Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The world-class biblical scholar who got "converted off the street" - Prof. Craig S. Keener

Whenever a Cambridge scholar refers me to an American biblical scholar to understand some part of the Gospels or Paul, I listen attentively. Whenever a Cambridge scholar tells me that his favourite biblical scholar is (NOT British, BUT) American, then, I usually buy his/her books!
So who is this American biblical scholar? Professor Craig S. Keener! What struck my Cambridge friend further was that Keener's commentaries and books usually offer significant and previously unknown references to a wealth of Greco-Roman sources. Also significant for my friend was the fact that Keener grew up as a sceptic and got "converted off the street" as Keener himself puts it. Amazing indeed.

Three interesting and NEW bits about Craig that might benefit PhD students:

1) A new article on the Historical Jesus:

2) A short Youtube in which Craig describes how he finds "life" in the Bible:

3) A Youtube radio interview in which he discusses his new book Miracles. The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts:

For much more, visit Craig's website

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Post-Apartheid South Africa, liberalism and evangelical scholarship: An extraordinary interview with Dr Bruce Winter in Cambridge - Part 1

On Friday 25 November 2011 I was privileged to have an informal interview with Dr Bruce W. Winter at a sunny Tyndale House here in Cambridge. For those (few South Africans) unfamiliar with him and his work, just a few comments by way of introduction before Part 1:

It is an uncontested fact that Dr Bruce Winter is regarded as one of the world authorities on Early Christianity in the Graeco-Roman World. He was Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge from 1987-2006 and is currently the Director for Early Christianity in the Graeco-Roman World. He has been instrumental in what could arguably be regarded as a new generation of Evangelical New Testament biblical scholars in at least Cambridge, parts of Europe, Australia and even some parts of the USA.

Apart from his impressive list of published articles, chapters in major volumes and lectures on Early Christianity and the Graeco-Roman World, his four monographs have been very influential in scholarly circles. They are:

1. Seek the Welfare of the City: Christians as Benefactors and Citizens (First-Century Christians in the Graeco-Roman World; Grand Rapids/Carlisile: Eerdmans/Paternoster, 1994).

2. After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2001).

3. Paul and Philo Among the Sophists: Alexandrian and Corinthian Responses to a Julio-Claudian Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).

4. Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).

Some of these are so significant that apart from the myriad of dialogues and interactions with it in the English speaking world, they are also acknowledged and engaged with in some of the very best German volumes- not something the average Anglo-Saxon theologian can write on his/her CV!

Apart from all of this, Bruce is a down to earth Christian brother who loves to preach and make a positive contribution to the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!


Our conversation started off focusing on post-apartheid South Africa, liberalism and evangelical scholarship. We spoke about a conference Bruce attended in Stellenbosch round about 1995-1996 where pastors and scholars from all over South Africa were in attendance. Connected to this was my making reference to the New Reformation movement by the likes of Professor Sakkie Spangenberg, a well-known biblical scholar from UNISA. Then we moved on to the letters of Paul, focusing on ethics and the resurrection of the body.

Mulder: Bruce, what advice can you offer to post-apartheid South African students doing a PhD in biblical studies?

Winter: First of all, apartheid has ended. I was at Stellenbosch after the end of apartheid. There were sort of two groups I think there. One of the groups were recognising that their sorrow now is that what they had instilled in those they taught, on the whole approach to the so-called biblical justification for apartheid. They had abandoned it, but, their devout followers of the past are now so ingrained in it that they can’t. That was one of the things some people expressed there. The other thing that struck me straight away was just how isolated they were. Yet they get some idea from up north, the other side of the hemisphere (i.e. Germany?), and it gives them a place in the sun because they say radical things. And they sort of have pride in it, calling other (who disagree with them) fundamentalists.

Mulder: So you’ve been to Stellenbosch. Nice campus?

Winter: O, it’s a great place. The university church is a fantastic looking building. Beautiful.

Mulder: Beautiful, 17th century.

Winter: But one could see they were trying to show how radically different they were

Mulder: From the old regime?

Winter: From the old traditions and so forth. That seemed to me to be the case.

Mulder: From the “old regime”?

Winter: Yes. And in one sense, there was a certain kind of smugness about it. They stood outside the orthodox stream. I spoke to some young people and they had no idea of what was going on in the rest of South Africa. They were so isolated as children and teenagers growing up. It was a very sad situation. Now they look back at what was happening.

Mulder: So what advice can you give to post-apartheid, evangelical biblical scholars who want to participate/ engage in the new discourses, and not fall victim to a new mentality of ‘we are going to become liberal scholars’ which is somehow for some the ‘new thing on the block’? What advice can you offer to them?

Winter: Well, I think its best never to be reactionary ... as for methodology, to me the fundamental thing is the dislocation, or the breaking away from the New Testament from its context - both it’s Jewish and its Greco-Roman context. So, if one was dealing with Paul and his letters, and the places he has been to, then one has to say that the context will help us allot. In other words, when you look at say, the influence of secular ethics, people are programmed by the secular culture before they become Christians, and as a result of that, because they’ve been programmed, they naturally continue to function like that unless they’re de-programmed.

Mulder: Like in Corinth?

