Archive for the ‘Biblical Studies’ Category

I have been reading David Parker’s rather interesting volume An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts and in the introduction to the book he makes the following statement which I found quite amusing given the recent hubbub about a supposed 1st century fragment of Mark.

At this point I would like to avow my intention to make no further reference to a number of documents or theories which, although they are sometimes used in text-critical arguments, I do not accept as reasonable. They are: first, the Secret Gospel of Mark, which I have never believed to have been genuine; second, the Gospel of Barnabas as anything other than a late medieval text dependent on other medieval texts of interest to students of Christian-Islamic dialogue; third, the claim that there are New Testament manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls; fourth, all extravagant claims that any New Testament manuscripts known to us were written in the first century [emphasis mine]. (pg 8)

I think that unless Wallace produces some strong evidence to the contrary it will remain appropriate to relegate such claims to the same status as the three obviously baseless theories mentioned above.


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Cool Resource

Harvard University Extension School has a website where they have essentially posted the lectures from online courses for free public consumption.

Harvard open courses feature video of Harvard faculty. The following noncredit free Harvard courses are offered online by Harvard Extension School’s Open Learning Initiative. Featuring Harvard faculty, the courses are open to the public.

  • Intensive Introduction to Computer Science
  • The Heroic and the Anti-Heroic in Classical Greek Civilization
  • Bits: The Computer Science of Digital Information
  • Shakespeare After All
  • China: Traditions and Transformations
  • World War and Society in the Twentieth Century: World War II
  • Sets, Counting, and Probability
  • Abstract Algebra

Of particular interest is the course titled, “The Heroic and the Anti-Heroic in Classical Greek Civilization.” Enjoy.

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Jim West has a contest to give away a copy of the Ephesians/Galatians volume of the totally awesome and new IVP Reformation Commentary on Scripture. Check it out. Depraved individuals need not apply.

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A couple years ago, I attended my very first meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans. As I was meandering through the hallways in search of interesting sessions, my attention was drawn by a colorful poster placed upon a board which was in use for the poster sessions. It took about .002 nanoseconds to figure out that some whack-job had hijacked the poster session board. I meant to blog on it then, but I forgot
about it until some particularly ridiculous bit of dilettantish behavior mentioned on Scotteriology reminded me of it. Anyway, I bring to your attention ladies and gentlemen: Prismatic Theology. What is Prismatic Theology you might ask, and the answer is about what you’d expect. From the about page:

[W]hile my husband and I drove from Tulsa, OK to Eureka Springs, AR the unexpected happened! It was a beautiful Fall day and the foliage in the Ozark Mountains was particularly brilliant …yellow, orange, red, purple and green leaves dotted the hillsides! But something other than the colorful leaves caught my attention. An image appeared between the windshield of our car and my mind’s eye. The vision that I saw was an organizational structure for ministry. It was in the shape of a square and it looked like a fishing net which had the colors of the rainbow woven into its structure.

The vision came to me from beyond myself and I have no rational explanation for it. The only thing that I can say for certain is that the vision came with a complete understanding of how ‘The Net’ was to function. Moreover the new knowledge was instantaneous and could not be un-learned…During the next four years,1996 – 2000, I experienced a continuous supernatural influx of instruction. At times the intensity of the teaching and the amount of information was beyond what I thought I could handle. I begged for a respite but no rest came until Oct, 2000. By the end of the four year period of time however I had an awareness of three tools for ministry here on earth: A Clock, a Key, and a Net![emphasis original].

Ok, so she had a vision, but what on earth does prismatic theology even mean? From what I can tell, she seems to have haphazardly applied her vision to a variety of random things in the Bible. For example: The creation story in Genesis 1 should not be understood as linear, but rather as circular…because color wheels are round…or something. Unexplained prophetic vision? Color wheels to the rescue! Her application of the color wheel often breaks down into incoherent rambling:

It is unlikely that the wheel was successfully used in ancient times as a means of measuring time relative to the 24-hour measurement. However through the gift of hindsight, a synchronization of ‘bible-time’ and ‘earth-time’ becomes possible. The entire wheel accounts for the counter-clock-wise passage of 8,400 years of which 6,000+ years have elapsed and 2,100+ remain.

