Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Are You the One Who Is to Come?:The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Questions by Michael Bird

Did Jesus claim to be Israel’s Messiah? To most evangelicals the answer would be in the affirmative but most “liberal” scholars deny that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and that the biblical records declaring him so are early church reflections and are not from the historical Jesus. It’s for this reason that Michael Bird, New Testament tutor at Highland Theological College, has written Are You the One Who Is to Come?:The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Questions in order to affirm that Jesus did in fact claim to be Israel’s Messiah.

Bird is carefully to argue not that Jesus used the title “Messiah” but “that Jesus saw himself in messianic categories, enacting a messianic role or messianic vocation as part of his aim to renew and restore Israel though his various activities” (p.29). Birds seeks to establish his thesis by first reviewing the messianic understanding in the 2nd Temple Judaism (Ch. 2) and refuting major arguments for the denial of Jesus' claim to be a Messiah such as Wrede’s “Messianic Secret” and the early Christians’ “scripturizing of the Jesus tradition” (Ch.3).

Bird spends the next two chapters exploring the messianic question through the Jesus tradition. First, Bird examines certain patterns and themes like “the Son of Man”, “the Anointed One”, kingdom, and “I Have Come” sayings (Ch. 4) then he analyzes the stories leading to Christ’s death, his death, and it’s aftereffects on the early Church. After carefully examination of the relevant texts, Bird makes a masterfully case that Jesus saw himself in messianic categories. Finally, Bird concludes with a final chapter describing the significances of Christ being the Messiah (Ch. 6).

I really appreciate a lot of Bird’s book. I found his review of the relevant texts to be careful and his conclusions to be extremely balanced. I was also excited to see Bird emphasis “the story of Israel”which I believe is the interpretative key in understanding Jesus. He writes “The story of the Messiah can only be understood as part of the story of Israel...Jesus was not a timeless heavenly redeemer imparting esoteric truths to receptive human vessels. The vision of the New Testament authors and of proto-orthodox Christianity is that the day of salvation has been brought to the world through the Messiah of Israel” (pg. 163).

It’s important to note that this is an academic book and some might not be familiar with some of the issues, but those who do or are willing to patiently work through them I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Top Books of 2008

1. D.A. Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited

2. James Dunn's The Theology of Paul the Apostle

3. Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics

4. Scot Mcknight’s A New Vision for Israel: the Teaching of Jesus in National Context

5. Christopher Wright’s Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story

6. Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitness

7. Tim Keller’s The Reason of God:Belief in an Age of Skepticism

8. N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God

9. Mark A. Noll ‘s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

10. Kaiser’s, Bock’s, Enns’ Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Craig Blomberg's New Blog

Craig Blomberg, one of my favorite NT scholars, has decided to create his own blog, called New Testament Musings . I am pumped!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Recommendation: The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics is an outstanding and thought-provoking book on New Testament (NT) ethics. Hay’s book consists of four parts reflecting the four heuristic task of pursuing NT ethics:

1) The Descriptive Task - the act of extricating the message of each individual writings of the Bible. Hays executes this task by briefly going over most of the individual books of the NT, noting each of the authors main points and concerns.

2) The Synthetic Task - the act of seeking to integrate the individual writings of the NT. In this section, Hays provides us 3 guidelines in how we should pursue our synthesis of each individual NT text: a) confront the full range of canonical witness b) let the tension stand and c) attend to the literary genre of the texts (pg . 189 – 191). Hays also provides us with three images, which he believes to be central to the biblical story, that will help guide our reflections on NT ethics: a) community b) cross and c) new creation. (pg 196 -200)

3) The Hermeneutical Task - the act of relating what we find in the synthetic task to our particular situation. For this part, Hays examines the concept of authority as it relates to scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (pg. 208-209). Then Hays investigates the hermeneutical strategies in pursuing ethics by five interpreters: Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza which allows us to see how different people use scripture, tradition, reason and experience in grounding their ethical imperatives.

4) The Pragmatic Task – the act of living out what the Bible’s commands. In this final section, Hays uses his 4 task model of pursuing ethics by seeking to understand the ethical norm for violence in defense of justice (pg 317 – 343), divorce (pg 347- 374), homosexuality (pg 379 – 400), Anti-Judaism and ethic conflicts (pg 407 – 438) and abortion (pg. 444-457)

I found Richard Hay’s book to be very helpful as it allows me to see the difficulties of using the Bible as normative source for ethics but yet it also provides a well reasoned model on how to get past them. I also enjoyed Hay's Christ-like tone throughout his book as it relates to his model and when he addresses hot topics like divorce, abortion, and homosexuality.

(Doug Moo's has a good critically review of Dr. Hay's book)

Book Recommendation: A New Vision for Israel

In Scot McKnight’s book, A New Vision for Israel: the Teaching of Jesus in National Context, he seeks to articulate an understanding of Jesus by integrating him the in context of the redemption of Israel. McKnight sees Jesus as an eschatological prophet, whose mission was to warn Israel of the impending judgment of God (70.A.D.) which would usher in God’s final judgment and consummate his kingdom (pg.12). From this idea, McKnight builds and refines his understanding of Jesus through three major themes: a) the God of Jesus (Ch. 2), b) the kingdom of God (present aspect – Ch. 3 and future aspect Ch.4) and c) the ethics of God (Ch. 5 and 6).