Winter: Yes. So Paul’s aim in writing is to pull down every argument and every high thought that rises contrary to the knowledge of God, and to bring every thought captive in obedience to Christ. That’s his agenda as he writes. It’s a stated agenda, and therefore, there will be times when we will see the footprints of the secular culture which Paul is having to demolish.

Mulder: But what makes his ethics different from the best moral philosophy of the time? People like Cicero and others?

Winter: Well, I think it is that his ethical treatment is, first of all, very relational, and he is not prepared to endorse things that are culturally normative. Even Cicero said: who would be so narrow to prevent or stop young men doing what they have always done. This has always been their tradition: so you drop your trousers when your reach puberty and have sex with as many women as you can. And the Corinthian young men are doing the same because everybody is doing it! So there Paul is having to address an issue. So it is good to see what he is demolishing. How he demolishes, that’s how I arrive at my second book, its sequel is on how Paul resolve these issues.

Mulder: After your book After Paul Left Corinth?

Winter: After my book After Paul Left Corinth, I am writing a subsequent book called The Resolution of Conflict and Compromise. How does Paul resolve this with the Corinthians? Pastorally and then how does he deal with the underlying cause of the problem? So he deals with presenting the problem, and its underlying cause.

Mulder: Can you, just on that, namely the underlying cause, reflect a bit further, because I’ve read Paul Barnett’s book The Corinthian Problem in which he argues that chapters 1-4 deals with the crux to determine the underlying cause of the problems. There the cross seems important and not the resurrection as in chapter 15. I found that quite interesting.

Winter: For myself, I think chapter 15 is dealing with the underlying cause for all the problems that come from chapter 5:1 and all the subsequent ethical problems and its effect. And how does Paul deal with that? He dealt with the presenting problems, eight reasons why you don’t fornicate, but in chapter 15 his task is to demolish. Now the underlying presuppositions which is, when you ask the question, the resurrection of Jesus yes, how can some of you say there is no resurrection (15:17)? The deeds in the body don’t matter – that was the first century, and their ethics and arguments: what good is your sexual organ once you’re dead? So enjoy it now, nature has given us these things. So you can see that that is their justification. And even Philo as a Jew has to deal with it, so, it is sometimes good to compare ethical conduct between say, Philo’s treatment of things, being a contemporary of Paul, with Paul. This is a good comparison. And then you have Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, he’s a very sensible guy.

Mulder: A good moral philosopher, but he doesn’t believe in the resurrection?

Winter: No he doesn’t believe in the resurrection. He is only talking about what matters now. But for Paul, We must be always abounding in the work of the Lord, because the deeds in the body will accompany us, the good works, they follow us, in terms of the resurrection.

Mulder: 2 Cor 5:10?

Winter: That’s right yes. We all will have to appear before the Judgement seat. So 1 Corinthians 15 is dealing with how I think about my body. And Paul says Awake out of your drunkenness, stop sinning, some have no knowledge of God (1 Cor 15:34); and the last section is the imperatives saying clearly that we must be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord , knowing that our work in the Lord is not empty (1 Cor 15:58).

Our discussion made me think of this excerpt from After Paul Left Corinth:

“… some of the Christians believed what most of their fellow Corinthians believed, i.e., that the soul was immortal and that this mortal life alone afforded pleasure … they … differed with Paul, whose anthropology (and) ethical imperatives of the Christian life were based on the resurrection both of Jesus and the Christian. This important connection is found not only in 15:1-35 but also in 6:12-20, where it plays an important role, for Paul affirms, ‘But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body: and God both raised up the Lord, and will raise up us through his power’(6:13b-14). If the background evidence assembled in this chapter is apposite, then Paul’s conflict with the Corinthians Christian’s view is a combination of first-century Platonism and a form of hedonism or Epicureanism which was defended by first-century sophists as an ethic of the élite”(105-106).

Thank you Bruce! Next time Part 2.

Friday, 18 November 2011

No Resurrection in Hebrews? Think again! - Dr David M. Moffitt's illuminating monograph

One of the great privileges of doing research at Tyndale House, Cambridge, is that our library gets new world-class publications on a weekly basis. Today I had a quick look at the brand new monograph by Dr. David M. Moffitt with the title: Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Brill, 2011.

In this volume, David tackles what is often referred to as the "riddle of the New Testament." This "riddle" is the apparent absence of significant reference to or reflection upon the resurrection of Jesus in Hebrews.  This has led some to conclude that Jesus' resurrection was not important to the author, or that it can be excluded completely!
With this in view David rightly asks: What is the status of Jesus' resurrection in Hebrews?
Answer: "I suggest that the event of Jesus' resurrection is not only important for the argument of the Epistle, but specifically that the author's argument depends upon the assumption that the resurrection marked the moment at which Jesus' human body was given indestructible life." 

I found this section in chapter 5 very illuminating:

"... can the events of the Son's incarnation, suffering, and exaltation in Hebrews be seen to be intelligible as an account of the Messiah's serving as the high priest who obtains for his people atonement and entry into the eternal inheritance? If so, how? The argument of this study suggests that the answer lies in the very element of the early Christian proclamation almost universally ignored in modern interpretations of the text: the author's affirmation of Jesus' bodily resurrection unifies and drives the high-priestly Christology and the soteriology of his homily.

