Thursday, January 23, 2020

England -- First Term Studies 4

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42. For whatever reason, Jimmy suggested I start by reading Ernst Käsemann's The Wandering People of God. It is a classic in Hebrews studies. Its underlying problem is that Käsemann read Hebrews in terms of Gnosticism. Many scholars of his day saw Gnosticism as part of the context of early Christianity.

Bultmann and others had reverse engineered a hypothetical Gnosticism at the time of Paul out of later sources and their imagination. They created the "Gnostic Redeemer Myth," a hypothetical backdrop to Christian thinking where a spirit being partakes of evil material but is freed upon death and leads others out of the prison house of the body to salvation. The problem is that it doesn't exist. It is a pastiche of bits from here and there. Philo is skewed as a source, for example.

The real Gnosticism didn't rise until the late first century. These days it is only invoked when discussing the background of the letters and Gospel of John. It is gone from discussions of Colossians and Hebrews.

43. I read Lincoln Hurst's, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Its Background of Thought. He went through all the backgrounds that had been suggested for Hebrews up to that point. My main take away had to do with Hebrews 8:5, that the earthly tabernacle was a "copy and shadow" of the heavenly one. Hurst showed that "copy" was not a typical translation of hypodeigma and thus that, while the verse had a Platonic feel, it was not straightforwardly Platonic.

Indeed, from Hurst and James Thompson I learned about Middle Platonism. A few years later I would read Thomas Tobin's The Creation of Man, which helped me more than any other source in understanding how Stoicism and Platonism mixed together at Alexandria in the century before Christ to form Middle Platonism between Plato and Neoplatonism.

So I read James Thompson's The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy. I thought he went a little too far with a Platonic background, but I found him a kindred spirit. At some point I plowed through L.K.K. Day's The Intermediary World and Patterns of Perfection in Hebrews and Philo. I felt like a learned quite a bit about Philo but very little about Hebrews.

44. I went home for Christmas. I remember going for a walk trying to decide whether to move forward with Hebrews or perhaps to switch to something else. I have always liked Paul more than Hebrews, but so did everyone else. There was plenty being done on Paul. Dissertations have to come to some new conclusion, use some new method, or look at some new evidence. [1]

The subject of the historical Jesus was intriguing but potentially perilous. I did not necessarily expect to get a job in Wesleyan circles, but clearly a topic in such an area would require explanation and possibly raise eyebrows. It had only been a year or two previous that Houghton College had expelled another pupil of Dunn for writing a book that assumed Paul did not write the Pastoral Epistles. Some have suggested it was not entirely for his position but also for his attitude.

As a side note, when I was finishing up, Dunn told me he would write a reference for anywhere but Houghton. He wasn't really serious. No doubt the fact that I had studied with Dunn was in the back of Bud Bence's mind when he hired me at IWU. Bud had been Dean at Houghton during the crisis I mentioned above.

One possible idea I had in the area of Jesus studies was to argue that Jesus did indeed keep his messianic identity somewhat hushed because the expectations for a Messiah were different from his own mission. I wasn't too surprised to find that Dunn had already published something along these lines.

By the way, one of the big insights for me in those days was a realization that Jews did not think of the Messiah as God come down as earth. Indeed, not even all Jews were expecting or wanting a Messiah. Those that were generally expected God to anoint a human figure to rise and overthrow Roman rule. The 1987 Princeton Symposium on this topic seems a benchmark here: The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity.

45. With regard to Hebrews, my exposure to literary approaches was percolating. I read Stephen Moore's Literary Criticism and the Gospels. Bill Patrick and I had gone to hear him give a funny SBL session where he read Mark from a deconstructive point of view. His book gave me a certain typology for categorizing literary approaches.

Between Richard Hays and N. T. Wright, I became aware of structuralism as a way of analyzing stories. At some point I plowed through Wright's The New Testament and the People of God. He uses the "actantial" model of structuralism to analyze stories of salvation. By the way, at the time I found Wright's work incredibly stimulating. There was a time in the late 90s when I couldn't wait for his Paul book in this series to come out. By the time it did 15 years later, I had largely lost interest. :-)

One feature I loved in this first volume to the series was the way that he processed worldview in terms of story, symbols, rituals, and answers to basic questions. He also gave me one of my first exposures to critical realism. He gave me my first nuanced sense of who the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes were. It was a major point in the development of my thinking.

Richard Hays had also used the structuralist model in his own dissertation, published as The Faith of Jesus Christ. By the way, by God's grace I just happened to go to the famous 1988 debate between Dunn and Hays on the expression "the faith of Jesus Christ." It would take me years to get a sense of what I think on this issue, well into my time teaching at IWU. I would eventually conclude that Paul argues "from Hays to Dunn."

Hays' work on Galatians looked for the narrative substructure of Galatians. My idea was to look to the narrative substructure of Hebrews. I later set this out in my book, Understanding the Book of Hebrews. If a story has the elements of events, characters, and settings, I eventually decided in my dissertation for focus on the settings in the narrative substructure of Hebrews.

I should mention here that my friend James Quirk was also studying structuralism as an archaeology major. He introduced me to Claude Levy-Strauss. I did not understand it all and of course it was too tangential to spend much time on him. Let's just say I was impressed at how much more advanced the students at Durham were than any of the undergraduate students I had encountered before.

[1] I've always joked that the implication was that all dissertations are wrong. I've also joked that the only thing scholars agree on is that all dissertations but theirs are wrong. Indeed, the unique claims of dissertations are often based on creative thoughts formed before a thinker reaches maturity in their thoughts. I have always viewed Tom Wright's thoughts on Jesus as the embodiment of Israel in this light, as we as his sense that return from exile is a major key to New Testament thought.

I am being a little hyperbolic here. I do think there are some exceptional dissertations out there. There are, I think, some immature elements to my own dissertation (e.g., the annihilation of the creation). But in my defense, it was more of a new method of looking at Hebrews than completely novel claims.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

England -- NT Background and Theology 3

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38. I forget the name of the man associated with Cranmer and Johns (Rob?) who suggested to me that the "Maccabean martyrs" of 2 and 4 Maccabees might have provided a theological lens through which the earliest Christians might have in part processed Jesus' death. The man was working on his PhD in theology, if I remember correctly.

So I found myself reading a little into the Apocrypha in my first year at Durham. 2 Maccabees 7 does seem to view the deaths of seven brothers as in some way bringing the wrath of God to an end toward Israel in the 164BC. 4 Maccabees is even more explicit about their deaths being a ransom and expiation (17:21-22). The word hilasterion in 4 Maccabees 17:22 is used in Romans 3:25, making this an important background text for Paul.