I really enjoyed this book. It’s written clearly and builds a great exegetical case for understanding Jesus and his mission to Israel which I believe is the key in realizing who Jesus was in the gospels.

McKnight on 70AD and God's Consummated Kingdom

One of the most difficult passages in the Bible for me to understand is Mark 13 and it's parallels: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 21:5-36. Some interpreters see this passage as Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple (70 A.D.) and the final judgment which would usher in God's final kingdom in the near future that is within one generation (Mark 13:30), while other see Jesus as only predicting the temple's destruction as imminent and not God's final judgment/kingdom and yet others see Jesus only talking about fall of the temple, saying nothing about God's final judgment/kingdom.

Albert Schweitzer is probably the best known promoter of seeing Jesus predicting the nearness of both the temple's destruction and God's final judgment/kingdom, thus when God's final kingdom did not come about, he was wrong.

Scot Mcknight has a similar view to Schweitzer but challenges the notion that Jesus was in error based on his understanding of biblical prophets and how prophecy normally works. He writes:

"In his vision of human history, Jesus saw no further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in all its glory. That history took another course does not at all mean that Jesus was in error; rather, like the Hebrew prophets before him, he saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly. This perspective was typical of Jewish prophecy from of old; the next event was seen as the end event, but that next event resulted in a series of unfolding events. Prophecy carried with it an innate poetic ambiguity. It might be that Jesus made a distinction between the climatic events pertaining to the nation and to Jerusalem, on the one hand, and to the final events of history, on the other; that is, that Jesus distinguished the events of A.D. 70 from the final events (judgment, kingdom, etc.) This would be very difficult to prove and need not be proved, since Jesus' method was so typical of Jewish prophecy:the next event, an event that God had enabled a prophet to see, would take shape as the last event that would wrap up God's plan for history". - pg 12, A New Vision For Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context

Very interesting stuff. I need to think about this more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don Garlington is Asking, What's It All About?

Don Garlington is asking, "What's it all about" when a group of people articulate similar views on 1) the relationship between faith to obedience (Rom. 1:5) and 2) the necessity of works during the final judgment (Rom. 2:13) but some get attacked because of these views but others don't.

Garlington states:

"I ask again, What's it all about? If the likes of Bucer, Schreiner, Candeay, Seifrid, Dunn, Wright, Bird, Mounce, Shepherd, and others of us, are in essential accord as to Rom 1:5; 2:13 (and other texts), then why does there continue to be internecine warfare among believers of the same stripe? Or, more pointedly, why is there a persistent double standard imposed on those who are more alike than different?"

Through my reading of things on Paul and justification,I have asked the same question. But it appears to me that the major reason why some people get attacked and other don't is because one group affirms the Westminster Confession view of Christ's imputation with it's underlying notion of the "covenant of works" (Scheriner, Seifrid, and Bird), while others don't (Wright, Garlington and Shepherd) [1]

[1] I am not sure about Candeay's, Bucer's, Mounce's, or Dunn's views on imputation.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Book Recommendation: Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era

One of the main problems I have in understanding the New Testament is that I don't know the historical context for these writings very well. So, I was happy to read James S. Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Back of Early Christianity. Jeffers' book is an easy read that covers a variety of topics in the NT era such as: citizenship, slavery, views of life and death, and religion.

I found this book to be extremely helpful and I would recommend this to anyone, who is like me not too familiar, with the NT era.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jesus and Restoration of Israel

About a year ago, I started to focus my reading on the gospels (currently, I am reading Bock's Luke Commentary) and the historical Jesus instead of Pauline stuff, especially as it relates to justification and New Paul Perceptive. And so far, I found that the key in unlocking the gospels is the understanding of Jesus' mission and relationship with Israel[1].

Here's a good quote from Scot Mcknight describing Jesus connection with Israel:

"It follows, then that Jesus cannot be understood if the described exclusively, ore even primarily , in the category of a spiritual master, or as one who was primarily concerned with the inner religious life and its disciplines for the individual. First and foremost, Jesus was a Jew whose vision of the proper religious life centered on the restoration of the Jewish nation and on the fulfillment of the covenants that God had made with the nation. The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish national disaster. Jesus' hope was not so much the "Church" as the restoration of the twelve tribes (cf. Matt.8:11-12;10:23;and19:28), the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God's kingdom (focused on and through Israel) on earth. Thus, when Jesus sent out the Twelve (cf. Matt. 9:35-11:1), the "disciples were not evangelistic preachers sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival." [2]

[1] For a great lecture on understanding Jesus, check out Rikki Watt's talk dated "January 14, 2001)

[2] Mcknight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context, see pp. 10-11