It looks like a great volume!

For more about Dr. Moffitt see the link below:

Monday, 14 November 2011

What will happen to God's people after death? Wright and Evans on Paul, the Fathers and the Gnostic Gospels

Our library here in Nijmegen just received its copy of Craig A. Evans and NT Wright's book: Jesus, the Final Days. What Really Happened, published by Westminster John Knox Press.

It is definitely written for lay people (thus, no complicated theological language) and is therefore the kind of book that anyone will be able to read with ease.

As I had a quick look at the different chapters, my eye caught the section dealing with the differences between the canonical portrials of Jesus' resurrection, and what we find in the so-called Gnostic Gospels. This bit is quite interesting:

"A notable exception to ... [the] remarkably consistent picture of early Christian belief about resurrection appears in the writings that we call Gnostic (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas). These writings, which have been much vaunted in some contemporary American scholarship, are sometimes hailed as very early and as giving access to the original Christian vision that was then muddled up by the later New Testament writers, not least by the four canonical evangelists. I have argued at some length for the opposite view on these writings, namely that the Gnostic writings are late, and that they derive from and indeed deviate from the canonical writings. This is actually the majority view of New Testament scholars around the world ... In the end, these writings are best seen as reflecting a later attempt to use the language of early Christianity, in this case in talking about life after death, to express a radically different worldview"(p82-83). 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Our neo-gnostic culture and the Resurrection of the Body: New article by Donal A. Hagner

One of my favourite New Testament scholars is without a doubt Donald A. Hagner, emeritus professor of New Testament from Fuller, and a regular visitor here in Cambridge. Last year I had the privilege of having several engaging discussions with him about the resurrection of the body here at Tyndale House. I was surprised and excited to read his new article: "The Resurrection of the Body in the New Testament," published in Australian Biblical Review [ABR 59 (2011) 64-80].

What strikes me in his article is how he captures the modern disregard for the human body:

"... we watch gratuitous violence and killing on television dramas where the more killing per 12-minute segment the better. Our children play computer games where the goal is to kill as many as possible. All this reflect how neo-gnostic our culture has become. The death of the body does not matter very much because of the popular conviction that the soul is immortal. The real person is the soul; therefore the body is finally unimportant, dispensable, and even despised" (64).

When it comes to how the New Testament sees Jesus' resurrection, Hagner's interpretation of the empty tomb and the foundational importance of his bodily resurrection is striking:

"It is of the greatest importance to be clear on the fact that Jesus was resurrected bodily. The tomb was empty because the body of Jesus had been raised. Any idea of a tomb still containing the body of Jesus is totally incompatible with the New Testament evidence and proclamation. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus were not merely subjective visions. Those who witnessed the resurrection appearances saw Jesus in a literal body. The objective reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a space-time event is fundamental to Christianity. It serves as the vindication of all that he said and did, including his personal claims. It also serves as the guarantee of the future. No other explanations will suffice. The bodily resurrection of Jesus alone provides the only compelling explanation of the transformation of the disciples and only it can account for the origin of Christianity and the growth of the church" (68).

I love the way Hagner spells out the implications of Jesus' resurrection on p. 77:

"It is as though the future resurrection has interrupted into the present. Becoming a Christian is more than just having our loyalties shifted. Just as the resurrection of Christ inaugurates a new era, so by our identification with Christ we immediately enter into an existence that can be characterised as resurrection life. That new existence is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit".

Hagner discusses many other aspects of Christ's and our future resurrection in this article. In my opinion, this article is compulsory reading for anyone doing research on the resurrection of Jesus. It is also a good introduction to the resurrection of Jesus and believers for ministers and lay people who wants to get a birds eye view of some of the best research, from the pen of a mature and erudite Christian scholar.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

CK Barrett: singing the hymns of Charles Wesley to Hospital staff before his death

I know others have blogged about the passing away of the formidable Professor CK Barrett from Durham. I had the privilege of seeing him at the inaugural CK Barrett lecture, which Richard B Hays delivered in 2009. At the time he was still preaching from time to time we were told. I cannot help but copy a thought provoking excerpt of his obituary here:

"Modest as well as charming, he possessed a great gift for combining profound scholarship with a simple conviction of the need for the Church to rediscover the ethics and discipline of the New Testament.
That he managed to combine ministry and academia was testament to his great energy. After finishing his circuit duties at 10pm, he set aside four hours each day to pursue his New Testament research, retiring only at 2am.
Shunning the frills of intellectualism, he declined offers to lecture on luxury cruise liners. He was, however, more than happy to take the local bus in order to preach to small congregations in village churches, where those who listened did not know him as the “renowned professor” CK Barrett, but simply as Kingsley. During his last weeks in hospital he continued to speak of God to patients, staff and visitors, even if some were a little astonished when he sang to them the hymns of Charles Wesley.
Kingsley Barrett’s wife, Margaret Heap, whom he married in 1944, predeceased him; he is survived by their son and daughter" (my emphasis).