I had not read much in Jewish background literature up to that point. If I were in the States, perhaps I would have had occasion to take a comp exam on them. At IWU I was privileged to teach a course in intertestamental literature. I often told the students in that class that while the Old Testament provided the fundamental elements of the background story of the New Testament, the intertestamental period provided the lens through which people at the time of Christ processed and organized the Old Testament content. Since the significance of data gives it its meaning, there is a sense in which the intertestamental period is virtually as determinative background to Christianity as the Old Testament itself.

Although I had taken a course on patristics with Bundy at Asbury, it was in my first year at Durham that I sat down and plowed through the Apostolic Fathers. In the second term (Christmas term), the graduate research seminar read through much of the New Testament Apocrypha, using Schneemelcher. These are writings in no one's Bible but include writings like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Protoevangelium of James, and the Gnostic writings.

This was the time when John Dominic Crossan was at his height. He was putting forth ideas that seem quite unlikely to me, such as that Jesus was a Cynic and that the Gospel of Peter preserved the earliest form of the passion narrative. It seems like the public was in conspiracy mood, as they always are. Another example when I get to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

39. I might back up a little and speculate why Jimmy took me on as a doctoral student in the first place. Partings of the Ways came out in 1991. In it, he suggests that Hebrews had come under the influence of Platonic idealism. He thus saw in Hebrews a combination of a vertical interest in the heavenly with the eschatological. In other words, my proposed topic fit with a position he had just taken.

The book itself is a great example of Jimmy's ability to see the next step in the flow of scholarship. The train of thought had begun with the "new perspective" on Paul, a term that originated with Tom Wright but that became the coin of the realm because of Dunn's ability to identify and magnify the trends of the day. The new perspective showed, more than anything else, that Paul remained much more in continuity with Judaism than older scholars had supposed.

The next step was thus the third quest for the historical Jesus. It looked at Jesus through this same lens, believing that Jesus was a Jew and that Jesus remained in full continuity with Judaism. He did not start a new religion. In the first century, Christianity was nothing other than a form of Judaism that saw itself as the true heir of its promises.

Here we arrive at the question Dunn asked in Partings. When did in fact Christianity become a distinct religion from Judaism? His answer is that it was in the early second century, after all or almost all of the New Testament books were written.

40. I haven't mentioned one of the first books by Dunn that I read before I went to England. This was Unity and Diversity in the New Testament. I have to say that this 1977 book really helped me see the New Testament in three dimensions rather than in the flat, unreflective way I saw it before. Let me try to express what that looked like:
  • He begins with brief glimpses at the fundamental message of Jesus, Acts, Paul, and John. Previously, I would have read these voices in light of each other rather than as individual, potentially distinct voices.
  • He moves on to early titles for Jesus--Son of Man, Messiah, Son of God, Lord--a practice that pre-dates Dunn among other attempts to describe New Testament Christology.
  • He deals with some of the practices of the early church, something I think was noteworthy. What was ministry like in the early church? What was worship like in the early church? How did the "sacraments" function?
  • In the second half of the book, he tries to identify distinct groups in the early church--Jewish Christianity, Hellenistic Christianity, Apocalyptic Christianity, and Catholic Christianity. 
In his work, he built on the past but brought his usual tendencies toward objectivity. Seeing the New Testament through these lenses was like staring at one of those pictures that is three-dimensional if you look at it a certain way.

41. I'm trying to remember the sequence of Greek. It sure seems like I taught Greek Bible in the fall. A man named William Morrice taught introductory Greek using a book he wrote, Durham New Testament Greek Course. He had been teaching Greek for the University, but was gradually moving toward retirement. I especially remember him for having the idiosyncratic view that Tatian's Diatesseron was "through four," which requires five pillars. He thus added the Gospel of Thomas to the Four Gospels as a source for Tatian.

This seems quite quirky to me. Yet the seriousness with which his presentation to the Easter seminar was given (as I recall) was indicative of the nature of study in England. The most idiosyncratic of theories were taken seriously. They were critiqued, to be sure, but they were given a good ear.

As I side note, I remember one presentation by a person from Canada on 1 Corinthians 11:19. It says there need to be factions among them to find out who is worthy. This person suggested that the factions showed who would be "top dog." This was an unfamiliar expression and there was quite a bit of chuckling in the room. Dunn in particular found it very amusing.

In my class we read Mark 1-8 in Greek. It was a great opportunity to add yet another part of the New Testament to my repertoire. I remember a Greek Orthodox priest being in my class in year 2. He was quite annoyed with my pronunciation, as modern Greeks always are.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Michaelmas in England 2

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34. St. John's was laid out in the most interesting of ways. These were Georgian townhouses retrofitted to become a college. The summer before I came they had done some renovation, so returning students found the corridors somewhat altered. My favorite feature of all was the stairway that ended in a wall.

I think it was sometime in my first year that Principal David Day decided to restore the original Baroque colors of the entrance way, which included a long stairway to the first floor (remembering that the ground floor was not the first floor). Let's just say that puke green did not have the desired effect. It was immediately repainted in a more tolerable although less accurate green.

I remember hearing Day comment on a visit he made to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The tour guide apparently commented on how old some stairway was, dating to the mid- to late 1700s. Day commented that the stairway outside his office was older.

The timescale of Europe was something to get used to. I grew up in Florida and was born in Indiana. Although Florida was settled early by the Spanish, Fort Lauderdale was largely developed in the mid-twentieth century. Indiana went back to the early 1800s.

Now I was an hour drive away from Hadrian's Wall, built in AD122. It was hard to fathom. The cathedral was started at the end of the 1000s. Begun in the Norman style, its west end ended in the Gothic period. Suddenly I found Mr. Stock's senior humanities class coming alive, flying buttresses and all. It was just as he had said, that his class made Europe come alive, something I never dreamed might happen at the time.

If you followed the Bailey down past St. Cuthbert's, you came to Prebends Bridge. Here was once a lamppost that allegedly inspired C.S. Lewis. Inscribed there was also a poem by Sir. Walter Scott of Scottish fame: "Grey towers of Durham, yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles. Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scots, and long to roam these venerable isles with tales long since forgot."

I guess some Scots were imprisoned in the cathedral at some point. I was told they defaced much inside. Unlike Westminster, the inside was plain, the gold removed during the Protestant Reformation. It fit my sensibilities. I liked it much better than the showy cathedrals of London.

35. My typical day was quite leisurely. My sense was that the British day didn't start as early as the American one. At 8am, things still didn't seem to be moving much. There was prayer in St. Mary the Less every morning. I wish I could say I was a regular attender but I slept in most mornings. I didn't have much in the way of video games, but Tetris did sometimes take some of my time.

I had a bathtub with no shower. That was a change. I would usually stroll out in time for the 10am tea that the staff of the college had every weekday morning.

