Saturday, September 15, 2018

For Patrons: Fitting Acts 15 (Jerusalem Council) and Galatians 2 Together

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages. The patron post this week is on the question of how Acts 15 and Galatians 2 fit together.


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Lectures on Philosophy

My intention is to slowly accumulate video lectures introducing philosophy from one Christian point of view. Here is the introduction to philosophy that I wrote.

0. Is Philosophy Christian? (18 minutes)
1. The Questions of Philosophy (25 minutes)

2. Thinking Clearly (logic)
3. The Existence of God (philosophy of religion)
4. The Question of Evil (37 minutes, philosophy of religion)

5. What is a Person? (philosophical psychology)
6. Perspectives on Ethics
7. Perspectives on Society
8. Perspectives on Truth
9. Philosophy of Language
10. Philosophy of Science
11. Philosophy of History
12. Philosophy of Art

For Patrons: Who were the Galatians?

Every week I do a special podcast/video on Patreon for those who contribute $5 a month to my ongoing podcast commentary on Acts and daily videos on the Greek. This week's post asks who the Galatians to whom Paul wrote Galatians were. Were they the "south Galatians" we meet in Acts or some "north Galatians" Paul visited on his second missionary journey. All the secrets of the universe are here. :-)


Friday, September 07, 2018

Bultmann, "Exegesis without Presuppositions?"

One assignment for the second day of hermeneutics class was to read Rudolf Bultmann's classic article, "Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?" It was first published in 1957 in Theologische Zeitschrift and then later in Existence and Faith in English in 1965.

I.
1. Bultmann's answer, in the sense that he means "presuppositions," is no. No one is a blank slate. There is another sense of presupposition, meaning prejudging what the text means, is yes. As a good modernist, he rejects allegorical interpretation. But that is not what he is really writing about.

2. Prejudgments are often involved even when one intends to do exegesis. He mentions the assumption that Matthew and John were written by the disciples Matthew and John. He says the same for the assumption that Jesus thought he was the Messiah. "Every exegesis that is guided by dogmatic prejudices does not hear what the text says, but only lets the latter say what it wants to hear."

II.
1. Such prejudgments are not however the interest of the article.

The historical method is an essential presupposition, from his perspective. There seem to be overtones of Ernst Troeltsch here. The exegete must presuppose the continuity of cause and effect. Bultmann might reminds you here of David Hume in presupposing that miracles are not allowed to be part of exegesis or what he calls "historical method." This may also hint at Troeltsch's principle of analogy. If we don't see miracles today, we should not assume there were miracles then.

He does not deny anyone the right to believe in miracles, however, He simply denies that their allowance can be part of historical method. I also heard overtones at the beginning of the article of Troeltsch's other principle--the idea that historical conclusions are always revisable. This concept appears later in the chapter as well.

2. "In every effort to achieve a unified view the individual historian is guided by some specific way of raising questions, some specific perspective."

Bultmann did not believe that this dynamic falsified the historical picture, but it was a factor of which the historian should be self-aware. "Historical phenomena are many-sided."

Bultmann seems confident in human understanding of ideas like "man and his possibilities for action" or "what economy and society in general mean."

An interpreter must have some relation to the subject matter. "Only he who has a relation to music can understand a text that deals with music." A "life-relation" to the text is necessary for understanding, an appropriate "pre-understanding."

"The historical picture is falsified only when the exegete takes his pre-understanding as a definitive understanding." "To understand history is possible only for one who does not stand over against it as a neutral non-participating spectator, but himself stands in history and shares in responsibility for it." This is what he calls an existentiell encounter with history.

"This existentiell relation to history is the fundamental presupposition for understanding history." "Historical knowledge is never a closed or definitive knowledge." In its existential aspects, the meaning of an event belongs to the future. "What a historical event means always first becomes clear in the future."

3. "The understanding of the text is never a definitive one, but rather remains open because the meaning of the Scriptures discloses itself anew in every future."
__________________
This chapter is not what I expected. It is a mixture of the historical and the existential. It seems to me that he speaks of two different kinds of understanding. There is historical understanding. Then there is existential appreciation or "understanding."

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Patrons only: Christology of Acts

My weekly patrons only post is up on Patreon.com. This is an 11 minute summary of some features of Luke's Christology we've seen. For $5 a month, my patrons support my daily podcasts and Greek analysis of Acts and are rewarded with a special podcast/video just for them on Saturdays.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Acts 9 Explanatory Notes

Here are explanatory notes on Acts 9. You can also follow my daily podcast commentary on Patreon, as well as YouTube videos on the Greek (see the bottom for links).

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3
Acts 4
Acts 5
Acts 6
Acts 7
Acts 8