Monday, 10 October 2011

Easter stories simply invented? Richard Bauckham in his new book on Jesus

As I'm working on the resurrection for my PhD, when I get a new book I always read the section(s) on the resurrection first. Thanks to my friend Lee Gratiss here in Cambridge, I just got a copy of Richard Bauckham's new book: Jesus: A Very Short Introduction published by Oxford University Press (2011). (I'm working on a review of it for Churchman).

I like the way Bauckham describes the significance of the women at Jesus' tomb:

"The somewhat varying versions of the same story in all three of the other Gospels probably vary because they go back to different members of the group of women, who remembered somewhat differently, as people do. But they were eyewitnesses! As almost every scholar notes, in that society women were not trusted to give evidence ... If Jesus had risen from death, the men ought to have been the first to know ... All this suggests that the stories were not simply invented" (105-6).

And also what the first disciples saw and experienced:

“... it is very clear that they did not think that what people saw was the spirit of Jesus, surviving his physical death. They knew about ghosts and about dead people appearing in visions. If this had been the case with Jesus, it would have been very much less momentous than the ‘resurrection’ they believed had happened. The reports about the empty tomb fitted harmoniously with the appearance narratives, because the one who appeared was identified as Jesus in his whole bodily-spiritual identity. Jesus was not a soul who had left his body behind in the tomb ... They believed he was raised to a new sort of bodily life, eternal life” (106-7).

And also, this bit in Chapter 8, Jesus in Christian faith:

"That the faith of the early Christians focused on the living Jesus does not, of course, mean that they neglected the story of his life and death or the sayings that his disciples had learned. On the contrary, the stories and sayings were treasured and repeated, and only because they were so important at an early stage were they later given permanent written
form in the Gospels. The stories portrayed the person who, in his heavenly glory, remained the same person ... The early Christians did not dissolve the past Jesus into the present, but they remembered the earthly and crucified Jesus in order to know and to follow the living Christ" (112-3).

Personally (and not giving away anything of my forthcoming review), I think this book will provide pastors and normal uninformed believers with a short and well written introduction into the latest research on Jesus, written by one of the most respected Biblical Scholars in Britain and North America.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Richard Bauckham's new book on Jesus

"Has Jesus in the end become no more than an empty vessel that can be filled with any sort of content?"

This is one of the important questions which Richard Bauckham answers in his exciting book: Jesus: A Very Short Introduction that has just been published by Oxford University Press.

In the foreword he writes:
"... I do think the Gospels give us access to the way Jesus was perceived by those who were close to him, people who experienced the events from the inside and whose own lives were deeply affected by them. This seems to me a kind of knowledge of Jesus that is well worth having, whatever we choose to do with it" (xii).

Really a must read book for theologians and pastors who want a concise, easy to read book on Jesus by one of the most respected Biblical Scholars in Europe and America.


Monday, 26 September 2011

The Resurrection of Jesus: Fact of Figment? Mike Licona and Abel Pienaar at Pretoria University

Dr. Mike Licona (Founder of Risen Jesus Ministries) and Dr. Abel Pienaar (figurehead within the New Reformation Movement) will debate on the resurrection come Monday 26 September. Dr. Pienaar will argue that the resurrection should be understood as a myth, whilst Dr. Licona will argue that it was a physical event in history. Being two very gifted orators and thinkers this promises to be one of the biggest theological debates in South African history.

TIME: Monday, September 26 · 7:00pm - 9:30pm

LOCATION: University of Pretoria/Sanlam Auditorium
CONTACT: Roedolf - 082 826 2641 / Johan - 082 491 2463

Wish I could be there!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

NT Wright's critique of Edward Schillebeeckx's view of history and theology

One sometimes hear rumors in Dutch walkways that the English speaking world is not always taking Dutch scholarship very seriously. Well, when it comes to the work of Edward Schillebeeckx (the famous Dominican dogmatic theologian from Nijmegen where I'm busy with my PhD), at least NT Wright from St'Andrews takes him quite seriously.

Whenever I have time (which is not often!), I like to read how these two men differ when it comes to the relationship between history and theology. I've read quite a bit from both of them (though to be fair, a bit more of Wright, given my work on the resurrection, and my studies in Durham in 2009) and thought it worthwhile to quote a fairly long bit where Wright explains the background to Schillebeeckx's exegetical method (as he interprets it) and some critique:

"On 23 October 1953, Ernst Kasemann gave a now-famous lecture to a group of former Bultmann students on 'The Problem of the Historical Jesus', thereby beginning a significantly new phase, which quickly styled itself 'The New Quest for the Historical Jesus'. Kasemann, aware ... of the the dangers of idealism and docetism, insisted that if Jesus was not earthed in history then he might be pulled in any direction, might be made the hero of any theological or political programme ... without knowing who is was who died on the cross, he said, there would be no solid ground for upholding the gospel of the cross in all its sharpness ... However, this very definite theological agenda, for all its worth ... meant that the New Quest, ironically enough, did not represent a turning to history in the fullest sense ... The main productions of the New Quest are, in fact, of little lasting value.