Sundays there was high table, like the table in front in the banquet hall in Harry Potter. Everyone wore their black academic robe, as in Harry Potter. I got a used one from somewhere. One of the new dietary elements was lamb, with the possibility of mint sauce. I never got the hang of it. There were of course plenty of sheep in the surrounding countryside, but lamb was never my preferred cup of tea.

I met with Dunn privately perhaps once a month. I'm sure I was quite boring. At times in fact he looked to be falling asleep while I was talking, but he would have exactly the right thing to say whenever I might pause. His office was a library in itself, with row after row of bookshelves.

A highlight was the Monday graduate research seminar. It was a time to be with other professors and doctoral students. Occasionally there would be visiting professors wandering through. That year, the other two New Testament professors were Sandy Wedderburn and Stephen Barton. Bruce Longenecker was teaching for Cranmer that year and also attended.

Occasionally some Hebrew Bible professors might attend. Walter Moberly was a regular. I don't remember Robert Hayward ever coming. His office was right above the entrance way. I remember seeing him one day from the Palace Green below standing in his large window. He gave a slight wave with his head slightly tilted to one side.

36. The school year was divided into three terms--Michaelmas, Epiphany, and Easter. The student exams were in the third term. It was an interesting setup because they only had classes in the first two terms. The third term was high stakes with only study preparation and exams. Instead of letter grades, the grades were numbers (e.g., "a first").

In the third term, we graduate students gave papers in the research seminar. That was always the least interesting of the year, I hate to say. During the other two terms, we might work through a recent book that had been published or, if Dunn was writing something, we might go through a book of the New Testament. It was conventional for professors, if they were writing a book, to offer a course on that subject. Their lectures might then be chapters from the book they were writing.

My first term, I believe we read through Geza Vermes' The Religion of Jesus the Jew. I believe the semester in fact culminated with him visiting the seminar. In the end I was not particularly impressed.

It was an interesting point in time to be doing doctoral work. The so-called "third quest for the historical Jesus" was in full bloom, and Dunn was in the thick of it. I've already mentioned that the third quest was an abandonment of the overly restrictive criteria of the "new quest" of the sixties. I've also mentioned that Wright's chapter at the end of Stephen Neill's The Interpretation had been my entry into this third quest.

Wright singled out four books as indicative of the beginning of this new phase in historical Jesus study: A. E. Harvey's Jesus and the Constraints of History, E. P. Sanders' Jesus and Judaism, Ben Myers' The Aims of Jesus, and Geza Vermes' Jesus the Jew. I would say that two things in particular distinguished this new phase. One is a move beyond looking at just the sayings of Jesus to the events of Jesus' ministry. The second was a fuller appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus.

37. In those days, I was thirsty for a sure footing. So many arguments I had heard seemed to blow away with a puff of wind. A little like Descartes, I wanted to know what could not reasonably be doubted. I was no longer in an echo chamber. I was in England. There was no Wesleyan Church around the corner. I now had to defend my positions with real arguments.

The resurrection seemed fairly easy to defend historically if one allowed for miracles philosophically. Let me point here to one of Dunn's books, The Evidence for Jesus. It is entirely plausible from the evidence that many people claimed to see Jesus alive after his death. It is entirely plausible that there was no body in the place where they had laid him. Sprinkle the possibility of miracles on top and you have a plausible resurrection.

It seems to me that the incarnation is neither disprovable nor provable on the basis of history. It is purely a matter of faith. It does not stand or fall on the virgin birth for reasons I have already mentioned. I believe it is a coherent concept. I do not believe that Jesus' self-limitation is problematic for it. In short, it is almost entirely a matter of faith, not reason.

Nevertheless, I was thirsty for historical evidence that supported the general contours of Jesus' ministry as it is presented in the Gospels. Sanders provided some of this for me, particularly in his shorter version, The Historical Figure of Jesus. He argues for the historical plausibility of twelve disciples, for example. Later work by John Meier, Dale Allison, Wright, and Dunn has also been helpful to me.

In my mind, even if we were to bracket faith and think purely historically, we would conclude that the Gospels give us the basic, historical story of Jesus. [1] It is not essential to prove all the details are historical. Nevertheless, we would conclude that Jesus followed in the train of John the Baptist and that he called twelve disciples to symbolize the reconstitution of Israel. We would conclude that he was known for casting out demons and healing people. We would conclude that he taught non-violence in the face of the Romans and that religious leaders found him problematic because he didn't follow their rules. We could conclude that he taught God was going to save his people and that he was going to die as part of redemption. We would conclude that he created a disturbance in the temple, that he was crucified as a messianic pretender, and that his followers believed he appeared to them after his death.

I was delighted in the spring of 94 to teach three sessions on Christology in Cranmer. I recently ran into Fiona Richardson at Houghton, who now works with her husband Philip for OMS. She was one of the Cranmerites in those sessions. I did a lecture on the historical Jesus as one session. Another one was on early Christology in Paul and Acts. I believe a final one was on John.

[1] That is to say, the "Jesus of history" coheres with the "Christ of faith."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Arrival in Durham 1

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29. Sometime in early September 1993, I believe, I packed two large boxes along with carry-ons as large as I could pack onto a Virgin Atlantic flight across the Atlantic. I was young and able, almost 27. But some of those transitions were very stressful, leaving me drenched in sweat. Who said nerds don't have muscle? We have to have muscle to carry all those books!

I had my desktop in one box and as many books as possible in the other, with a small dolly. It would take the first year of back and forth to get my biblical studies books all over there. The weight limit at least kept things within reason.

It was Gatwick to Victoria to Kings Cross and then north to Durham. When I would travel for more than one day, I would take out a British Rail or Eurail pass, so many days in a month. The train from Kings Cross to Durham was about a three hour trip that went through York.

I had trouble sleeping on the plane overnight so I usually would sleep most of the train ride. I'd arrive sometime around 9 or 10am, I believe. I was always afraid I would sleep past Durham, but I usually awoke at the Darlington stop and managed to stay awake the rest of the way.

Durham has a spectacular train bridge coming into the station. Then it's down the hill and across the Weir (which rhymes with "beer") onto the peninsula where the castle and cathedral are. Then up the "Bailey" past Hatfield and Chads college to St. John's.

The old British universities are not structured like American universities. Over time, they have moved more and more toward centralized instruction, but in the old days each "college" within the university might have its own cross-disciplinary faculty. [1] St. Johns was one of two remaining colleges with some of its own faculty. Cranmer Hall was a theological training school within Johns that was separate from the theology department of the broader university.