What? At least there are plenty of nifty colorful pictures. If you think the climax of absurdity has been reached, get ready to be blown away. She has presented this crap at SBL!

When my research was complete, I joined the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion in order to present my research. I wanted the scholarly community to listen to the information and either tell me that I was crazy; laugh me off of the planet; or help me understand why the insights couldn’t possibly be accurate. But no one laughed. And after several years of presenting academic papers I’m still on the planet. A few scholars commented on the ‘unconventional nature of the wisdom’ saying, “I’ve never thought about this” or “I’ve never seen anything like this.”  But no one told me that the conclusions I offer cannot possibly be accurate.

I’m all about sunshine and kindness, but for the love of Pete why didn’t anyone say, “Yes madam, you are indeed crazy.” The fact that no one did so is allowing her to trade on the name of the SBL. Her website lists her “academic papers presented within the Society of Biblical Literature” including three regional meetings and a national meeting. I’m no fan of censorship, but who is letting this woman into their sessions? Do her abstracts sound distinctly less crazy or something?

Carol, if you are reading this, I have no desire to hurt your feelings, but what you are doing is not scholarship. It does not belong at SBL, and you shouldn’t be hawking DVDs about it on the internet. If you are really interested in Biblical Studies, I suggest that you seek training from an accredited institution of higher learning or contact someone who has had such training and ask for a list of books to read.

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I’m continuing to work through the fantastic Apostolic Fathers: An Introduction edited by Wilhelm Pratscher, and one of the truly fantastic parts of this book is that every chapter has a section on intertextuality. Besides being a generally fascinating subject, it is important for how we conceive of Christianity in the earliest of the early church. In the chapter on 1 Clement written by Andreas Lindemann, the relationship between 1 Clement and Hebrews is briefly explored:

The special similarity between 1Clem [sic] and Hebrews was recognized even in the early church. Eusebius writes (HEIII 38.1-3) that the fact that the author of 1Clem cites Hebrews means that Hebrews cannot be a “young” text; he also refers to the similarity of style and thought. Origen concluded from [i.e. according to] Eus VI 25.14 that people saw Clement of Rome (or even Luke) as the author of Hebrews. (pg. 59)

The section of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History Lindemann refers to is specifically dealing with what Origen has argued about the nature and authorship of the scriptures. It contains some interesting features like the claim of Matthean priority and the denial of the authenticity of 2 Peter. The section referred to above says:

11. In addition he makes the following statements in regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews in his Homilies upon it: “That the verbal style of the epistle entitled ‘To the Hebrews,’ is not rude like the language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself ‘rude in speech’ but that its diction is purer Greek, any one who has the power to discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.
12. Moreover, that the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged apostolic writings, any one who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit.”
13. Farther on he adds: “If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s.
14. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it.” But let this suffice on these matters. (Schaff, Eus VI 25.11-14)

Lindemann continues:

To be sure, neither agreement by citation nor other references to the text allow for the assumption of a direct literary relationship. But the similarity of 1Clem 36.2-5 to Hebrews 1:3-5, 7, 13 is so great that the use of Hebrews by 1Clem must still be considered possible.

Placing the texts side by side the similarity is obvious.

1 Clement 36.2-5

Hebrews 1:3-5, 7, 13

2By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvelous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge, who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.3 For it is thus written, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.

4 But concerning His Son the Lord spoke thus: Thou art my Son, today have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.

5 And again He saith to Him, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.

3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?

7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.”

13 But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

Ante-Nicene Fathers


Lindemann notes some differences that detract from the idea of a close relationship between texts. Specifically, both 1 Clement and Hebrews use the language of “high priest” to describe Jesus, but they do so in divergent ways. Lindemann suggests that it is possible that the author of 1 Clement knew Hebrews 1, but not the rest of the letter. All in all, it is a rather complicated issue. There seems to be a clear relationship, but the extent of the relationship is anything but clear.

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The following continues a series of posts reading through Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?.  If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series.  Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.

Ch. 14- “Calling” Trumps Scripture: Some evangelical feminists put a subjective sense of “calling” above the Bible
In this chapter Grudem complains about how women who think they have a calling will simply set aside the Bible in order to follow it.  My big problem with this chapter is how ridiculously misinformed Grudem seems to be about how evangelical women end up in ministry.  Yes, it’s virtually essential for them to have a strong sense of calling to walk the difficult path towards ordination.  However, it’s their very dedication to Scripture (and the default complementarian position most of them start with) which makes that sense of calling so essential—without it, they wouldn’t dare even consider going into ministry!  In my experience, women who do feel God’s call to be pastors are at first very reluctant to follow and do not do so until after they have spent a great deal of time in study and prayer.

Grudem is wrong to assume that their “call” leads them to ignore Scripture.  On the contrary, this call pushes them into Scripture and until they are 100% convinced that they have no heard God wrong, most evangelical women do not think of themselves as ministry material.  The ones who do enter ministry obviously come to different conclusions about the Bible than Grudem, but that does not mean he should be allowed to dismiss the ease with which many evangelical women ignore their callings for years, nor the seriousness with which these women eventually investigate gender issues in Scripture.

Ch. 15- “Prophecies” Trump Scripture: Some evangelical feminists put contemporary prophecies above the Bible
In this chapter Grudem—who, notably, does believe in prophecy and other charismatic gifts today—complains that some evangelicals say God has told them there are going to be more women in ministry.  Honestly, I have little to say about this chapter, because I’m generally skeptical towards prophecy.  Grudem is right that prophecy shouldn’t contradict what we know to be true.  Of course, he and I disagree on that starting point from which prophecies might be judged.  Altogether, then, this ends up being a pointless chapter.  All prophecy should avoid blatant contradictions of our theology, so the question is really, what would we be teaching about women in ministry to begin with?

Ch. 16- Circumstances Trump Scripture: Some evangelical feminists put unique circumstances above the Bible
This is another chapter where I feel Grudem largely misrepresents egalitarians.  While, yes, many of them argue that it is illogical to hold back half the church from ministry when there are so many needs in the world, they do not say that desperate circumstances themselves are what excuse women in ministry.  Instead, we believe women should be involved in ministry, regardless of the level of need out there.  We reject ideas like “God called a man to this position, but because the man said no and God really needs this done, he has now called a woman.”  We aren’t substitutes, nor are we responding to a second-class draft which God initiated because the enormity of the task before us requires more men than are available.  In this sense, we don’t even believe what Grudem claims we do.  He is right, however, that most of us think that God—not being an idiot—has no interest in immobilizing half of his workforce.

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The following continues a series of posts reading through Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?.  If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series.  Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.

Ch. 13- Experience Trumps Scripture: Some evangelical feminists put experience above the Bible
This chapter was so exhausting I thought it deserved its own post.   Grudem splits the chapter into a few sections, so I will do so, as well.

A. How can God bless the ministries of some women?
Grudem says it is “because God’s word is powerful, and God brings blessing through his Word to those who hear it” (120), regardless of whether or not God likes the preacher.  He gives the example of Samson as someone whom God used despite not always doing things right.