One of the largest works from this period ... is that of the Dominican theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. His prodigious book on Jesus builds on the traditio-historical criticism whereby the synoptic gospels have been combed for evidence of this or that 'early Christian community', and between whose faith-statements glimpses of Jesus may emerge. Such an argument is necessarily both tortuous and tenuous, since different sets of traditio-historical critics will come out with different sets of answers. Schillebeeckx takes a position which is the mirror-image of Bultmann's: the resurrection accounts are stories of Jesus' lifetime, brought forwards. His eventual leap from a purely historical Jesus to the incarnate Son of God is based on little or nothing in the main part of the book itself. He seems to lend considerable tacit support to the notion that history and theology are two worlds which must be kept entirely separate. His book bravely attempts to combine the multiple hypotheses required to postulate both a divided 'Q community', as a key matrix of early traditions, and some sort of normative theological interpretation. But his work seems to me to have shown the barrenness of the New Quest in just as devastating, though not as readable, a way as Schweitzer's did in relation to the Old."

What, for Wright, did two hundred years of Questing between Reimarus and Schillebeeckx achieve?

"It put the historical Question firmly and irrevocably on the theological map, but without providing a definitive answer to it. Theologians cannot honestly ignore the questions of who Jesus was, whether he said and did roughly what we find in the gospels, the reasons for his death, and the reasons for the rise of Christianity ... But have the historians enabled either side, or indeed those in the middle, to get very far?"

Wright is not convinced and states:

".. at no point, I suggest, has the full impact of the historical evidence been allowed to influence very much the dogmatic conclusions reached; when it has, it is only perhaps as a concession ... I remain convinced that there is a good deal more to be said about the perceptions, worldviews and mindsets of first-century Jews that will have considerable importance, as yet unimagined, for systematic theology" (NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Fortress Press: Minneapolis: 23-26).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

F.F. Bruce - A LIFE: The Definitive Biography of a New Testament Scholar

Every once in a while, one stumbles across a book here in Cambridge you just have to buy. Yesterday was such a day when I bought the brand new biography of F.F. Bruce - one of the most influential evangelical New Testament scholars of the 20th century in England. It's got all the normal things one gets in a biography, but, the following quote on the back cover explains why it's so significant to me:

"Evangelicals have often wrestled with two problems: the relation between academic theology and church life, and the quest for recognition of their status as credible interpreters of the Bible. F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was one of the most influential British biblical scholars of the twentieth century, and his career offers valuable insights into these issues, as well as shedding light on the ways in which Evangelicalism was changing from the 1950s onwards ... Tim Grass argues that Bruce, like his father, was always something of an evangelist at heart."

Mark Noll has the following to say: "Tim Grass has written an unusually solid biography of an exceedingly solid scholar. Its pages provide a full account of F.F. Bruce's biblical scholarship and his path-breaking leadership of evangelical intellectual life more generally ... the result is a very good book on a very worthy subject."

Monday, 8 August 2011

Roman Toilets - Their Archaeology and Cultural History

I just learned that two Radboud University scholars participated in a very interesting new book entitled: Roman Toilets - Their Archaeology and Cultural History, published by Peeters. For those who can read Dutch, check out this short introduction from the Raboud University website:

Ja, de Romeinen hadden wc's en riolering. Nee, dat leek op geen enkele manier op de onze schone toiletten. Het was er een vieze boel waar ziektes werden overgedragen en ongedierte makkelijk toegang kreeg tot het huis. Het stonk, want er was geen stankslot tussen riool of beerput en het toilet, dat vaak in de keuken was. Als je naar de wc ging kon je maar beter een talisman meenemen, wilde je niet getroffen worden door het boze oog. En hoewel Romeinen dol waren op graffiti, krasten ze hun boodschappen nu juist niet op de wc-muur, wat er op wijst dat ze het daar niet zo gezellig vonden...

For more click on the links below:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hollywood star Michael Douglas on Death

I read a fascinating interview with Michael Douglas about cancer, death etc in a German paper recently ... It once again made me realize that all the hard work for my PhD about belief in the resurrection of Jesus is probably still relevent ... even in Hollywood. One key text for my PhD is 1 Cor. 15:32:

If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die
εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν.

Monday, 18 July 2011

FAITH - fact or fiction? Dave Seaford in Pretoria, South Africa

Roedolf Botha, one of my fellow friends busy with a PhD in New Testament here in Nijmegen, has started an exciting new church in Pretoria, South Africa. One of their primary aims it seems, is to take the difficult questions believers and skeptics wrestle with quite seriously. On 31 July, they will host Dave Seaford who will talk on: FAITH - fact or fiction. It is worth checking out. Contact details on the picture.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Radboud New Testament Seminar - July 2011

Wednesday 6 July, 14h00 - 17h00

On Ethics in the Johannine Writings - Professor Jan van der Watt

William Wrede and the Quest for Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation - Frederik Mulder
All are welcome. For more information, contact Frederik at

Monday, 27 June 2011

Explorations in Aspects of Gospel and LXX Research - 13 July 2011 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Department of Theology, Radboud University, 13 July 2011

 Invited speakers include:
The Prophetic Power of the Word of Jesus: A Study of John 4:43-54
- Professor Gilbert van Belle (Leuven)

The Text Form of Matthew's Isaiah Quotations compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint - Professor Gert Steyn (Pretoria)