It all worked well, although there was perhaps a small sense that the purely Cranmer students weren't quite as advanced as those also doing a Durham theology degree. When I was there, there were both Anglicans and Methodists training in Cranmer. A few years ago the Methodists took that possibility away, to centralize training in the face of declining numbers around Britain.

There were thirteen colleges as part of the University of Durham when I was there. I'm a little surprised to see that they have added three since I left, one of which is named, "John Snow"! I see that what used to be "Grad Soc" (the Graduate Society) has been renamed Ustinov college after Peter Ustinov, who used to be chancellor of the university and who shook my hand at my graduation. He was a famous actor.

It was so much better for me to be part of Johns rather than Grad Soc. I was part of a vibrant Christian community. If Jimmy hadn't gone to bat for me in Johns, my experience would have been so impoverished by comparison.

The university was founded in 1832, rather late in the game of European universities but the third in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. There are others older in Britain in general, such as Edinburgh in Scotland and Trinity College in Dublin. Within Durham, the oldest college is University College, whose students live in the Castle. I believe the university was founded when Bishop van Mildert didn't want to pay tax on the castle. So he donated it to found a university.

The bishops of Durham were once "prince-bishops," both political and spiritual rulers of the region. The funniest thing I remember about the castle is that the bishop got tired of having to bless every meal so he put a prayer over the window through which food came from the kitchen to the dining area. It was thus automatically blessed on its way out.

30. When I arrived, the students were not yet there. I was greeted by Neil Evans, a Welshman who would be my closest friend for the next three years. He was an Anglican priest and a man of noble character all around. He would become chaplain during my tenure there.

I was to be a "residential tutor," what they used to call a "moral tutor." It was a little like being an RA except there were far fewer rules to enforce. To be honest, it was mostly about being available. I used to call myself the "tea and biscuit tutor." If you want serious advice or help, better see Neil.

A second part of my job had to do with being a fire deputy of sorts. If the fire alarm went off, one of the tutors would need to go to the front office and see where the alarm had gone off. Then we ran to the spot to see if it was a real fire. It almost never was. Nevertheless, being a college and having students who sometimes drank too much, the alarm did go off fairly often, especially on a Friday night. If it was a false alarm, we would warn off them sending all the fire trucks. One always had to come to make sure.

There were only two real fires that I remember in my three years. The one was a kitchen on the top floor of Cruddas. They ran a hose from the Bailey back and had it right out. The other was when David Fox set his hair on fire.

In my final year near the end, we were cooking outside behind on the south lawn. The fire wasn't starting very quickly, so David--who was extremely clever--went to get some gasoline to speed things up. I seem to remember David Morton being involved as well. The flame shot up so quickly that his head caught on fire. He had the smarts to put it out with his shirt.

31. Neil and Helen Fox were the other two residential tutors. To get into where Helen was (if I am remembering where she and Neil were respectively), you had to go outside and north to come back inside. It was like 23 House on the Bailey. It was somewhat isolated from the rest of John's. If I remember, Neil moved down there my second year, and I don't think we replaced Helen.

Helen was an interesting person, from the Isle of Wight. I seem to remember her being one of those people who was somewhere around a hundredth in line to the throne. I could be making all that up. I found the bluntness of some of my friends surprising. Perhaps it was because I had lived in the south for the previous nine years. I myself had lived quite a sheltered life. I remember telling Helen once that she had helped me understand the French Revolution. :-)

She was quite a nice person and prompted some interest in Wittgenstein. I had encountered Wittgenstein briefly I think in my Philosophy of Theism class. There was a chapter on "Wittgensteinian Fideism" in the book by Tom Morris. Although Wittgenstein himself did not come up with the idea, people like D. Z. Phillips had championed the notion that language of God was not about a being "out there" but really a certain kind of language game. God was real in the sense that the language of God affected the way people lived in the world. For this group, God existed because language about God caused all sorts of things to happen. The concept of God in language gave rise to certain actions.

That wasn't Helen's interest. She was working on feminist views of God, as I recall. [2] It was however either her or Neil who told me about the "Sea of Faith" movement in England, led by people like Don Cupitt. The phrase comes from a poem by Matthew Arnold called, Dover Beach. In the poem, Arnold mourns the retreat of faith in modern society. Cupitt was a non-realist within the Church of England, He believed in God as an idea, not as a reality out there.

The Anglican Church was fascinating to me. It was held together by its common liturgy, not so much a common belief system. Unreflectively, I would have assumed that it is the belief system of a church that gave it an identity. But on reflection, it was really lifestyle standards that gave the holiness movement of the late twentieth century its identity. And it was more a common liturgy for Anglicans.

So the Anglican church had Anglo-Catholics like Neil and St. Chads. It had "evangelical Anglicans" like St. John's at that time. There were charismatic Anglicans, such as at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. The Toronto Blessing broke out while I was in England. Then there were non-realists like Cupitt. One church, one basic liturgy, lots of variation.

32. St. John's was "evangelical Anglican." That's not evangelical in the current American sense. It was evangelical in the sense of being Scripture focused, believing in justification by faith and the centrality of the cross. At the same time, it was evangelicalism in a different culture.

For example, moderate drinking was the norm. There was sherry served in the Senior Common Room before high table or key events, and there was port afterwards. I never saw any of the staff or administration drunk. I did see students drunk of course, often. The drinking age is 18 in England.

I might say that my England experience exploded to bits all the rhetoric about drinking I had heard in certain American circles. Neil was not one ounce spiritually inferior to any Christian I knew in the States. He drank moderately but I never saw him drunk. I do not have a problem with not drinking. But there is only a cultural argument against moderate drinking. There is no absolute argument and there certainly is no biblical argument for total abstinence. The British church can carry its alcohol.

The buildings were all co-ed. This is another difference with American evangelical colleges. Rachel Leonard, who would also become one of my closest friends, had her single room right next to mine. As I was moving in, she and David Fox appeared in my internal doorway to greet me. They were the president and vice president (I don't remember if those were the precise titles) of the Junior Common Room (JCR) of John's, the student association of the college.

I was in the bottom floor of Cruddas, on the south side corner. My flat stretched from the front to the back with a kitchenette and bath in front, room in back. Behind Cruddas was a path down to the boathouse. I did row for fun, by the way, while I was there.

St. John's expected common moral behavior of its students, but it did not expect specifically Christian behavior. The model was that the staff was Christian. Christian services took place every day in St. Mary the Less in the morning and evening (the chapel across the street). There was a worship service on Tuesday nights (I often cantored for it).

But the students were not required to be Christian. There were no sexual prohibitions other than those of society at large.

33. David and Rachel invited me to the pub that first night. I think I had a Ribena, a non-alcoholic blackcurrent drink. I was surely out of it because of the trip. I think I may have crashed for a few hours.