2. The Calling of Saul (9:1-31)
  • 9:1-2. While we do not have any evidence that Paul actually put other believers to death, these verses clearly indicate it was his intent. He goes to the high priest for letters, perhaps suggesting that he is working in some way for the Sanhedrin.
  • We are forced to speculate about Paul's motivations. As a Pharisee, working with the Sadducean leadership was presumably a matter of pragmatism. They need not have the same motivations. The high priest is presumably keeping the peace. The Hellenists are perhaps seen as seditious with their critique of the temple. Paul presumably also sees the Jesus movement as a threat to the purity of Israel.
  • Psychologically, Saul presumably wants to suppress his identity as a Diaspora Jew, Roman citizen, and Hellenist of sorts. This dynamic would explain his focus on persecuting the Hellenistic wing of the church.
  • As a Pharisee, Saul behaves more like a Shammaite Pharisee than a Hillelite. If so, he would be quite zealous for the Law and nationalistic in his hopes for the political future of Israel. If, as I suspect, the Hellenistic wing of the church was in continuity with Jesus in its inclusive tendencies and thus its laxity on purity rules, Saul would not only abhor them personally but see them as a liability to the future of Israel.
  • Damascus is a long way from Jerusalem and not at all under the jurisdiction of the high priest or the Sanhedrin. Perhaps Saul is seeking specific individuals whom he knows to have fled there. The connection of Damascus with Essene literature is intriguing (i.e., the Covenant of Damascus document).
  • This is the first instance of Jesus-followers being called, "The Way." One suspects a connection to Isaiah 40:3 and the ministry of John the Baptist. We also should not forget John 14:6.
  • Note that, as women are full participants in the gospel, they are here mentioned as full targets too.
  • 9:3-9. This is the resurrection appearance of Jesus to Paul. Paul will speak of this experience as the moment of his apostolic calling. He considers himself the last of such apostles (1 Cor. 15:8). An apostle, in this particular sense, is someone to whom the risen Christ has appeared (1 Cor. 9:1) who has then been sent as a witness to the resurrection. Paul of course did not qualify as an apostle from the narrower standpoint of Acts 1:21-22, for he was not with Jesus from the time of John the Baptist.  
  • It is a misconception to think of Paul as his Christian name, while Saul is his pre-Christian Jewish name. First, Paul did not change religions when he believed. That is an anachronistic conception. He converted between one Jewish sect (Pharisee) and another (Jesus movement). Acts continues to call him Saul for almost 15 years after he believes on Christ. Rather, Paul would seem to be a Roman name he had from birth, a name he suppressed as a Pharisee. Saul is his Jewish name, but not a name he ever stopped having.
  • 9:3-4. Paul sees a light and hears a voice. "Why are you persecuting me?" Would that God stopped all of us in our tracks when we get off track.
  • 9:5. Paul says, "Who are you, sir (kyrios)?" But there is a double entendre. The word for sir is also the word for Lord. Yes, Jesus is the Lord.
  • 9:7. There are some minor variations in the later repetition of the story in Acts. In this first telling, the men hear the voice but do not see anyone.
  • 9:8-9. They take him into Damascus. He is now blind. For three days he fasts and presumably prays for the Lord to give him further guidance.
  • 9:10-19. These verses tell about Paul's interaction with Ananias, a believer in the city of Damascus.
  • 9:10-12. The Lord tells Ananias to go to Saul. Ananias is understandably nervous. Nevertheless, his response is like that of the boy Samuel, "Here I am, Lord."
  • 9:13. This is the first time that believers are called "holy ones" or "saints" in Acts.
  • 9:15-16. Here we see the mission God has planned for Saul. He will be an apostle to the Gentiles. The mention of kings probably foreshadows Paul's later appearance before Nero, of which the audience of Acts would be aware.
  • Paul will also suffer for the Lord, perhaps an allusion in part to his future martyrdom, of which the audience would be aware. He may have done some persecution for a while, but he will endure more than his fair share in return.
  • 9:17-18. Ananias is obedient. Saul receives his sight back, but we know from his own writings that he would continue to struggle with his eyes for years to come (Gal. 4:15), and many think struggles with his eyesight were his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7).
  • It is implied that PTaul receives the Holy Spirit here at the hands of Ananias. This fact indicates that one does not need an apostle to receive the Holy Spirit. Indeed, on the Day of Pentecost and in the Spirit-filling of Cornelius in Acts 10, it is not necessary for someone to lay hands on you to receive the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul is also baptized in water, which is normative in Acts.
  • 9:20-22. Saul immediately starts preaching that Jesus is Lord in the synagogues of Damascus. Jesus is the "Son of God," the anointed king of Israel. This seditious claim (since the Romans considered Caesar to be Son of God and Lord) was presumably the core basis for Paul's authority to arrest Christians in the first place.
  • The irony is thick. Saul is now doing exactly what he was trying to stop.
  • Paul's knowledge of the Scriptures now makes him a powerful advocate of Jesus. He knew the arguments of the Jesus-followers. They likely had gnawed at his heart as he argued against them. There must have been a seed of doubt within him even as a Pharisee. Now the conclusion flips, and he becomes unstoppable in argument.
  • 9:23-25. We learn some interesting details of these days from Galatians and 2 Corinthians, where Paul gives his own account of these days. For example, we learn that there is a three year period tucked into the time between his faith in Christ and his return to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18). 
  • During this time, he visits "Arabia," which seems to refer to the Nabatean kingdom just to the east of Damascus (Gal. 1:17). This was the boundary of the Roman Empire.
  • In 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 we hear Paul's version of his escape from Damascus. In his account, it is not the Jews of Damascus but the Arab ethnarch under King Aretas who is trying to arrest him. Paul presumably got into trouble for his preaching in Arabia. It is hard to know whether he was already preaching to non-Jews this early. Perhaps we can picture a Jonah-like message of coming destruction. Perhaps he goes to Arabia to get beyond the reach of the Romans and the Sanhedrin.
  • It has been suggested that the year AD36 was one in which King Aretas would have held more sway in Damascus than previously, because Herod Antipas was briefly defeated in battle. If so, this fact would place Paul's conversion around AD33.
  • 9:26-30. Paul finally goes back to Jerusalem. From Galatians we know this was after three years. In Paul's own account, this was somewhat of a stealthy trip, which is understandable given his former role there. In his account, he only sees Peter and James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19). He was unknown to the churches of Judea at large and only stays 15 days.
  • 9:26-27. The apostles are understandably hesitant to see him. Barnabas, as we will come to expect, serves as a go-between, a minister of reconciliation. 
  • 9:28-29. Again, this is not the impression we get from Paul's own writings--that he preached to Hellenists and went in and out among the leadership. Interestingly, Paul considered himself a Hebrew of Hebrews (e.g., Phil. 3:5; 2 Cor. 11:22), not a Hellenist. Yet Acts frequently places Paul in Hellenistic contexts.
  • 9:30. Saul returns to his home in Tarsus, which will apparently be his center for the next seven years or so. It is hard to imagine him simply sitting put. Since Paul does not conduct a mission to Cilicia or Cappadocia in Acts, we can wonder if he did so during these years, covering the eastern part of Asia Minor up to Pontus.
  • 9:31. In this summary statement, the church in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee undergoes a time of peace. The implication seems to be that, with Saul now a believer, there is no anti-champion against the church. 
  • We are reminded that persecution in the early church was sporadic rather than sustained. It was local rather than global. It is often thought that the church thrives under persecution. It might be more accurate to say that the church tends to thrive just after persecution.
B. Peter's Ministry in Judea (9:32-11:18)
     1. Peter in Lydda and Joppa (9:32-43)
  • 9:32-43. We now see Peter getting out of Jerusalem and preaching the gospel in Judea. We also see him once more embodying the power of the Holy Spirit in ways that parallels what the Holy Spirit did through Jesus.
  • 9:32-35. In these verses, Peter heals a paralyzed man in Lydda named Aeneas. Lydda was along the Judean coast.
  • 9:32. Believers are once again called "holy ones" or "saints."
  • 9:35. The miracles performed in the church clearly were an instrument of evangelism, as many people come to the Lord after seeing them.
  • 9:36-43. This is the story of the raising of Tabitha from the dead. Luke seems clearly to want to demonstrate a continuity between the acts that Jesus did through the Holy Spirit and the acts of the church through the Holy Spirit. The implication is that all those who have the Holy Spirit can do such acts, and there is no indication that such power will change during this time of the Spirit.
  • 9:36. Tabitha seems to mean "gazelle" in Aramaic, of which the Greek is "Dorcas." Luke is writing for a Greek-speaking audience, so has a bias for the name Dorcas.
  • She was full of good works and acts of almsgiving, which Luke only considers to be positive virtues fitting a follower of God.
  • 9:37. The mention of an upper room may suggest some affluence.
  • 9:38. Peter is invited to come, presumably to take part in the mourning of her virtuous life.
  • 9:39. The other widows show him garments she had made.
  • 9:40-41. Peter sends them from the room and (through the power of the Holy Spirit) raises her from the dead. Then he presents her alive.
  • 9:42. Once again, the miracle proves to be a powerful mechanism of evangelism.
  • 9:43. Peter stays with a tanner, someone who skinned dead animals and prepared their hides for sale. It was a smelly and messy business, looked down upon. Yet it was part of life. We find out later that Simon's house was along the sea (10:6), which makes sense in the need for water.
  • One wonders, however, if this is yet another example of the fact that the gospel is for everyone. God loves and receives this tanner just as much as he receives all those who believe on the Lord.
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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Patrons only: Herod Agrippa I

My weekly patrons only post is up on Patreon.com. Since we looked at Acts 12 this week, I decided to look at Herod Agrippa I in my patrons podcast/video this week. For $5 a month, my patrons support my daily podcasts and Greek analysis of Acts and are rewarded with a special podcast/video just for them on Saturdays.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Acts 8 Explanatory Notes

Here are explanatory notes on Acts 8. You can also follow my daily podcast commentary on Patreon, as well as YouTube videos on the Greek (see the bottom for links).