"Elijah as Reconciler of Father and Son: From 1 Kings 16:34 and Malachi 3:22-24 to Ben Sira 48:1-11 and Luke 1:13-17" - Professor Bart J. Koet (Tilburg)

For more information contact Frederik Mulder at

Friday, 24 June 2011

NT Wright, Richard Hays, Oliver O' Donovan, John Barclay et al at the 2012 Paul’s Letter to the Galatians & Christian Theology Conference in St Andrews

10-13 July 2012, St Andrews

We are pleased to announce the fourth St Andrews conference on Scripture and
 Christian Theology. Since the first conference on the Gospel of John in
 2003, the St Andrews conferences have been recognized as amongst the most
 important occasions when biblical scholars and systematic theologians are
 brought together in conversation about a biblical text. With the book of Galatians as our key text, biblical scholars and theologians of the Christian tradition will gather to work out how exegesis and theology meet, critique and inform each other.

Main Papers

Jean-Noël Aletti
Lewis Ayres
John Barclay
Ivor Davidson
Beverly Gaventa
Bruce McCormack
Volker Rabens
Thomas Söding
Kendall Soulen
Timothy Wengert
Simeon Zahl
Call for Papers

We invite proposals for short papers that relate Galatians to Christian theology and culture, including:

Galatians & Art
Galatians & Christian Doctrine
Galatians & Ethics
Galatians & the History of Interpretation
Galatians & Eschatology
Jewish and Christian Readings of Galatians.


Mark W. Elliott, Senior Lecturer in Church History at St Mary's College, author of Isaiah 40-66 in the Ancient Christian Commentary series (IVP, 2007); The Reality of Biblical Theology (Peter Lang, 2007)

N.T.Wright, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, University of St Andrews (St Mary’s College), author of Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Fortress, 2009); Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (HarperOne, 2011)

Grant Macaskill, Lecturer in New Testament at St Mary's College, author of Revealed Wisdom and Inaugurated Eschatology in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Brill Academic, 2007)

For more go to this link:

Thursday, 23 June 2011

NT Wright receives book of the History of the Dutch Reformed Church

I am sure professor Wright won't mind me mentioning this:

Dear Professor Tom,

Words fail to express my sincere appreciation for the wonderful discussion we had, and the gifts you gave me. Your sermon preached on Trinity Sunday 1972 made me quite emotional. I hope you received the book about the history of the Dutch Reformed Church by now. Close to the end there are pictures of Bishop Tutu and President Mandela taking Holy Communion with the Dutch Reformed Church.
Yours faithfully

Ferdie Mulder

Dear Ferdie
Thank you! I'm glad you like the books -- and yours arrived safely. Thank you very much. Warm greetings and good wishes.

Tom Wright

Sunday, 19 June 2011

An astonishing dialogue with NT Wright about the Boer War, Racism and Evil.

        Following my and professor Wright’s papers at St Andrews on Wednesday, I had the great privilege of spending a few minutes with him in his office at St Mary’s College.

As we started talking, the first thing he did, of course, was to show me his awesome replica of P75 (an early New Testament papyri of Luke 24 I think).
What I will cherish for a long time, however, was the fascinating talk we had about the South African Boer War, including the problem of evil.

Professor Wright told me that his grandfather was a lieutenant in the Boer War and wrote several letters in his time there to his father. What struck him was the English’s deep rooted racism against the Afrikaners at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Significantly, (and to my surprise) he added that the British helped the process of apartheid because of what happened during the Boer War. Thinking back, I remember my own father telling me how, as a child, he would listen to stories of his grandfather who fought in the Boer War too.
All of this lead our discussion to the problem of evil and particularly the trend among some Jesus Seminar scholars, who propose panentheism as a way of speaking about God and the cosmos. (As we know, panentheism sees God in everything and everything in God).
Professor Wright argued that panentheism is actually the wrong way around. What we are promised in 1 Corinthians 15 is that God will be all in all. Panentheism is therefore a dangerous collapse of eschatology. It’s always in danger of an over-realized eschatology, and hence of all the problems, which inevitably lead into various forms of pantheism. Professor Wright acknowledged that some, like Marcus Borg, will say that it is not pantheistic. But actually, (and this was important for him) if we look at how it actually plays out, the main problem is getting a handle on the critique of evil, let alone a solution for it, and solving the problem.

Things like Auschwitz, the Boer War, and the evil in every one of us, I understood Wright to say, cannot be part of God as panentheism would inevitably have it – at least not if we take the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament seriously.

Professor Wright puts it like this in his lovely book Simply Christian:

“The one true God made a world that was other than himself, because that is what love delights to do. And having made such a world, he has remained in a close, dynamic and intimate relationship with it, without in any way being contained within it or having it contained within him ... this God appears to take very seriously the fact that his beloved creation has become corrupt, has rebelled and is suffering the consequences. This is something the pantheist cannot cope with. Even panentheism has a hard time giving a serious account of the radical nature of evil, let alone of what a good God might do about it” (Simply Christian, 2006, pp 58-59).

Following our discussion, I am more convinced than ever that the Christian God of the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures is in no way responsible for, or in any way part of the evil in the world as we now know it.