What I remember most about the night is that I didn't understand anything going on. They were speaking English, but I didn't understand what they were saying. I knew nothing about English Tele. I knew nothing about English "football" (soccer). Like Wittgenstein's lion, they were speaking but I didn't understand them. [2]

Welcome to England!

[1] In the US, there might be several colleges in a university, but they are usually distinguished by discipline ("The College of Medicine") or modality ("The College of Adult and Professional Studies").

[2] We were having a discussion, for some reason, about whether there could be such a thing as a private language. Wittgenstein of course would say no. What I meant, I think, was my own words, not my own meanings, but I could be misremembering. I didn't like to get caught out. I would have to learn about Wittgenstein so as not to be caught ignorant.

[3] "If a lion could speak, would we understand them?" Wittgenstein was pointing out that we might be able to define the words, but if we do not know the "language games" of a lion, we wouldn't get their meaning.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Going to England 6

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23. While Dunn was in Wilmore, Joe Dongell must have sat by him at a meal. Joe has a dry sense of humor, occasionally with a twinkle of mischief in his eye. So Joe apparently asked Jimmy if there was anything he had ever written that he regretted, maybe something relating to Romans 7.

Although Dunn was one of the leaders of the New Perspective on Paul, his interpretation of Romans 7 is distinctly old school. The vast majority of experts on Romans have come to see Romans 7 as Paul presenting the hypothetical struggle of someone who wants to keep the Jewish Law but cannot because they do not have the Holy Spirit to empower them to do so. This understanding was first championed by Kümmel but was emphatically put forward by Krister Stendahl in 1963.

For me, Krister Stendahl's article, "Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," is an incredibly helpful starting place to understand Paul. I'm not sure when I first fully digested this piece, but for me it is the starting place for getting a "new perspective" on Paul if you have only known the superficial interpretation left over from the Protestant Reformation. What is more, Stendahl's understanding of Paul fits very well with a Wesleyan perspective.

I will soon have occasion to talk about the "new perspective on Paul," but I don't believe I have commented yet on my sense of the Wesleyan tradition as a kind of via media between high Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Of course the Anglican tradition claimed this first. By high Protestant, I refer to Lutherans and the Reformed tradition. By contrast, the Wesleyan tradition came through the Anglicans.

The result is that works play a more significant role in the Wesleyan tradition than in Lutheranism and the Reformed. For this reason we are sometimes accused of being semi-Pelagians. The new perspective has of course indicated that we are closer to Paul than the high Protestants. We are more balanced in our hermeneutic, if you go with Wesley's quadrilateral. On several issues recent developments in scholarship have turned our direction, including Barclay's recent work on grace.

But Dunn's Romans commentary still has the older sense that Romans 7 as Paul's continued struggle and defeat in the face of the power of Sin. This is of course still the popular interpretation although abandoned by most scholars. Joe's joke was ribbing Jimmy on this fact. Jimmy's response was, "No, I feel very comfortable with my interpretation of Romans 7." :-)

24. The way the University of Durham in England worked was you applied as a Master of Letters (M.Litt.) student. Then if you made sufficient progress in your first year, you were retroactively considered a Ph.D. student finishing your first year. The PhD in England lasted three years.

My sense is that England expected a person to get all the basic and essential competencies in your master's work. That left you ready to write your dissertation in your doctoral program. It seems almost the opposite in the States, where the first two years of your doctorate are typically spent taking courses and working on your competency exams.

I was fine with my languages. I knew Greek and Hebrew. I had taken courses in German and French for reading. I knew Latin.

I've always felt like I cheated when it came to the Old Testament. Over the years I've tried to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of Old Testament scholarship, but I was never required to pass comps in Old Testament theology. There are areas of New Testament interpretation and theology that I have filled in as well over the years.

Given the structure of the program, my application required a possible dissertation proposal. Here I would probably have preferred to do something in Paul or the historical Jesus. But the best hand I had to play was Hebrews. So I submitted a proposal on Hebrews in line with the research and writing I had already done.

25. My proposal (and paper) tried to integrate what you might call the vertical and horizontal dimensions of Hebrews' worldview. By horizontal I refer to the eschatological and apocalyptic. By vertical I refer to the cosmological and, perhaps, the Platonic. Dr. Bauer had introduced me to a classic chapter by C. K. Barrett in a Festschrift for C. H. Dodd in 1956, "The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews." [1] It was an early suggestion about such an integration.

I might add that I was privileged to meet "Kingsley" Barrett in Durham. I told him that his chapter had been very formative in my approach to Hebrews. His response is helpful for budding scholars. "Thank you. I'm not sure if I would still agree with it today." It reminds me of a series that used to be part of SBL some years ago called, "How I Changed My Mind." Famous biblical scholars gave papers on issues for which they were once known but about which they had changed their positions.

This is of course interesting to keep in mind when you read something by a scholar. As a student starting out, it's easy to assume that the views of scholars are static. You might attack them in a paper not realizing that they have moved on a topic. For example, I was a little surprised to see that a recent publication had me dating Hebrews to the 90s. I remembered that I had tentatively suggested that date in 2003. But I have long since re-dated it to the early 70s.

Barrett was a Methodist preacher, as was Dunn. There were small Methodist congregations out in the countryside of Durham county. I preached in one once, as I recall. It was interesting that, at least in some circumstances, there were some questions about Barrett. What someone told me was that he seemed one way from the pulpit and another way in his publications.

I'll confess that I find that rumor both a little puzzling and yet understandable. I have never thought of Barrett as being far out there as a scholar. If anything, he seemed to be a faith-filled interpreter to me. Yet I am well aware of the gap between the understanding of a typical congregation and the discussions of the academy, so I can see how such a disconnect could be perceived.

I also heard that there were tensions between Barrett and Charles Cranfield when they were both in the theology department at Durham. The tension came, if I remember correctly, because Barrett took the Lightfoot professorship. I met Cranfield once or twice while I was there as well. Someone, I can't remember who, went with me to visit him in his home. He seemed to me one of the nicest of men. He was unfortunately very hunched over with a curved spine. It looked quite uncomfortable to me.

Cranfield was also the author of a famed Romans commentary in the ICC series. Unfortunately, he completed it at just about the same time as the new perspective on Paul was rising. In that sense, his commentary was virtually out of date from the day of its publication.

26. Dunn accepted my proposal. I was sure to mention that the ideas of his Baptism in the Holy Spirit had been very significant in my own pilgrimage. He was incredibly helpful. He lined me up to teach Greek. He helped me get approved for an "Overseas Research Award" that would allow me to pay in country tuition rather than the tuition of a foreigner.