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3
Acts 4
Acts 5
Acts 6
Acts 7

III. Samaria and Judea (Acts 8:4-12:25)
A. Persecution and Peace (Acts 8:4-9:31)
1. The Ministry of Philip (8:4-40)
a. Ministry in Samaria (8:4-25)
  • 8:4-8. Here we have a general statement about Philip's ministry in Samaria, followed by a particular story.
  • 8:4. As we saw in 8:1, it was not the apostles but likely primarily the Hellenistic believers who were scattered after the death of Stephen, and they now move out into the surrounding regions of Jerusalem with the gospel.
  • This is the second part of Acts in keeping with Acts 1:8. Acts 8-12 tells us about the witness of the resurrection in Judea and Samaria.
  • Samaria was viewed with condescension and disregard by Judeans and those in Galilee who followed the Judean sense of Israel's history. The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch. They rejected the Jerusalem temple as the true temple of Israel. They were more "pluralistic" in the sense of correlating the God of Israel with the gods of other nations. They were arguably less distinctly Israelite in race.
  • 8:5. Philip was one of the seven commissioned along with Stephen to provide ministry to the Greek-speaking church. He is never called a deacon but rather Philip "the evangelist" (21:8).
  • He is proclaiming "the Christ," that is, the Messiah, the anointed one.
  • There is a manuscript choice as to whether it is "a" city of Samaria or "the" city of Samaria, with "the" having perhaps a slight edge. It is not entirely clear which city is in view. Sebaste was the most prominent city in Samaria but also thoroughly secular. So it is not entirely clear where this event took place.
  • 8:6-8. Here we see a pattern that is repeated several times in this section. The miracles performed by the evangelists and apostles result in people believing on the good news.
  • 8:7. Here for the first time in Acts we see a continuation of Jesus' exorcist ministry in addition to his healing ministry.
  • 8:8. The good news brings joy.
  • 8:9-24. This is the story of Simon the sorcerer. The later church would come to regard him as the father of all heresy. However, in Acts itself we do not learn the eventual fate of this man.
  • 8:9-11. A number of magical papyri have survived from this period, and they make it clear that magic was the poor person's religion of the ancient world. If you had a problem, someone who knew magic was available to help, much as the role a witch doctor plays in some cultures today.
  • 8:9-10. Simon thought he was important, and no doubt a lot of people in Samaria thought he was too. 
  • "The power of God who is called Great." Simon apparently was thought to manifest the power of the highest God. Perhaps this is an example of Samaritan syncretism, where God was equated with other kings of the gods like Zeus.
  • 8:12. Meanwhile, Philip was preaching the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. The people believed in what Philip was proclaiming, that the rule of God was coming with Jesus as king.
  • Both men and women were baptized in the name of Jesus, another example of Luke's attention to women as well as men.
  •  8:13. Simon believed as well and was baptized, but we are surely about to find out that these elements to the equation are not enough. He believes with his head but not his heart. He has gone through the ritual motions, but his full allegiance is not with Christ. Perhaps he sees Jesus as just another power to add to the other powers he channels, not as the exclusive name by which all are saved.
  • The miracles once again serve as an evangelistic tool.
  • 8:14. One concern of Acts seems to be to legitimate the charismatic activities of people like Philip and Paul by subordinating them to the ministry of Peter as the central authority. So the central authorities, Peter and John go to Samaria, thus endorsing Philip's charismatic activity.
  • 8:15-17. It is when Peter and John lay hands on the Samaritans that they receive the Holy Spirit. For Acts, as Paul, it is receiving the Holy Spirit that indicates a person is truly included into the people of God. 
  • In that sense, it is a problem that none of them had yet received the Holy Spirit, even though they had faith and had been baptized. But they were not yet truly in. Baptism and faith are thus associated with becoming part of the new covenant people of God, but they are not the actual moment of entrance.
  • 8:18-19. Simon apparently does not receive the Holy Spirit. He is still on the outside and, according to Christian tradition, would remain on the outside. He sees the power of the Holy Spirit as simply another tool to put in his toolbox. 
  • He offers money to get the power. Like Ananias and Sapphira, he is trying to use money to advance in spiritual things but in the process reveals that his heart is not right with God (cf. Luke 16:13). 
  • 8:20-23. Peter sternly rebukes him. Without realizing it, Simon has revealed a complete lack of understanding of what is happening. He has revealed a heart of bitterness and bondage to sin. His heart is not right with God. Peter implies he faces judgment if he does not repent for thinking it was in his power to control the power of God. 
  • 8:24. Simon himself does not pray but asks instead for Peter to pray to God to avert his destruction. He seems to realize that he has no part in the God of Peter and Philip.
  • 8:25. This summary statement indicates that at least part of the second phase of the mission in Acts has been accomplished. Peter and John have been witnesses to Christ in Samaria. 
b. Ministry in Judea (8:26-40)
  • 8:26-40. The rest of the chapter relates Philip's ministry along the coast of Judea, thus fulling the rest of Acts 1:8, that the good news would be proclaimed in Judea and Samaria. 
  • 8:26-27. An angel of the Lord instructs Philip to head toward Gaza, formerly a Philistine city. Here he meets the Ethiopian eunuch. 
  • Given Luke's penchant in these chapters to point out the crossing of social boundaries, we probably should conclude that this man is truly a eunuch, thus someone who would be unclean according to Leviticus and not allowed in the holy camp of Israel in the wilderness (e.g., Lev. 21:20). Such a state would give a reason for Luke to include this story. 
  • As a eunuch, he would not be allowed in the temple proper itself, yet Luke probably wants us to think of Isaiah 56:3-5. The implication is that the welcoming of a eunuch into the people of God is a signal of the end of times. We should probably assume he was a Jew, for the gospel has not yet crossed that barrier at this point in the story.
  • "Eunuch" could of course merely be a title for a prominent position in service to Candace, the queen. He is clearly a person of great stature, even though he is a servant of the queen. Ethiopian Christianity today traces its origins to this individual.
  • 8:28-29. He is reading from Isaiah 53.
  • 8:30-31. Philip asks if he understands the passage. The angel has presumably brought Philip to this man to help him understand, an indication that God brings light to those who are seeking it.
  • The eunuch is puzzled about the identity of the one to whom the chapter refers. This is understandable since the chapters leading up to 53 identify the servant with Israel. Yet in Isaiah 53, the servant suffers on behalf of Israel. 
  • Originally, the text may have had in mind past Israel suffering for the Israel that is about to return from captivity. However, in a fuller sense, read with spiritual eyes, the passage can be read in light of Jesus' sufferings too.
  • 8:32-33. The verses in question are Isaiah 53:7-8. Justice was denied Jesus and his life was taken away.
  • 8:34-36. Philip opens the eunuch's eyes to a fuller sense to the passage and relates it spiritually to the sufferings of Jesus. Philip's message presumably culminates in something like Acts 2:38, for he immediately wants to be baptized. 
  • 8:37. This verse is not in the oldest manuscripts of Acts. Indeed, it is not even in the majority of manuscripts of Acts. It likely entered into the manuscript tradition as a marginal note, expressing the assumption that the eunuch would have made a profession of faith before baptism. The numbering of the verses took place in 1550 and, when it was discovered that the verse was not likely original, it would have been too confusing to renumber them. Accordingly, the verse is missing from almost all modern versions of the New Testament.
  • 8:38-39. So the eunuch is baptized, and we should assume that he receives the Holy Spirit. 
  • The Spirit of the Lord strangely whisks Philip away after baptizing the eunuch, whose name we never learn in the text.
  • 8:40. Philip continues to preach along the coastline of Judea, going as far north as Caesarea.
Patrons only
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Patrons only: Peter and the Gentile Mission

My post this week for patrons on Patreon tries to triangulate a little between the impression of the beginnings of the Gentile mission in Galatians 2 and the seemingly more formal "foundation story" we read in Acts 10. My Saturday posts are made for those who donate $5 a month to my mostly free videos and podcasts on the book of Acts.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Recipe for a Hermeneutic

1. You may not know it, but the undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at Indiana Wesleyan has a KERN 3 + 2 program where students finish their undergraduate degree in 3 years and then also go on to finish a 72 hour master's degree with us in two more. It's a program just for IWU undergraduate students so we don't compete externally with the Seminary.