Professor Wright gave me a copy of the 2010 edition of his 1978 book: Small Faith Great God, and also the 2011 edition of his 2005 book Scripture and the Authority of God. In turn, out of gratitude, I posted the only copy of Die NG Kerk 350 jaar I have, (which is a history of the Dutch Reformed Church) to him on Friday morning.
Words fail to express my sincere appreciation for the wonderful discussion we had, and the gifts from professor Tom Wright!

Some of the delegates who also delivered papers.

Friday, 10 June 2011

NT Wright, Kristin de Troyer, Mark Elliott, James Davila etc at St Andrews Conference


Authoritative Texts and Reception History: Aspects and Approaches

15-16 June 2011, The 1st St Andrews Graduate Conference for Biblical and Early Christian Studies

With an emphasis on textual reception history, the first St Andrews Graduate Conference for Biblical and Early Christian Studies is aimed at graduate students and early career scholars. Contributors are welcomed from the following fields of research: Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament and Early Christianity.

We have four invited plenary speakers:

Prof. Kristin De Troyer
Prof. James R. Davila
Prof. N. T. Wright
Dr. Mark W. Elliott

Wednesday 15th June
9.00 am: Kristin de Troyer, On Reconstructing the History of the Biblical Text
Session 1
10.00: Steven Harvey (Durham), Who is (are) ‘your teacher(s)’? Hearing the voice of the prophet in Isaiah 30:18-26
10.30: Mark Stirling (St Andrews), The Davidic Temple Builder: Zechariah 6:13-15 as neglected background to Ephesians 2:11-22
11.00: Ben Johnson (Durham), Reading Septuagintal Narrative Texts as Translated Narratives: 1 Reigns 16 as an Example
11.30: coffee/tea
12.00: Michael J. Thate (Durham), The Effusive Presence Memory, Performance and the People of God
12.00: Kerry Lee (Edinburgh), The Not Not Inglorious Death of Samson
1.00 pm: Lunch
2.00: N. T. Wright, Scripture and God's Authority: Case Studies and Further Questions
Session 2
3.00: Martin G. Ruf (Utrecht), Elective affinities? Second Peter’s reception of Paul
3.30: Frederik Mulder (Radboud), The reception of Paul’s understanding of resurrection and eschatology in the Epistle to Rheginos: Faithful Paulinism, or further development?
4.00: Rebekah M. Devine (St Andrews), Made With Hands: The Gods of the Nations in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
4.30: coffee/tea
5.00: Moshe Blidstein (Oxford), Between Ritual and Moral Purity: Early Christian Views on Dietary Laws
5.30: Andrew Talbert (Nottingham), Poiesis, Aesthesis, and Catharsis: The Aesthetic Experience of Readi‘the Day of the Lord’ with the Fathers
6.00: Michael A. Clark (Birmingham), The Catena of the Gospel of John by Nicetas of Heraclea
6.30: Drinks reception

Thursday 16th June
9:00 am: James Davila, Quotations from the Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible
Session 3
10.00: David J. Larsen (St Andrews), After the Order of Melchizedek: Royal Themes and MelchizedTraditions Applied to Jesus by the Author of Hebrews
10.30: Beniamin Pascut (Cambridge), Jesus and the Jewish Diviner: The Use and Misuse of 4QPrNbr
11.00: Albertina Oegema (Gröningen), The Reception of Isa 40:15 in 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and Pseudo-Philo
11.30: coffee/tea
12.00: Nicholas Ellis (Oxford), The Jobraham Narratives - A Synthetic Tradition of Trial and Faithfulness
12.30: Fiona Kao (Cambridge), ‘Fear not this tormentor’: Maccabean Predecessors and Eusebian Martyrs
1.00 pm: lunch break
2.00: Mark W. Elliott, The promise and threat of “Reception”, with reference to patristic interpretation of texts in Hebrews and Ephesians
2.45: coffee/tea
Session 4
3.00: Dan Batovici (St Andrews), Irenaeus’ Hermas
3.30: David L. Cann (KCL), The Holy Spirit in the Early Church: A search for the roots of the Trinitarian theology of the Holy Spirit
4.00: Marijana Vuković (CEU), Anonymous Late Antique Martyrdom Narratives: The Issues of Genre, Imitation, Narratological Patterns
4.30: coffee/tea
5.00: Justin A. Mihoc (Durham), The Reception and Interpretation of the Lucan Ascension of Christ in the Pre-Nicene Period
5.30: Kevin J. Haley (Notre Dame), Augustine’s Enarrationes and the Final Form of the Psalter
6.00: Andrew Hay (St Andrews), From Historia to Theoria: The exegesis of Gregory of Nyssa and a diachronic reading of the Bible


We are charging a registration fee of £15 which includes conference attendance and the academic reception on the evening of 15 June. Meals and accommodations are not included in the fee. However, coffee and tea will be available during the conference.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

University of Exeter, Centre for Biblical Studies Research Seminar: Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Frederik Mulder

Centre  for Biblical Studies
Department of Theology and Religion
Research Seminar

Wednesday 8 June
(Frederik Mulder, David Horrell and Brad Arnold)

2.00-3.30pm Francesca Stavrakopoulou, "The Social Life of the Corpse".