I didn't realize until my third year that this award was a Trojan Horse. With the award, I paid in country tuition, which sounds nice. The thing is, if I hadn't received the award, my Greek teaching would have covered my tuition entirely. I only recently finished paying off the student loans I took out for England... and I wouldn't have had any if I had realized this little secret.

Most importantly, Jimmy arranged for me to interview to be a "residential tutor" at St. John's College. As great as studying at Durham was, my time at St. John's College was equally or more meaningful to me. I'll say more about the role soon enough. Some time in the spring of 93 I flew to England for the first time to interview for the position, which would largely cover my room and board.

I remember seeing the townhouses of England as my plane descended into Manchester. It turned out it was an odd place to fly into but on the map it looked closer to Durham to me. But the speed train from London to Durham was much simpler. And the view from the train in Manchester was pretty industrial and unattractive. That was my only time in Manchester.

The interview went well. I think I mainly met with Margaret Masson, who was the Senior Tutor at that time. She is now the Principal of St. Chad's next door on the Bailey. David Day was then Principal. I really liked him, very sharp. No one was around. It must have been between the second and third terms.

I remember David Day being very cautious about asking me on matters of faith. He was almost apologetic for asking. This is a difference with American contexts. There they didn't try to proselytize and they tried to be respectful of other perspectives and religions. Still, it was important for him that I have a genuine and orthodox Christian faith.

I think it was a fairly quick turn around. I must have surely checked in at Abbey House to see Dunn, but I don't remember. Of course the cathedral is right there near John's and Abbey House too. Surely I went in. I was in awe of the majesty of the place. John's had a characteristic smell. It smelled old.

The steps leading into John's at that time had seen so many feet that they had bowed--concrete steps that had worn down under the slow passage of student feet over a couple hundred years. They "fixed" them during my time there. I didn't like it but they thought it was a risk management issue.

27. I believe I stayed that night, a Friday night, at the Foreign Missions Club in northern London in Islington. Interestingly, that's where the London Honors students from Houghton spend their spring semester. They just left this week. It's called something different now. To get there I went through Kings Cross, later immortalized by Harry Potter.

I spent Saturday walking across London. I started at the Tower in the east and walked to St. Paul's to Trafalgar Square and out to Buckingham Palace. My feet were pretty tired by the end of the day. At some point, near the British Museum, I looked up and saw that I was on Aldersgate Street, where an easily missed plaque commemorated Wesley's heart warming experience. I hear there is a more prominent sign today.

I was supposed to fly out of Gatwick the next morning. I was pretty proud of myself that I had figured out how the Tube worked. I got up on Sunday morning I thought in plenty of time to get to the airport. I didn't ask for any help. On some Tube map I had seen an arrow pointing south of Waterloo station toward Gatwick.

So I got up on a quiet Sunday morning and took the Tube down from Waterloo toward Wimbledon. When it stopped at the end of the line, I was puzzled. Where was Gatwick? A polite steward explained that you had to catch the above ground Gatwick Express train out of Victoria Station to get to Gatwick.

Horrible mistake! I had to ride all the way back to Waterloo, transfer, and catch the above ground train. I thought for sure Gatwick was in London! Wasn't it a London airport?!!

When I finally arrived at the gate, it was less than a half hour to take off and they weren't letting anyone on. Thankfully, my Dad had given me a credit card, and I was able to stay in a B and B in town. That night I tried steak and kidney pie for the first and last time.

28. I found myself needing to get out of my apartment in Wilmore without enought stuff to fit into three of my vehicles. My clever idea, perhaps not so clever, was to drive to my parents' cottage at Frankfort to store the stuff there. That was a terrible night. It is God's grace that I didn't fall asleep at the wheel.

I made two trips to Frankfort from Wilmore that night. Then I think I headed to Florida.

[1] Scott Mackie has recently published a number of classic Hebrews articles, including some of mine, in an expensive volume The Letter to the Hebrews: Critical Readings.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Choosing a Doctoral Program 5

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18. Once I became a Teaching Fellow, the plan was to go on and do doctoral work in New Testament. The Joe Dongell track of course was a thought--Union in Virginia. That's also where David Bauer had gone. Paul "Bud" Achtemeier taught there. Could I perhaps study Paul with him?

The thing was that he was apparently nearing retirement. The worst nightmare stories of doctoral students come when you switch advisers. It had happened to Ron Crown at Oxford when George Caird died suddenly.

By the way, I had a lot of respect for G. B. Caird in that period of my life. Bauer had first exposed me to him with his article, "The Exegetical Method of the Epistle to the Hebrews." This short piece highlighted the way the argument of Hebrews could be seen as structuring around certain key scriptures. [1]

My second exposure to him was a book that Bill Patrick used in intermediate Greek, called The Language and Imagery of the Bible. It was one of those books that was like genius. As I read I kept thinking, "Of course." "Of course!" "Of course!"

I remember Steve Lennox saying he was with him until the later chapters. This is where he talks about phrases like "the sun was darkened" being similar to our "earth shattering events." Caird suggests that Acts sees the Day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel on this score.

A key light that Caird turned more fully on was an understanding of the difference between what is literal and what is figurative. There is a tendency in certain circles to fight over whether the Bible is "literally" true. However, these discussions often do not really understand what the word literal means in this context. If something is taken "literally," then the words are taken in their normal sense. [2]

Dunn used to tell a story of a student that vehemently argued with him over whether the expression, "the trees will clap their hand" was literal (Isa 55:12). Clearly it was not meant so but the student insisted it must be because everything in the Bible (for him) was literal. The student later lost his faith, clearly being set up by his background to believe completely indefensible things. If trees literally clap hands, then they must at some time sprout hands like ours and make sounds putting them together.

A paper about which I am very proud, the first paper I gave after we started the Hebrews Group at SBL, is "An Archaeology of Hebrews Tabernacle Imagery." It looks at the sacrificial metaphors of Hebrews in layers. This, to me, is a key to understanding Hebrews and it makes moot a host of studies trying to pin Hebrews down to one sacrificial perspective.

Some of Paul Ricoeur's thought on metaphor has been helpful to me here. It seems like there is a vast swath of earlier thought that is sheer rubbish on this subject, going back to Aristotle. Metaphors are typically more powerful than literal language, not mere flourishes of language.

The older Reformers spoke of the "plain sense" of Scripture and distinguished it from the literal sense. Sometimes the plain sense of Scripture is literal and sometimes it is figurative.

So it's no surprise that Tom Wright studied under Caird, given his penchant to take things like this figuratively. I was struck with Wright's suggestion that Mark 13:26 is about the Son going on the clouds rather than coming. I don't agree, but it's genius. And it's exactly what I would expect of a Caird pupil.

Two other students of Caird were Lincoln Hurst and Marcus Borg. I read Hurst the first semester of my doctoral program. I also read some Borg in my doctoral work in preparation to teach some Christology. I found him interesting but unattractive in his thought.