It's a spectacular program that is heavily scholarshiped in a brilliant, self-sustaining way! The young 23 year olds coming out of this program are some of the most innovative students I've ever had, and they are pumped to be used of God to impact the world for Christ. They are mentored for five years by Eddy Shigley and the STM community. They do the first year of their master's in residential community on the IWU campus (Year 4). Then their fifth year is an internship at a church--quite often a great teaching church like 12Stone. While they are in their internship, they finish up online with professors back at the ranch.

2. Because Abson Joseph moved on to become the Dean of Wesley Seminary, I get to teach his "Hermeneutics for Ministry" class this fall to the fourth year STM students in the KERN program. Suffice it to say, I am over the moon. I've never had the chance to teach a graduate level hermeneutics class to master's students with an already extensive undergraduate background in Bible and theology. But suffice it to say, I've given the topic an immense amount of thought over the years.

Abson did a great job teaching this course. I'm not even going to try to compete with him for student satisfaction. Two assignments he had them do were superb: 1) they wrote a paper presenting their own hermeneutic and 2) they created a practical ministry artifact that embodied it. But this raises the question. Can I create a recipe for a hermeneutic? How can I set them up to write a great hermeneutic that has the spark of their own genius in it?

3. The syllabus for this class has been difficult to make and I'm not there yet (thus this post, to think part of it through). As usual, I can't find a book or books that I like. I'm primarily using Joel Green's edited volume Hearing the New Testament. It covers one piece of the puzzle pretty well. I ended up using Craig Keener's Spirit Hermeneutic, which will be a good contribution but doesn't really seem to cover the hard core philosophical bits of hermeneutics.

So here are some of the threads I'm trying to cover:
  • Models I use: the three worlds of the text (Ricoeur), speech-act theory (Austin, Searle), three points of polyvalence (meaning, integration, appropriation), reflective versus non-reflective readings, open versus closed approaches 
  • Meta-issues from classical exegesis - the autonomy of the text (Ricoeur), language games in forms of life (Wittgenstein), metaphor and non-literal language (Ricoeur)
  • An overview of the history of epistemological and hermeneutical discussion, from Plato to Kant, from Schleiermacher to Derrida, the four fold approach of medieval interpretation
  • the -isms of biblical studies: textual criticism, tradition-historical criticism, rhetorical criticism, social-scientific criticism, narrative criticism, discourse analysis, reader-response criticism, ideological criticisms (feminist, African-American, Latino/a, etc).
  • canonical criticism and a foretaste of biblical theology (which is the spring course), theological and sacramental readings, Keener's "pentecostal" approach
How do you order all that stuff? More to the point, how do you create a structure for a student to cook their own sense of hermeneutics without simply leading them to regurgitate yours?
4. So here goes (I'm making this up as I write). A position paper on hermeneutics should take a position on:

a. First, is interpretation an open or closed activity? That is to say, are there pre-established boundaries for what the text can or cannot say? For example, must we assume or bias orthodox or pre-assumed meanings for the Bible?
  • Tradition/pre-reflective readings - the Bible always comes out Wesleyan, for example (first naivete readings)
  • Fundamentalist readings - the Bible has to come out inerrant, narrowly defined
  • Theological readings - patristic, Kuyperian, Barthian, post-liberal/narrative theology, some theological interpretation
b. How objective can a person actually be, assuming interpretation is somewhat of an open activity?
  • The impossibility of presuppositionless interpretation (e.g., Bultmann)
  • Gadamer and the two horizons of the text
  • Stephen Fowl and the under-determined nature of the text
  • some theological interpretation and gap filling
c. How does language work?
  • the picture theory of language (Augustine)
  • sense and reference (Frege)
  • signs and signified (de Saussure, Derrida)
  • language games in forms of life (Wittgenstein)
  • speech-act theory (Austin, Searle)
  • metaphor theories (Ricoeur, Lakoff and Johnson, Fauconnier and Turner)
d. How do texts work?
  • Ricoeur and the autonomous text
  • Ricoeur and the three worlds of the text
  • attempts at text-only approaches - narrative criticism, discourse analysis
  • Genres, particulars of narratives and discourses, rhetorical criticism
  • Problems in identifying the "original" text
  • Sources oral and written, tradition histories
e. What is the best way to recover historical meaning?
  • Schleiermacher and Dilthey (meeting of the minds)
  • Ernst Troeltsch's three criteria (criticism, analogy, correlation)
  • Robert Traina's inductive Bible study method
  • Hermeneutics of Suspicion (coined by Ricoeur)
d. Is the historical meaning even desirable?
  • Postmodern approaches - reader-response and deconstruction
  • Ideological criticisms - feminist, African-American, Latino/a
  • Ricoeur's second naivete
e. How does one integrate biblical texts?
  • Thomas Kuhn and paradigms
  • The selection and deselection of texts, fulcrum texts
  • salvation history approach (texts in history)
  • progressive revelation, kingdom trajectory
  • Christocentric integration
  • canonical approach
  • narrative approach (history in text, Hans Frei)
  • NT use of OT as case study
f. How does the text relate to the world in front of the text?
  • The regula fidei and the law of love (Augustine's De doctrina)
  • The medieval four-fold sense
  • lectio divina, sensus plenior, spiritual and charismatic readings
  • Wesleyan Quadrilateral versus sola scriptura
  • "Family resemblances" and evangelical hermeneutics
  • "Improvisation" and ethical principles
  • A sacramental approach
Critique? Suggestions?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Finis: Konrad Heiden's Der Fuhrer

On November 29, 2016, I started reading through Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. I have finally finished this 774 tome. It ends more or less on June 30, 1934, the day of the "blood purge" during which Hitler and his core of leaders killed hundreds of his opponents, mostly individuals within the Nazi party itself. From this point on, Hitler's control and course was more or less sealed, even though it would not be till 1938 that his campaign to acquire territory began.

Other names for this event are "The Night of the Long Knives" and the Röhm Putsch. For previous posts, see the bottom.

Chapter 28: The Blood Purge
1. The key counterpoint to Hitler in this chapter is Ernst Röhm, who had been a compatriot of Hitler since the early days. Indeed, without Röhm, Hitler probably could never had come to power in the first place. Röhm was the leader of the S.A., the "storm troopers," the "brown shirts." This was a collection of some three million men who struck fear into the hearts of ordinary Germans.

Other military and quasi-military groups included the Reichswehr, which was the limited, official military/police of Germany during the period after WW1. But they only numbered about 300,000. Under Heinrich Himmler, the SS or "Protection Squadron" had arisen, who would eventually become responsible for the Holocaust and spying on the German people. The Gestapo would eventually be run by the SS as well.

Hitler apparently wavered quite a bit in relation to Röhm. In some ways, he was dear to Hitler's heart. But he did not fully submit to Hitler. He almost acted as an equal. A showdown seemed to be inevitable. Whether the SA were planning to kill a lot of Hitler's men is not clear to me. As the SA were being sent on vacation, the SS, Gestapo, and Hitler moved to kill Röhm and a number of their political enemies.

Interestingly, Röhm and those who surrounded him were openly homosexual and were known for orgiastic activity. Hitler and others for a long time considered this a small fault, not worth addressing. However, it would become a major part of the argument for bringing about Röhm's demise. The real reasons, however, had to do with the threat he posed to Hitler's absolute power.

2. Heiden begins the chapter with musing that those who dominate the world cannot really enjoy it. "None of the great world rulers has been happy." They fear their downfall. They have the icy burden of responsibility.

While Göring and Goebbels lived the high life of near absolute power, "Hitler, who indulged himself in everything, was fortunate enough not to be plagued with conspicuous desires" (717). On the whole, however, "the corruption of the Third Reich is connected with the worship of 'great men'" (729).

In 1934 Hitler shifted in his talk of the Aryan, Germans all being equal. They might still be superior to all other peoples, but now all Germans aren't equal but "It is the better man who commands, the inferior who obeys" (721). Hitler's group were superior to the rest of the German people. "The independence of the new leader class from special economic interests is what Hitler calls 'socialism.'"

This was not Röhm's position, by the way. He still looked for a truly socialist state. The tension between Hitler and his old friend Röhm continued to grow. It was "a conflict between the state [Hitler] and the party [Röhm] over the right to practice terrorism" (724). There was a "chaos of cross-currents," an excess of power in multiple entities. It would lead to the blood purge, where Hitler's men eliminated some of the affiliated but less focalized Nazi affiliated groups.

3. Hitler slowly took over the legal system. The rules changed. Soon judges did not dare to enforce the laws in court. The on-the-ground injustices soon became official injustices. "Law should not protect the weakling, but make the strong even stronger" (727). After the blood purge, all the killings were deemed appropriate by the German justice system.

Hitler had made countless promises, but they were worthless. "A statesman can always find an adequate excuse for breaking his word under compelling circumstances" (751).

The youth were now in full brainwashing. Imagine what the Nazis were able to do in the five years from Hitler becoming chancellor and the beginning of his invasions, let alone in the twelve years to the end of WW2. He was able to shape the minds of a whole generation of young people to his way of thinking.

4. Meanwhile, Hitler had trouble controlling the excesses of the storm troopers in the year he was consolidating his power. They had set up "artificial hells" at Dachau, Oranienburg, Duerrgoy, and Boergermoor to punish their enemies, especially Social Democrats. It would not end there.

But "a curious thing happened: the S.A. began to feel afraid in the Germany they dominated" (733). There was a moment of doubt when the tide might have turned against the current reign. Hitler stepped back for a moment, tried to get the S.A. to moderate, to stop talking about a second revolution. Some began to speak of a return of the monarchy. As Hindenburg approached his death, some spoke of a new president and then a new chancellor. Unemployment was down, but the people were getting used to it.

Von Papen made a key speech at this point. "Propaganda does not create great men, nor is propaganda alone sufficient to maintain the confidence of the people."

Hitler did not seize the moment to reign in the S.A. politically. His hesitancy to assert himself at this moment inevitably let Röhm's power increase. "It lies in the nature of things human that unused power passes imperceptibly from idle hands into more active ones" (740). Hitler was not fully using his potential power. Röhm used it.

5. The critical turning point was when Röhm demanded that the S.A. be part of the official German army. His insistence against the will of Hitler sealed his fate. He considered himself an equal. He would have to be eliminated.

June 30, 1934 was the day. "A great usurper must trample even upon his friends" (751). Hitler flew to Munich and oversaw the murder of Röhm himself. Every tenth man of the S.A. needed to be killed to show that the state under Hitler was in control. Former political opponents in the state were killed, especially leaders of cross-currents of power. Many considered themselves loyal to Hitler and felt betrayed.

"The Fuhrer had trampled on the bodies of his best friends; along with his enemies he murdered these friends in the most criminal and the most frivolous fashion; and for that reason he was admired by the people - including those of his victims who escaped death" (772). He said, "There won't be another revolution in Germany for the next thousand years."

"The belief in the necessity of evil, which slumbers in the lowest depths of the human soul, had been awakened in Hitler as by no other man in the history of Europe."

"Each horror wipes out its predecessor in the minds of the people."

Finis

Previously on Hitler:

Monday, August 13, 2018

1. Reading the Bible Experientially (Keener)

1. I am reading Craig Keener's recent book, Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. Last week I read the introduction.

Introduction

This week I read chapter 1: Reading Experientially.

The bottom line of this chapter is that the Bible is not merely a historical document to investigate but Scripture meant to have an experiential impact on us. An atheist might read it in the former way, but a Christian will also read it in the latter way. "As Christians, we read the Bible with personal faith" (24).

2. So the biblical narratives include both positive and negative models for our lives. Indeed, ancient historians wrote history with this goal in mind. [So a Fee and Stuart are overly modernist to see the biblical narratives as mere descriptions of what happened.] Paul certainly read the stories of the OT as full of models for his day.

"By experiential reading, I mean believing to the depths of our being what we find in the text" (25). I don't think Keener is talking here about believing the factual bits of the text, although he certainly has a bias to do so. He means that the experiences of the text are possibilities for us as well as they were for the original characters in the stories. He is not primarily talking about feeling here but "faith and the action that it demands."

"The most distinctive contribution of classical Pentecostalism to the global church has been the restoration of the full slate of spiritual gifts as an experiential presupposition from which we read Scripture" (26). A presuppositionless approach to the text is impossible. Keener wants us to understand that there are experiential "presuppositions" to the biblical texts in addition to the more often emphasized intellectual ones.

"At its best, Pentecostal spirituality is about living out a dynamic relationship with God" (29). Surely it is the same for Wesleyans.

3. Most of the rest of the chapter presents three points: 1) experiential readings of the Bible are inevitable, 2) they are desirable, and 3) they are biblical.

In the first section, we have perhaps a foreshadowing. He likes to think of "fuller meanings" of Scripture as application. The distinction is at least helpful between the present reception of the text's message from the way its ideal original recipients might have read it.

"Inductive study of the Bible on its own terms... uncovers more information in the long run than coming to the Bible with our questions (especially if a pastor is starting to prepare a sermon the night before he or she will be preaching it!)" (31). A basic point he is making here is that long term study yields more in the long run than study on the occasion of need.

4. His point that experiential reading is desirable dives into the fact that "psalms by their very genre invite us to do more than study them: they invite us to pray them, sing them, or use them as models to jumpstart our own prayers" (32). Similarly, the Gospel of John is not merely writing to record but for his audience as well. Indeed, 1 John tells its audience to live out what Jesus tells his disciples not to do. Luke also parallels the actions of Jesus in Luke with the actions of the apostles in Acts.

"Emotion, then, is not foreign to Scripture" (36). The fruit of the Spirit is experiential.

5. There are of course one time events in Scripture that were not meant to be repeated.

Other interesting tidbits:
  • "Although many of the debates about outpourings of the Spirit to Acts understandably focus on individual Christian experience, Luke's narratives focus on corporate outpourings--perhaps something like what American church historians call revivals" (23).
  • "Pure naturalism allows no miracles; some supernaturalists have reduced God to a formula that treats miracles as automatic if given conditions are met" (28).

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Patron's Only: Paul's Early Biography

It's time for my weekly "patron's only" post. Those who donate at least $5 a month on my Patreon page have immediate access to these podcasts/videos. This week, as we finish Acts 9 in our daily Acts podcasts, the video is on Paul's Early Biography, drawing on autobiographical material in Philippians, Galatians, and 2 Corinthians.


Monday, August 06, 2018

0. Spirit Hermeneutics Intro (Keener)

1. This fall, I am reading Craig Keener's recent book, Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. I'm expecting to find much that I agree with. The Wesleyan tribe of which I am a part in America seems to be a mixture of at least four branches:

a. The revivalist, holiness branch that was nineteenth/early twentieth century evangelicalism, from which the pentecostal movement also in large part emerged

b. The mainstream, liberal branch, which developed in the late 1800s and has of late produced a post-liberal, orthodox tributary

c. The fundamentalist/baptistified branch that grew out of the holiness movement and came to dominate a great deal of Wesleyanism in the late twentieth century

d. A neo-evangelical branch that dominated many Wesleyan educational institutions in the late twentieth century.

Only the second and fourth branches have tended to produce any scholarship on hermeneutics. In my opinion, both have been dominated by non-Wesleyan influences. Steven Koskie's, Reading the Way to Heaven is post-liberal. Other works are simply repackaged neo-evangelical hermeneutics.

So I welcome Keener's attempt to sketch out a "pentecostal" hermeneutic (small p). I perceive that it will turn out to present a hermeneutic in the first, revivalist trajectory. Keener has paid enough dues in neo-evangelical scholarship to be allowed to publish such a book. I wonder if I am about to read a hermeneutic that is more intrinsically Wesleyan than neo-evangelicalism or post-liberalism. I've written similar things, but no one reads me.

2. Craig Keener is a Pentecostal, but he has paid his dues in the academic (liberal) and neo-evangelical circles. These dues have given him the political clout to write a piece that might not normally be accepted by an Eerdmans. Commissioned to write a smaller volume on Pentecostal hermeneutics, the very force of who he is convinced them to publish a work twice as long.

The work is not Pentecostal with a capital P but pentecostal with a small p. As such his project includes revivalist Wesleyans, who have long looked to Pentecost as a paradigm for who we are. The key difference between a pentecostal and a non-pentecostal for Keener has to do with the gifts of the Spirit. A pentecostal is a non-cessationist--someone who does not believe that gifts of the Spirit like tongues and prophecy ended with the early church. A pentecostal believes that all the gifts of the Spirit are still in play today.

In this sense, Wesleyans are in theory pentecostals, although often effectively not in practice. Indeed, the Pentecostal tradition grew out of the same currents of which the holiness movement at the turn of the twentieth century was a part. A quote in the introduction captures a small piece of the equation: "The entire church must be experiential if it wishes to be biblical" (11).

I have heard of "Wesleyans" who are cessationists, but this is just another example of a theologically anemic church reaching into other traditions to find an ideology. It is an exegetically untenable position, as Keener says. Of course the Wesleyan Church has always been squeamish about tongues. Our current stance seems to be one that does not oppose tongues in private or in other churches in worship. For practical reasons, we do not speak in tongues in our worship services. I believe I can defend this position hermeneutically without invoking cessationism.

3. I enjoyed a brief anecdote Craig tells from his time at Duke. A student at Duke kept hammering at Keener that his argument was out of sync with Luther's approach to Scripture. I suspect the other student was invoking the solas. But Martin Luther was not the father of Pentecostalism any more than he was the father of Wesleyanism. Another student intervened for the two debaters who were talking past each other: "Craig does not feel a commitment to that tradition" (18).

And so as a Wesleyan I have enjoyed the nuance of the "new" perspective on Paul, as well as other scholarly developments in recent years. Here biblical scholarship has exposed the anachronisms of Luther. Paul's faith/works debate was primarily about concrete matters that distinguished Jew from Gentile, not an abstract faith versus works debate. Grace in Paul's day was unmerited but not necessarily unsolicited and expected reciprocity on a disproportionate level. Scripture becomes a coherent whole when organizing principles are brought to it from outside the text. Yes, through Christ alone but is this really only a matter of the cognitive, as Protestant traditions have tended to treat it?

4. Keener is thus not writing narrowly for Pentecostals. He is not trying to reject exegesis (nor have I, as anyone who has watched will know). He may not bifurcate historical and spiritual readings quite as much as I do, but he recognizes that to read the Bible as Christian Scripture is something distinct from simply reading the text exegetically.

An interesting point, however, is that Pentecostals may be able to offer an "inside" perspective on charismatic aspects of the early church, in the same way that groups with particular perspectives (e.g., women, people of color) can offer insights on particular aspects of Scripture. He also recognizes that there is no one "Pentecostal view." "There is no Pentecostal magisterium to decide which views are 'the Pentecostal view'" (9). This is the case with the "Wesleyan view" as well.

5. Finally, Keener spends a few pages arguing that the quest for the Spirit's illumination when reading the Bible is a common theme among faith-filled interpreters. I personally think the differences among the wide variety of individuals he mentions may make his point less than helpful. I myself draw a sharper distinction than he does between illumination of what the text meant (to help with the exegetical, historical task) and inspiration from the Spirit to help with the appropriation of the text.

We will see how this plays out in the rest of the text.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Acts 7 Explanatory Notes

Here are my explanatory notes on Acts 7. You can also follow my daily podcast commentary on Patreon, as well as YouTube videos on the Greek (see the bottom for links).