4.00-5.00pm Frederik Mulder, "The interplay between βρῶμα, κοιλίᾳ and somatic resurrection in 1 Corinthians 6:12-14".*

A big thank you to Professor David Horrell for inviting me to be part of Exeter's Research Seminar yesterday. Thank you also for the lunch and fascinating discussions afterwards. John and Brad, it was great  meeting you guys too!

 Francesca Stavrakopoulou (top left)

One of the beautiful buildings at the University of Exeter
* Technically, my paper wasn't part of the Research Seminar I think. I delivered it afterwards as part of the Biblical Studies Seminar.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Christ’s Resurrection as Unique Missional Paradigm – a Refreshing Dialogue with Rev. Johnson Thomakutty from India in Holland

One of my fellow PhD friends here at Radboud University Nijmegen is Rev. Johnson Thomaskutty from Union Biblical Seminary ( in Pune, India. He is in the third year of his PhD program in which he is focussing on The Nature and Function of Dialogues in the Gospel according to St. John. He will be leaving us soon, to return to his teaching position at UBS.

He kindly offered to drink a nice cup of Dutch coffee with me, and share a few thoughts about how he, as an Indian Christian theologian, understands Jesus’ resurrection. I will put a few questions to Johnson, then type his responses out, and afterwards get him to make sure that I got it right.

Question: Johnson, as a Christian theologian coming from India, and having two masters degrees in New Testament (one from Senate of Serampore University in India and the other from Princeton Theological Seminary in the USA), do you think it is important for the Christian faith that Jesus’ tomb was really empty following his resurrection, or not?

Answer: Yes, it is important. The reason? The resurrection appearances and the empty tomb are part of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. If any one of these two is nullified, then the basic tenets of Christianity are in question.

Question: But Johnson, some theologians would argue that Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual, therefore/as a result the empty tomb is not important. What does spiritual resurrection mean to you?

Answer: Jesus’ body could become spiritual even before his resurrection. In John 6 we find that Jesus walked on water, similar to John 20 where he came to the upper room where the door was closed. In both instances Jesus had the ability to appear and disappear, something which is beyond human comprehension. Thus, Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual in the sense that he could appear and disappear, but it was also material because the tomb was “really empty”. He rose with the same body, but it was transformed.

Question: If this is the case Johnson, what is the significance of the resurrection for your ministry in India where you teach?

Answer: The significance of the resurrection of Jesus in my Indian context is multi-faceted. When I’m talking about the resurrection of Jesus in our multi-religious, multi-cultural and pluralistic culture of India, I have to re-interpret the significance of Christ’s resurrection for our diverse communities. The salvific significance of Christ’s work on the cross, and his resurrection should first and foremost be taught and proclaimed, as the good news of salvation for the various religious and ethnic communities. As a second order to this, when I am witnessing Christ for instance to the Dalits, Tribals and the Adivasis (the poor and marginalized, also called the dust of the dust), I use Christ’s resurrection as a model for liberation out of the clutches of oppression and dehumanization. As Christ was humiliated on the cross, and was raised by the Father from the grave, so also, Christian mission should focus on the upliftment of the oppressed out of the bondages of poverty, casteism, sin and injustice.

Resurrection is therefore a unique missional paradigm, comprising the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection, its salvific significance as well as its social implications.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Believing in bodily resurrection and heaven doesn't make you a Platonist or Gnostic – N.T. Wright and Marcus Bockmuehl at loggerheads?

Today I had the opportunity of attending part of the Oxbridge New Testament Graduate Seminar held in Cambridge this time around. As always, the papers presented were exceptional.

Those who presented were Bruce Clark (Cambridge); Richard Kueh (Cambridge); Diane Hakala (Cambridge); Ben Edsall (Oxford); Alex Kirk (Oxford) and Nicholas Ellis (Oxford). Apart from my Cambridge friends, it was really good to see my Oxford friends Ben, Alex and Nicholas again!

In between sessions I had a fascinating talk with Professor Marcus Bockmuehl from Oxford about his paper: “Did St. Paul go to Heaven when he Died?” which he delivered last year at the Theological dialogue with N.T. Wright held at Wheaton College.

Having listened to both professor Bockmuehl’s and Wright’s papers, and after listening attentively to Bockmuehl’s further explanations, at some stage during our interesting talk, I tried to summarise what I thought to be the issue for him: “You don’t have to become a Platonist or Gnostic to believe in bodily resurrection and going to heaven when you die” – This is more or less how I understood professor Bockmuehl’s disagreement with professor N.T. Wright. Professor Bockmuehl reiterated that to his mind, all of the early church fathers believed in a heavenly after-life, without neglect of the resurrection of the body. It seemed to me that for professor Bockmuehl, professor Wright goes beyond Paul when it comes to a text like 2 Cor. 5:1-10.

It was a great privilege to meet professor Bockmuehl. He’s given me much food for thought.

Here is a link to professor Bockmuehl’s paper:

The conference papers have now also been published by IVP under the title Jesus, Paul, and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright. To order (in Europe) click here: