptist Church.  My topic was “According to Mark” and I spent most of the time on the first 14-15 verses of the Gospel.  It sets the tone for how to read the rest of the story.  Thanks to Mark Lanier for the opportunity.