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3
Acts 4
Acts 5
Acts 6

c. Stephen's Sermon (7:1-53)
  • 7:1. The lead off to the chapter is the simple question by the high priest as to whether the charges against Stephen are correct (the phrasing of the question seems Lukan). The charges are that he speaks against Moses and God, as well as that Jesus will tear down the temple and change the customs of Moses.
  • 7:2-53. This is Stephen's response.
  • 7:2-8. These verses reach back into the story of the people of God to Abraham. Abraham takes the story back to the very beginning, since Abraham is the beginning of the people of God. Hereby Stephen shows that the Jesus movement is not some new sect or idea but is in direct continuity with the people of God.
  • 7:4. Abraham's roots were not in Jerusalem or Palestine. God called him in Mesopotamia. God called him in Harran. 
  • This is the beginning of a subtext of the entire sermon. God is not in any way tied down to Jerusalem. In the story that follows, God does not really engage Jerusalem until 7:47. In Stephen's context, this fact had the effect of decentralizing the Jerusalem leadership. They may have thought themselves central in God's mapping of the world, but God has always been moving everywhere.
  • In Luke's context, this dynamic would have brought hope and encouragement to a Jewish and Gentile Christian audience, for Acts was almost certainly written after the temple had been destroyed. The message is that God is not limited by Jerusalem or its temple.
  • 7:5. God promised Abraham the land of Israel, even though he did not have a child or own the land at that time.
  • This is yet another subtext of the sermon. God's people are often displaced. God's people often live as strangers in the land that ultimately belongs to them. Here is another encouragement to an audience who knows Jerusalem has been destroyed.
  • 7:6-7. The promise is in fact 400 years in the future, after a time of enslavement and mistreatment. Again, they will be sojourners for a long time, displaced from the place of promise. They will be mistreated.
  • Stephen aligns with Israel in the story. The Jerusalem leaders line up with the persecutors.
  • But God will punish Israel's enemies, just as he would eventually punish the Romans. To the audience of Acts Luke says, "You will worship me again in this place."
  • 7:8. Isaac and Jacob are also in continuity with the Jesus movement. It should be noted that Acts does not have anything negative to say about circumcision for Jews. It remains normative for the author of Acts for Jews. Only Gentiles are not required to be circumcised. In that sense, Stephen gives no cause for the charge that he is predicting that the customs of Moses would change.
  • 7:9-16. This part of the sermon relates to Joseph.
  • 7:9-10. The patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, just as the leaders of Israel were jealous of Jesus. But God was with Jesus just as God was with Joseph. He became prominent in Egypt, another example of God blessing his people outside of Jerusalem.
  • 7:11-14. A famine drove the fathers out of Palestine, once again the salvation of God was not to be found in the land of promise but in Egypt. In the end, even Jacob and all the people of God--seventy-five souls--go down to Egypt, away from the Promised Land.
  • 7:15-16. When Jacob died, he was not taken back to the area of Jerusalem or Judea but to Shechem, which was later the region of Samaria. 
  • There is a difference here from Genesis, since Abraham bought a burial cave in Hebron from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23:13). It was Jacob who bought some land from Hamor in Shechem (Gen. 33:19), and Joseph's bones are what were buried there (Josh. 24:32; cf. Gen. 49:29). Perhaps Luke intentionally blurs the two together, highlighting Shechem as a place of blessing outside of Jerusalem and Judea. 
  • 7:17-43. The bulk of the sermon relates to Moses. One of the key charges against Stephen was that he was speaking against Moses and God. But Stephen has only positive things to say about Moses.
  • 7:17-19. Opposition arose to Israel in Egypt, a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. The Romans were the parallel in Stephen's day. They dealt "craftily" with Israel, a back-handed compliment. Luke's audience might think of the fairly recent destruction of Jerusalem. 
  • This Pharaoh commands the exposure of male Israelite infants.
  • 7:20-22. Moses is beautiful, but his parents do expose him after three months. There is a sense in which they obey the king. Pharaoh's daughter adopts him, which is crafty on God's part--to trick the king's house to raise the one who will undo the king.
  • Moses learns the wisdom of the Egyptians, which Luke does not despise but treats positively.
  • 7:23-29. This is the story of Moses and the man striking another Israelite.
  • 7:23. Although Moses does not live with the Israelites, he thinks of them as his brothers.
  • 7:25. Moses is rejected by his own people, a parallel to Jesus who was rejected by his own people, including the Sanhedrin. "He thought his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand. But they did not understand." Stephen himself is speaking salvation to them, but they do not understand.
  • Of course Moses does not yet know he will play this role when this event happened in Exodus 2.
  • 7:27. God is of course the one who made Moses a ruler and a judge over Israel, just as God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
  • 7:29. So Moses lives in exile, just as the audience of Acts is in exile given that Jerusalem was now destroyed. The theme continues that God's people are not located just in Jerusalem.  
  • 7:30-34. God appears to Moses at the burning bush.
  • 7:30. The mediation of the Law through angels appears three times in the New Testament: here in Acts 7 (cf. also 7:53), Galatians 3:19, and Hebrews 2:2.
  • The appearance of angels as flames of fire also occurs in Hebrews 1:7.
  • 7:32. There is continuity between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the God who appears to Moses, and it is the same God who sent Jesus and Stephen and Luke.
  • 7:33. Holy ground is not just in Jerusalem but anywhere that God appears.
  • 7:34. Moses goes to Egypt on God's command, not Palestine. God is the God of the displaced, not just the located in Jerusalem like the Sanhedrin. At the time of Acts, Israel was being mistreated by the Romans.
  • 7:35-43. God used Moses to do great things for his people, but they largely rejected him.
  • 7:35. God sent Moses as a ruler and a judge even though Israel did not want him. It was the same with Jesus. In a way, it was the same with Stephen.
  • 7:37. This is the second time in Acts that Deuteronomy 18:18 (cf. Acts 3:22) is mentioned as a prophecy of Jesus. 
  • 7:38. An angel is again mentioned at Mt. Sinai (see 7:30 and 53). 
  • The Law consisted of "living words," possibly indicating that the messages of God through the Law are not merely the past meanings but the meanings God continues to give. Cf. Hebrews 4:12.
  • 7:39-41. Just as the Sanhedrin had rejected Jesus, so the Israelites had rejected Moses. Their hearts turned to Egypt like the high priest's heart was turned toward Rome.
  • 7:41. They rejoiced in the "works of their hands." Soon Stephen will accuse the Sanhedrin of idolatry as well in relation to the temple.
  • 7:42-43. Idolatry became a way of life for Israel. They worshiped the host of heaven and Moloch, and Rephan, so God sent them to Babylon in captivity. So for Luke's audience, God had now allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem. There is an implicit sense that the Sanhedrin's rejection of Jesus was to blame.  
  • 7:44-50. These verses reach the climax of the story of Israel, the tent of meeting. Like Hebrews, Stephen focuses on the wilderness tabernacle than the temple. In fact, the mention of the temple is the turning point of the sermon, where he turns to more direct critique.
  • 7:44. Like Hebrews, Stephen's sermon focuses more on the wilderness tent than the temple. The tent was mobile, a sign of a people who were not located in one place. As Hebrews says, Moses made it after a pattern God showed him (Heb. 8:5).
  • 7:45. The tent came into Israel with Joshua, which is "Jesus" in Greek. Perhaps the author expects the audience to think of Jesus as bringing Israel into their true land (cf. Heb. 4:8).
  • 7:46-47. David asked to create a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. There is perhaps the subtext that God has no fixed dwelling place. 
  • Solomon does build God a house but Stephen does not seem enthused. Indeed, it is at this point that the tone of the sermon changes. It seems doubtful that Stephen rejects the temple that Solomon built, but it is clear that Stephen believes the Sanhedrin has made it into an idol.
  • 7:48-50. "The Most High does not dwell in things made by hand." The mention of "things made by hand" suggests the temple has become an idol to the Jewish leaders. 
  • The subtext of the whole sermon now becomes explicit. God cannot be pinned down to a location like the Jerusalem temple. He inhabits the universe. God made everything, so it is ridiculous to think something humans make with their hands could become the full dwelling of God.
  • 7:49-50. Stephen quotes Isaiah 66:1-2. We are reminded of Hebrews 9:24, where Jesus enters into the heavenly Holies, namely, heaven itself. 
  • An audience knowing that the temple was eventually destroyed might find comfort in these words of Stephen. So the Romans have destroyed the temple. No worries. God never was contained within that building made by hands.
  • William Manson suggested in 1949 that the author of Hebrews stood in the Hellenist tradition of Stephen. Certainly the author of Hebrews was a Hellenist. However, it is also possible that Acts has portrayed Stephen in the light of later believers like the author of Hebrews.
  • 7:51-53. Now Stephen gets to the punch and speaks directly to indict the Sanhedrin. This is the climax of the sermon. They are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart. In other words, they are not the true Israelites. 
  • 7:51-52. If they have accused Stephen of speaking against God. They are the ones speaking against God. They are resisting the Holy Spirit just as their fathers did. They have persecuted Jesus and are persecuting Stephen just as their fathers persecuted the prophets. 
  • Jesus is the Righteous One that the prophets foretold, and they have rejected him. Peter used this title for Jesus already in 3:14. Richard Hays might see the background to this title in an interpretation of Habakkuk 2:4.
  • 7:53. Once again we find the idea that angels mediated the Law to Moses (see notes above on 7:30 and 38; cf. Gal. 3:19 and Heb. 2:2).
d. The Aftermath (7:54-8:3)
  • 7:54. It is not surprising that Stephen's sermon is not well received at this point. We might think of him being interrupted, since he does not get to the point of saying that God raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned him as Lord.
  • 7:55-56. Meanwhile, Stephen is being blessed. He has a vision of Jesus in heaven. 
  • This is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus stands at the right hand of God. In keeping with Psalm 110:1, the early Christians regularly mention Jesus sitting at God's right hand, enthroned as Lord, Son of God, and Messiah. Standing may indicate that Jesus is witnessing to the truth of Stephen's sermon. He is testifying for Stephen.
  • This is the only place in the New Testament where someone other than Jesus himself calls Jesus the "Son of Man." The phrase "Son of Man" has multiple overtones as Jesus' self-reference in the Gospels. The two of chief interest here are 1) as someone who suffers (e.g., Mark 14:45) and 2) as the one who will come to judge the nations in Matthew 25:31-32. This latter use finds its origins in Daniel 7:13.
  • 7:57-58. They cannot bear to hear the truth and drag him outside the city, where they stone him. We should probably think of this stoning as the actions of a mob rather than an official action of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin not to exercise capital punishment.
  • We are introduced to Saul. He is probably not a member of the Sanhedrin (taking Acts 26:10 is probably figurative) but perhaps a steward of sorts who works for the Sanhedrin. As someone from Tarsus in Cilicia, he would likely have connections with the synagogue in which Stephen had problems.
  • 7:59-60. Stephen echos the words of Jesus on the cross when he asks God to forgive his killers and for God to receive his spirit. He even kneels as he dies.
  • Language of a detachable spirit at death is used, possibly giving a window into Luke's paradigm of the human person. Stephen "sleeps," a metaphor for death.

Patrons only (not yet public)
Podcasts on English of Acts 7
Acts 7:1-8 Podcast
Acts 7:9-16 Podcast
Acts 7:17-22 Podcast
Acts 7:23-29 Podcast
Acts 7:30-36 Podcast
Acts 7:37-43 Podcast
Acts 7:44-50 Podcast
Acts 7:51-8:1 Podcast

Videos on the Greek of Acts 7
Acts 7:1-8 Greek
Acts 7:9-16 Greek
Acts 7:17-22 Greek
Acts 7:23-29 Greek
Acts 7:30-36 Greek
Acts 7:37-43 Greek
Acts 7:44-50 Greek
Acts 7:51-8:1 Greek

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Patrons Only: The Case of the Missing Verse (Acts 8:37)

This week's "patron only" podcast and video on my Patreon page explain why Acts 8:37 is missing from modern translations of the Bible. At the end I also ask how a Jew living around the year 500BC might have understood Isaiah 53.

To become a patron only asks for a $5 a month donation to my page.


Friday, August 03, 2018

Friday Science: The Euclidean metric (1.14.1a)

About every other Friday I want to move through another section of Peter Collier's A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Toward a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity.

Here is my first post in this series.

1. The brilliant idea of Collier's book, one to which I have long subscribed, is that theory is most effectively learned on a "need to know" basis. There are many gifted "abstracticians" among us who do not need an answer to the question, "What do I need to know this for? When am I ever going to use this?" Indeed, I was one of them in high school and college. I still affirm those who are wired this way. Go for it!

But if the goal is actual learning, most of us best learn theory as we are engaged in practice. This was the guiding principle of Phase 1 of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, of which I was a co-founder. Indeed, philosophically, I have adopted the epistemological stance of a pragmatist/nominalist. That is to say, the abstraction of theory in fact reduces to a useful game humans play in order to operate more effectively in the concrete world of realia. In other words, ideas are useful abstractions of reality.

I thus mock those who say, "You need to know the theory in order to do the practice effectively." Poppycock! The theory is abstracted from effective practice. Since I operate in the world of academia, you can imagine how often I whisper, "Numbnuts" under my breath. The number of virtual Platonists around me is a constant source of frustration.

2. So my previous post was in 4.1 of Collier's book, introducing the curvature of space. Section 2 moves on to Riemannian manifolds and "the metric." But to understand the "metric" of general relativity, Collier reaches back into the metric of special relativity (3.5), which reaches back into the Euclidean metric (1.14.1). So if I am to follow my principle of "theory on a need to know basis," I must now post on the Euclidean metric. Then in two weeks time, the Minkowski metric of general relativity (3.5).

The Euclidean metric
3. In high school geometry, we basically learned "Euclidean" geometry, named after the ancient Greek mathematician. So when we refer to Euclidean space, we mean the way space would behave if it were exactly like what we learned in high school.

In three dimensional Euclidean space, the Pythagorean theorem applies: l2 = a2 + b2 + c2.

Don't let the expanded form mess you up. For three dimensions, we've just added an extra square. We've used L for the hypotenuse for "line," meaning the "line" that results from these three components.

4. When we begin to talk about space in advanced physics, we have to make some modifications. For one, we begin to talk about incredibly small increments of space. In calculus (which I won't review here), we talk about "infinitesimals," meaning almost infinitely small increments.

So when we talk about dx or dy or dz we are talking about almost infinitely small increments on the x axis or y axis or z axis. These are called coordinate differentials. So now we might say that

dl2 = dx2 + dy2 + dz2

We can call this version of L the line element, a really small increment of the line that results from these components (the "resultant).

5. Now I'm no fan of matrices. But they are all over relativity and quantum mechanics. I don't know why they work and this frustrates me because 2018 Ken is not 1984 Ken. So here I will simply suspend my questions and present the "game" of matrices as it relates here.

A metric or metric tensor is a matrix that presents the coefficients of the differential equation above.


So the first 1 in the top left reflects that there is a 1 in front of dx2. The second one in the middle reflects that there is a 1 in front of the dy2. The third 1 in the bottom right indicates that there is a 1 in front of the dz2.

"Ours is not to question why. Ours is just to memorize or die."

gij (which should be in brackets, sorry) is a way of referring to a matrix. The matrix is g, and the elements of the matrix are in i rows and j columns. So the dy component is in the position 2, 2 (row 2, column 2).

6. To explain the lay out a little more, think of it this way:

                       dx    dy    dz


Here you can see that the first 1 is in the cross of dx, etc.




7. Collier goes on to formulate this matrix in terms of polar coordinates, but I don't need them to understand the matrices of general relativity yet, so I'm going to pass for the moment.