19. Another possibility was to apply to Notre Dame. Harry Attridge was still there at the time, and he had recently written one of the best commentaries on Hebrews for the Hermeneia series. I'm embarrassed to say that I got a little confused over New Testament study there being under Theology. Of course it was the same at Durham.

In any case, Attridge left for Yale soon enough anyway. Interestingly, Greg Sterling followed the same pathway about 15 years later.

I did apply at Duke, thinking I might study with Richard Hays. Of course Hays wasn't working on Hebrews at that time. I'm not sure if Duke even took three doctoral students at the time. They did not accept me. Durham, England was a much better result for me than Durham, North Carolina, although I continue to like Duke Divinity School and Duke's basketball team. :-)

20. I should perhaps back up a little and talk about Hebrews and James D. G. Dunn. I've already mentioned a little of my Hebrews path. It starts with my interest in holiness as a Wesleyan and thinking of Hebrews as the Leviticus of the New Testament. Then it moves to my independent study with Bauer and the paper I presented both at Asbury and at the regional SBL in Atlanta. It was known for being difficult Greek and difficult to understand, and I considered it a challenge.

I mentioned how I had been attracted to the work of James Dunn--the way he thought and approached questions. He seemed to me a real truth seeker. Come to find out, his background was not entirely dissimilar to mine. He was raised in conservative, Scottish Presbyterianism. He had a somewhat mathematical background in economics and statistics. He used to say he was Presbyterian north of the border and Methodist south of it.

He was a popular person to study with if you were an open-minded conservative or an evangelical on the edge. Scot McKnight was one of his early pupils when Dunn was still at Nottingham. Graham Twelftree as well. Both are now renowned scholars with a strong faith. [3]

Asbury conveniently had him come to campus to speak the year of my searching. I met him there. He was the head of the theology department, the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity. Another way that he was like me is that he understood that universities survive if they have students. He took a number of students, some part time, some full time.

21. When he was on the Asbury campus, I seem to remember that he was questioned about one of his more idiosyncratic positions in the question and answer session in Estes chapel. Although I suspect the focus was his new book, The Partings of the Ways, he argues in his book, Christology in the Making, that the Philippian hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 is not about the pre-existence of Christ. He argues that it is a Last Adam argument. Here's a paraphrase of his interpretation
  • Although he was in the image of God, like Adam,
  • Jesus did not try to grasp after equality with God, unlike Adam.
  • But he emptied himself...
In this interpretation, nothing in the hymn is about Jesus' pre-existence.

Few have followed Dunn in this interpretation, and I don't agree with his interpretation of this passage. However, when I read Christology in the Making, he did convince me that many passages in Paul that are glibly taken of Christ's pre-existence may not actually be saying that.

For example, take 1 Corinthians 15:49: "Just as we have born the image of the earthly man [Adam], so we will bear the image of the man from heaven [Christ]." It is tempting to read this verse in relation to Christ's pre-existence, but what is this chapter about? The chapter is about our resurrection body. The man from heaven is the resurrection man. We are not going to be like Christ in his pre-existence. We are going to be like Christ in his resurrection.

I find this convincing. It is another example of how we read later theology into earlier texts. Take Ezekiel 37, about dry bones coming to life. If we listen carefully to this text, it is not about the individual Israelites who died. It's about the resurrection of Israel as a whole. It is not about the end times. It is about the return of Israel from captivity and its reconstitution as a people.

Dunn helped me overcome my later theological glasses to see biblical texts in context as they were originally meant. Not perfectly of course because no one can completely overcome their biases and unreflectivity. I will confess that I encounter many a New Testament scholar today that I do not think has learned to listen to biblical texts on their own terms. I have a hunch that the rise of theological interpretation has given a green light to a fundamental inadequacy in the scholarly community.

If I might toot my own horn, my article in the Journal of Biblical Literature titled, "A Celebration of the Enthroned Son" does with Hebrews 1 what Dunn did with some of these other passages. I have taken positions about which I have significant doubts, but I am quite proud of most of this article.

When I read, for example, Richard Bauckham's interpretation of Hebrews 1, as well as some other friends of mine I won't name, I frankly think they have not been able to overcome their theological glasses to hear this chapter for what it seems to say. Hebrews 1:5 is not about the eternally begotten Son. I believe that Jesus is "eternally begotten of the Father," but this is just not what Hebrews was saying. Hebrews 1 is primarily, perhaps completely a celebration of the resurrected and exalted Son.

22. Dunn and his generation saw the development of early Christology as following a pattern something like this:
  • The earliest Christian faith focused on the resurrected Jesus. To say Jesus is Lord was to confess that God had raised him from the dead and enthroned him as Lord, Christ, and Son of God.
  • I don't remember if Dunn thought this, but some would then argue that Mark located Jesus as becoming Messiah at his baptism, a kind of adoption of him by God at that point.
  • Then perhaps Matthew and Luke saw Jesus becoming Son of God at his virginal conception.
  • Finally, John saw Jesus as the pre-existent, incarnated Logos.
Dunn and others thus saw the understanding of Christ unfolding among Christians over the period of the first and second generation of Christians. More on this later.

Of the first point, Dunn easily convinced me. Romans 10:9, Philippians 2:11, and other passages clearly locate Jesus as Lord at the point of his resurrection. Acts 13:33 locates Jesus as Son of God to his exaltation. Acts 2:36 locates Jesus as Lord and Christ to his resurrection.

It is at least a legitimate observation that John 1:14 is unique among the Gospels in its sense of incarnation. Matthew and Luke teach the virgin conception, but they do not mention that Jesus existed before then. Mark doesn't mention the virgin birth.

Simon Gathercole, a student of Dunn after me, has tried to argue that the Synoptics do teach Jesus' pre-existence, but I find most of his arguments strained. The Transfiguration might indicate his pre-existence. Mark 12:35-37 might imply Jesus' pre-existence, but it seems clear to me that the Synoptics say almost nothing about it.

Silence doesn't mean they didn't believe it. Absence of presence is not presence of absence. I hope it's obvious that I believe in the pre-existence of Christ. But, once again, Dunn helped me to see how many assumptions I brought to the biblical texts that the biblical texts do not clearly say.

[1] Asbury had this "elenchus" in the library basement that had article file cards in relation to various verses. It was a spectacular research tool in the day before the internet, Google, and electronic databases. The old time scholars almost had to keep all this information in their heads. Many of them could! Tenley Horner once challenged me to find a book in my library. I succeeded immediately.

Craig Keener is of course bizarre in this regard. From what I hear he has a complex and extensive filing system in his basement with notecards from things he's read and studied. I also here he is practically nocturnal.

