Monday, 28 February 2011

New Testament papers presented at Queens College, Oxford

     I had the privilege of attending a New Testament Research seminar at Queens College, Oxford on 24 February 2010. Those attending included Prof. Christopher Rowland, Dr. Christopher Hays (Keble College) and several PhD students of Prof. Markus Bockmeul.

      In his paper: Towards a liberating missional-incarnational ethos in John 4, Dr. Kobus Kok (Senior Lecturer from the University  of Pretoria, South Africa), applied a relatively new development in New Testament studies dealing with implicit ethics to the story of the Samaritan women in John 4. (If memory serves me well, implicit New Testament ethics is developed by the likes of David Horrell, Michael Wolter, Ruben Zimmermann and Jan van der Watt). Kobus argued persuasively that John 4 can be interpreted as the "concrete crossing of boundaries in cultural perspective and the concrete embodiment of a lived Christ-like ethos that flows from an understanding of God's mission in the world." The implicit ethos found in John 4 motivates behaviour and creates a "particular symbolic universe which revolves around the continuing missional motive that started with the mission of Jesus." In my view, Kobus persuasively challenged the traditional view espoused by the likes of Meeks (1996:317), Schrage (1988:297) and Matera (1996:92) that there is no ethics to be found in the Gospel of John.
Simon, an Oxford PhD student presented a provocative and experimental paper in which he analysed the history of Jewish reconstructions of the Apostle Paul in order to challenged the status quo of historical-critical scholarship. He engaged with the likes of Jacob Taubes, Claude Montefiore, Martin Goodman, Friedrich Nietzsche etc. Simon gave an informative analysis of Taubes in particular, focussing not just on his academic work, but also engaging with biographical and sociological dimension which informed his reconstruction of the Apostle Paul. Simon's analysis indicated how these (and other) factors influenced Travis' reconstruction of Paul. 
In the end, Simon argued that the objectivity of historical-critical scholarship must be challenged, given his analysis of the hegemony such scholarship has produced since the Enlightenment. Traditional historical-critical scholarship represents a "self-absorbed fantasy". We must "remove the halo" from the "head" of historical-critical scholarship, he said.

*These very brief remarks are certainly not a fair representation of the nuanses and depth of the papers presented. It is only a few snipets which I found interesting.

Photo below (from left to right): Ben (PhD student), Dr. Christopher Hays and Prof. Christopher Rowland.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Cambridge Scholars confess Jesus' bodily resurrection

         The other day an established Biblical scholar told me that to his mind some "top notch" universities in the US are somewhat sceptical towards evangelical theology in general. Here in England, it seems that there is room for evangelical scholarship at "top notch" universities. I came across the following short video in which Dr Pete Williams and Dr Peter Head (both on staff at Cambridge University) confess the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Among other things, Dr Williams makes the point that the differences in the Gospels indicate its authenticity; and Dr Head emphasizes the significance of the women in the Easter narratives. The video is short - so really worth watching! You are very welcome to leave a comment after watching.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Durham's New Testament Research Seminar

       Jealousy will bring us nowhere. Fact is, the Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University is currently the number one place in the UK for postgraduate study in New Testament. In the Research Assessment Exercise for 2008, it has been ranked at no. 1 among all departments of theology and religion in the UK in two categories: (a) the highest percentage of publications at 4 (world-leading research) and (b) the highest Grade Point Average for these publications.

       One of the most significant experiences I had while studying in Durham (2008-9) was the weekly New Testament Research Seminar. Currently, the Seminar is run by Professor John Barclay, Professor Francis Watson, Dr Lutz Doering and Dr William Telford.

Here is the line-up for February and March:

14 February 2011 16:15: - Prof David Parker, University of Birmingham

28 February 2011 16:15: Contested Paternity and Contested Readings: Jesus’ Conception in Matthew 1:18-25 - Prof Andrew Lincoln, University of Gloucestershire

7 March 2011 16:15: Genesis in Hebrews - Dr Susan Docherty, Newman College, Birmingham

14 March 2011 16:15: Pseudepigraphy in 2 Thessalonians - Dr Christina Kreinecker, University of Salzburg

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Jesus' empty tomb: condition sine qua non for genuine resurrection faith?

          In 1983 Dirkie Smit (a respected South African theologian from Stellenbosch) wrote that especially in German circles, there are still intense discussions about the so-called ‘origin of the Easter faith.’ Integral to these discussions are always the question of whether the empty tomb of Jesus can be seen as a condition sine qua non for genuine resurrection faith.
How did Smit respond to this? “To say that the idea of the empty tomb is unnecessary and actually even a stumbling block for the real Easter faith is to deny this historical – and reality motif” [1] 
On 31 January 2011, Smit delivered a paper at the Stellenbosch University Theological Day entitled: The resurrection of Jesus: a theological orientation (Die opstanding van Jesus: ‘n Teologiese oriëntering). He starts off with the following striking paragraph:

"... the gospel is the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's the message. That's the good news. It's the content of faith. The church exists because of the resurrection. All functions of the church rests on the resurrection. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, nothing which believers say or do, profess or practice makes any sense."

What does he say about the empty tomb of Jesus?

"The good news, the wonder, the mystery is that God raised Jesus from the dead. God raise Jesus from the dead and make Him Lord and Christ, not anyone, but this Jesus, the Crucified – this is how the content of the first preaching in the book of Acts (Acts 2:36) sounds. The wonderful and surprising point is not that someone who was dead conquered death, but that this very Jesus is being resurrected.
This is the theological meaning of both the reports of the empty tomb and the reports of the appearances of the Resurrected."

Will be nice to hear some responses from people who attended day!

* I’ve tried my best to make a literal translation of the Afrikaans but suggest that readers have a look at the original please.

[1] My translation, see Smit DJ 1983. Prediking in die Paastyd, in Riglyne vir Paas-, Hemelvaarts- en Pinksterprediking. Woord teen die Lig 3. NG Kerk- Uitgewers, pp18-30.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Did William Wrede change his mind about the Messianic Secret before his death?

William Wrede (1859-1906), in his groundbreaking 1901 study, The Messianic Secret, proposed that the secrecy theme in the Gospel of Mark was not original to Jesus' ministry but rather a theological addition added by the writer of the Gospel. Wrede's argument was that the Gospel of Mark had to come up with a convincing explanation for why Jesus did not seem like a messiah during the course of his life. By emphasizing secrecy, Mark could simultaneously claim that Jesus was the messiah and that nobody knew it until after he had died, and that it was only through his resurrection that his messiahship was revealed.

A researcher here at Cambridge University told me this morning that rumor has it that Wrede changed his mind on this issue shortly before his death. Apparently, Wrede acknowledged and explained this change of mind with students at Tübingen, Germany. Is this really so? Can anybody confirm this?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cambridge New Testament Seminars, Lent Term 2011

January 25– ‘Current Research on the Gospel of Thomas’
Dr Simon Gathercole (Fitzwilliam College)

February 8– ‘Called to be Saints’
 Professor Morna Hooker (Robsinson College)

February 22 - ‘Placing the Corinthian Communal Meal’
Dr Edwards Adams (King’s College London)

March 8– ‘Etymology in New Testament Lexicons: A Current Trend?’
Dr John Lee (University of Macquarie)

Meetings will be held in the Faculty of Divinity on Tuesdays, at 2.30 pm in the Lightfoot Room

[Photo's: top is Professor Morna Hooker and bottom is Dr Edwards Adams (I think they call him Eddie)]