B. The Danger of Loss of God’s Protection and Blessing
This section was crazy.  Seriously crazy.  Either Grudem is not as smart as his Harvard and Cambridge roots imply or he’s being deliberately manipulative.  He begins the section by asserting that “[i]f a woman goes on serving as an elder or pastor, I believe she is doing so outside the will of God, and she has no guarantee of God’s protection on her life” (121).  I’m not totally certain what he means by “protection” to begin with (since obviously bad things happen to good people all the time…), but he does offer a couple of examples of the chaos that might befall a female pastor:

First, there is the example of Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), founder of the Foursquare Church (a Pentecostal denomination) in the early 1900s.  She ended up divorced twice, “kidnapped” once (which looked like a runaway affair after the fact), and dead at 54 from an accidental drug overdose.  I didn’t know her personally, so I can’t know what really went on in her brief but dramatic life.  I admit, however, that her character sounds highly suspicious.  What that has to do with women in ministry as a general topic, however, I don’t know.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, Grudem offers an even more extreme example next: Judy Brown.  Judy Brown was an Assemblies of God pastor and former Bible college professor.  In 2004 she was convicted of “malicious wounding and burglary with the intent to commit murder.”  Basically, she had become involved with her neighbor’s wife, and she broke into the home to kill the husband.  Grudem loves this story for two reasons:

(1) Judy Brown had recently written an article published in the first edition of Discovering Biblical Equality, published by InterVarsity Press (when IVP found out what happened, the book was immediately re-released without Brown’s article).  As I have mentioned, Grudem loves to point out that IVP is so egalitarian-friendly.

(2) Judy Brown specifically had a “lesbian relationship” (122).  Since he has a later chapter dedicated to explaining how evangelical feminism ultimately leads to homosexuality, I’m sure Grudem was delighted to tell this woman’s story.

And Grudem attributes none of this to mental illness.  To him, she’s just another great example of the depravity of the “evangelical feminists.”  He says that if she had only taught women, he expects she wouldn’t have had God’s blessing removed from her life and wouldn’t have “tragically lost the ability to make wise judgments” (123).

Some may object to my bringing up the examples of these women, and say, “But what about the hundreds of male pastors who have committed great sins, bringing reproach on themselves and their churches?  Why pick on these two women when many more men have sinned just as badly?

I agree that many male pastors have also fallen into very serious sin.  And I do not doubt that in many of those cases God also withdrew his protection and blessing from them.  But in their cases the reason cannot be that the Bible forbids men to become pastors!  Surely nobody would argue that!  [He goes on…]

But with these women pastors, the most obvious, evident sin is that of disobeying God’s directions that a woman should not “teach or . . . exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12).  And that is why I believe there is a connection between women being ordained and exercising leadership as pastors and tragic results in their personal lives. (123-124)

I’ve never seen such terribly circular logic in my life.

C. What does historical “experience” really demonstrate about women’s ministries?
Grudem also enjoys pointing out the declines in membership and financial support within mainline Protestantism.  Apparently we are to measure ministry faithfulness by ministry “success” and ministry success by numbers of people and dollar bills.

D. We cannot immediately see all the consequences of women being pastors
(1) “Many of the most conservative, faithful, Bible-believing members of the church will leave” (126).
(2) Other members will disagree but stay and will have their confidence in Scripture eroded over time because they think the leaders are encouraging disobedience.
(3) Those who accept women in ministry will become theologically liberal.
(4) Churches will become “feminized.”  (I swear, if I have to hear someone bitch about this one more time…)
(5) Men will also lose their positions of authority at home.
(6) Children will grow up gender-confused.

E. Putting experience above the Bible is a form of “situation ethics” and is also the foundational principle of modern liberalism
Grudem refers to Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics: The New Morality (1966), explaining that “[h]e argued that people at times needed to break God’s moral laws in the Bible in order to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (128).  The last time I checked that was utilitarianism.  So, Grudem, let’s talk about Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.  Maybe you like Kant better?  Look, if we’re going to talk ethics, let’s do so the right way and actually talk ethics.  I personally think Kant makes a lot more sense if we’re going to talk about philosophers egalitarians might like, so I have no idea why we are having this discussion about Fletcher.

All in all, this chapter was even more extreme than I could have expected from Grudem.  Even if I’ve made you want to read it for yourself (just to see if it could really be this bad), I will not be held responsible for any concussions from banging your head against the wall.

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