François Bovon on the Sermon on the Plain

In his 2002 Hermeneia commentary, François Bovon pauses to offer reflective comments on the beatitudes and woes in Luke 6:20–26. He recognizes his current position of privilege and feels the present tension of the message of Jesus. Prior to his … Continue reading

Book Notice: Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse by Paul A. Rainbow

Paul A. Rainbow. Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. Pp. 496. ISBN: 978-0-8308-4056-4. $40.00 [Hardback]. *     *     *     *     * Paul Rainbow—Professor of New … Continue reading

On My Desk: Forthcoming Book Reviews

Winter break is always a great time to catch up on other small projects that have been postponed. The following have landed on my desk for review for the next six months. All of which, I am thrilled to review. … Continue reading

Pragmatic vs. Semantic Descriptions of Greek Conjunctions

Currently, I’m rereading Steven Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. It isn’t a full-fledge discourse grammar but contains elements of discourse features when approaching the NT text.

Chapter 2: Connecting Propositions (sample PDF) is the worth the price of the book, 3-times over. In this chapter, he speaks of pragmatic definitions of conjunctions in modern grammars. The problem is, grammars utilize english and other functional categories to describe conjunctions. To provide an example, Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is a case in point. Consider the amount of overlap between the following conjunctions (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 761): Continue reading

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (2)

Dale Allison reflects on the balanced approach of research. It is not merely listening to the old, it is not merely listening to the new; rather, why should we limit the treasure trove of sources? In “Reading Matthew through the Church Fathers”, Allison says the following:

I am not the exegetical equivalent of a political or cultural conservative who prefers the company of the deceased. On the contrary, I eagerly go to the new books shelves of my library every week. I am simply urging that it is foolish to imagine that the part is somehow greater than the whole. Current exegetical work is part of a much larger body of literature, and why should we wish to limit the number of our teachers? The more the better. [130]

He continues to add:

When we do enlarge our horizon to take in the Fathers, our respect for them likewise enlarges. It is not just that we may find them theologically edifying or spiritually uplifting or homiletically useful but that their exegesis, even judged by our own very different interests and standards, sometimes hits a target that we have missed. The Fathers are of course full of bad judgments and dated opinions on all sorts of matters, and they were ignorant of all sorts of things now known, most notably perhaps the Jewish context to the New Testament writings. And of course they had prejudices we cannot tolerate. But then all this will likewise be the future’s verdict upon us, and we like to think that we still have some useful things to say. I submit that it is the same with the church fathers, and that sometimes we may move forward by going backwards. [130–31]

Allison provides great balance and propriety when utilizing ancient and novel literature. Both are needed, both are useful, both are plagued with inadequacies.  But the Father’s sometimes provide a richer vision and interpretation of the biblical text that, sometimes, modern and post-modern readers have missed.

Dale C. Allison Jr., “Reading Matthew Through the Church Fathers,” in Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 130–31.

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (1)

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation

Dale Allison provides an exemplary analysis of historical interpretation and New Testament studies. In “Reading Matthew through the Church Fathers” (Studies in Matthew, 117–31), he says the following about historical analysis and the modern reader:

They (Church Fathers) were, in so many ways, closer to the first-century Christians than we are. Unlike most of us, they lived and moved and had their being in the Scriptures…They were accordingly attuned to hear things that we no longer hear, things which we can only see after picking up concordances or doing word searches on our computers. I have come to believe that if we find in Matthew or another New Testament book an allusion to the Old Testament that the Fathers did not find, the burden of proof is on us; and if they detected an allusion which modern commentators have not detected, investigation is in order.

Dale C. Allison Jr., “Reading Matthew Through the Church Fathers,” in Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 119.

Irenaeus on the Gospels

Here is a following excerpt from Irenaeus on the four canonical Gospels.

We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else than the ones through whom the gospel has come down to use. At first, they proclaimed it in public, but later on, in accordance with Go’d will, they handed it down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. It is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed ‘complete knowledge’, as the heretics dare to say, who boast that they have improved on the apostles. After our Lord rose from the dead, the apostles received power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down upon them, were filled with all gifts, and thus received complete knowledge. They departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things sent from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven toward humankind. They all equally and individually possessed the gospel of God. Matthew produced a written gospel for the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, laying the foundations of the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed down to us in writing what Peter had preached. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel Paul preached. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who had leaned upon his breast, also published a gospel while he was living at Ephesus. (Against Heresies, 3.1.1)

Here are some thoughts on the composition of the Gospels according to Irenaeus.

  1. Matthew’s Gospel is originally composed in Hebrew
  2. Mark wrote his gospel after Peter and Paul left Rome
  3. Mark composed Peter’s preaching (Mark 1.1?)
  4. Luke composed the “gospel Paul preached”
  5. John wrote his Gospel while in Ephesus

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Mark as a Literary and Theological Document: Mark 3:22–30 test case

I’m currently reviewing Elizabeth Shively’s Apocalyptic Imagination in the Gospel of Mark, and have been impressed with a number of her hermeneutical abilities and presuppositions.  Her clarity in thought is exemplary as tension and anticipation await each turn of the page.

One beneficial aspect of her project is her “close reading” of the text. As she analyzes Mark 3:22–30 (Beelzebul pericope), she utilizes narrative critical tools. Unlike other Markan resources, Shively demonstrates how this pericope is a “first of firsts.” This is the first lengthy discourse in the Gospel by Jesus. This is the first time Jesus is said to be speaking in parables. This is the first solemn declaration being introduced with ἀμήν. Moreover through an historical reading, Mark places this pericope in different place in his Gospel, distinct from Matthew’s and Luke’s placement. Mark exclusively identifies this discourse as a παραβολή. Finally, Mark places this parable at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, unlike Matthew or Luke. With this empirical data, Shively concludes Mark 3:22–30 demonstrates the “program for the whole Gospel. Specifically, Mark 3:22–30 constructs a symbolic world that shapes the literary and theological logic of the rest of the narrative.”[1] (Please wait until the book review is complete for a fuller analysis of her thesis).
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