[2] I am fully aware of Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, another book that Bill Patrick first clued me in on. They argue that language has its roots in metaphor and thus that even things we now think of as literal were once figurative. A scholar once tried to put me in my place by pointing this out when I already knew it. I used to be intimidated by senior scholars, but I've gotten over it.

[3] "Doctor father," the person you got your PhD with. Dunn is my Doctor Father, C. F. D. "Charlie" Moule was his, and C. H. Dodd his.

The Present Silence of God 4

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12. I finished as Teaching Fellow at Asbury in the spring of 92. Then I went full time to finish up my classics degree at the University of Kentucky in 1992-93.

I was in the student center at the University of Kentucky when the first Iraq War launched. That was scary. I was 25. As I stood there, I realized I just barely was still draft age.

It was really the first "war" since Vietnam. I remember still having the hangover of Vietnam. This is hard to believe now looking back but because the last war effort had more or less failed, I had not grown up with the military confidence that we have now. It is hard to recreate what it felt like then for me but it is basically this:
  • There was an underlying and lingering doubt I had about foreign war. The last two conflicts--Korea and Vietnam, had ended in mire and a sense of defeat.
  • On the other hand, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the USSR, and Perestroika in Russia had created some sense of optimism about a future world that was filled with democracy. As a side note, the Trump presidency has shaken my confidence in societal progress to the core.
  • The rapidity of the first Iraq War restored in me a sense of America's military dominance in the world. I grew up with that sense from my parents about WW1 and WW2, that America had saved the day in Europe for both. I know it was much more uncertain at the actual time of those wars. Looking back, I admire Bush 1's decision not to go into Baghdad in 91.
13. I taught Latin 2 for Asbury College in 92-93. Dr. Harstad was on a year long sabbatical. He taught New Testament Greek in a very old school way, the way I think my mother learned Greek at Frankfort in the 40s. First you learned classical Greek. Then you specialized the second year in New Testament Greek.

For second year Latin we used Ball's Reading Classical Latin. The readings were from easier Latin authors like Livy and Ovid, maybe a little Catullus and Cicero. I did not take courses in most of these authors so that was a good opportunity to fill in gaps. Jerald Walz has kept in touch with me a little over the years from those days.

14. I might say that as a white male student in Wilmore, I did not think of the place as having any prejudice or darkness in relation to race. In America, such forces have seemed somewhat dormant to me until the last four years or so. But I may just not have noticed because I'm white. I know a black IWU student who went to Asbury and experienced the environment in a much different way than I did. I have had a black colleague who experienced the town on a visit differently than I did.

This is part of what is meant by white privilege. It is an ease of living in certain environments that a white male like myself doesn't see. It's a friction I don't experience that others do. I was disappointed once upon a time to hear that Henry Clay Morrison, founder of the seminary, was not without issues when it came to race. Of course the few Asbury professors I have heard on such topics did not approve of those elements in Wilmore's history. Thankfully both IWU and Central have at least a little different history on that score, having black students from their early days. [1]

Some time after I graduated from the seminary and before recent UM dynamics, I came to think that the Wesleyan and Methodist students at Asbury in general had a different flavor. We might believe exactly the same things, but the flavor was different. Wesleyans who went to Asbury, it seems to me, were largely in a process of broadening their view of the world. Their eyes were being opened to see more.

By contrast, Methodists who went to Asbury tended to be resisting cultural trends and moving in the opposite direction. They often went there looking for an island of resistance in the middle of a liberal church. They were fighting against liberalism. So although Wesleyans and Methodists at Asbury more or less had the same theology and ethics, they were moving in different directions. They were on different vectors.

15. I dated a student from Asbury College for a few months while I was teaching fellow. She had taken voice lessons so I took some voice lessons, the only voice lessons I ever had. I will leave out a brief encounter we had involving a train. It wasn't at High Bridge but not too far down the tracks from the police station. [2]

I also taught a couple times for Midway College while I was a teaching fellow. Bob Miller had used Felix Sung, maybe, to adjunct some for them. Miller was a member of the notorious Jesus Seminar. I was always curious why such a liberal guy would have someone from Asbury teach for them. Probably a combination of necessity, not thinking it mattered too much with this student group, and perhaps respect for scholars at Asbury like Bauer.

Bill Patrick still teases me about us going over to Louisville to meet and hear Martin Hengel. When I introduced myself and he heard my name, he asked if I was German. I said yes because I thought he meant in heritage. Aber er bedeutete ob ich Deutscher wäre.

I remember teaching a class at Midway largely made up of adult nursing students. I had one of those moments where you realize you are unreflective about something. So I was making an argument for the virgin birth to them. My argument went like this. Paul believed in the virgin birth and he was close enough to Jesus historically to know. Now what's the problem with this argument?

The problem is that Paul never mentions the virgin birth one way or the other in any of his writings. Galatians 4:4 doesn't say one way or the other. He is completely silent on the issue. This was an example of me viewing the Bible as one book rather than sixty-six (or more) separate books. Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth, but they obviously were not in the same books as Paul's writings.

Of course I believe in the virgin birth. That's not the point. The point is my increasing reflectivity in those years. It was troubling to see on one matter after another how unreflective I had been. The virgin birth is mentioned in Matthew 1 and Luke 1, but not really anywhere else. Perhaps the early Christians talked about it all the time, but it does not play a significant role in the theology of the New Testament texts because it just isn't mentioned. [3]

I wholeheartedly agree with those who point out the importance of instilling faith in our children. Beliefs and relationships that are in the gut of your youth are hard to shake. It is much harder to instill faith in a person on the basis of rational argument, once the mind is fully formed. Arguments tend to lay on top of a more gut-based foundation, not the other way around as in the "Platonic fallacy" I have mentioned (see Jonathan Haidt).

My main plea is that we form the faith of our children in foundations that are really solid. Once a person has detached from their childhood gut, they are susceptible to all kinds of influences. Those of us who are still in the worldview of our childhood often can't see why others do not attach to our way of seeing the world. It seems so compelling to us. We do not realize that the motivations for belief usually go much deeper than whatever reasons we might present.

16. I was fascinated in Larry Wood's contemporary theology class to learn that Wolfhart Pannenberg was a mostly orthodox theologian who nevertheless did not believe in the virgin birth. Pannenberg focused on the resurrection in his theology. At that time, it seemed quite the norm to see the resurrection as the focal point of Christology. That is not so much the case now. Right now, the Trinity and thus the pre-existent tri-unity seems to be the center. More on this to come.

I do not agree with Pannenberg on the virgin birth, but it was a little jolting to reflect on this subject in those days. It seems to me that almost all the arguments about why the virgin birth is essential do not stand up to scrutiny. For example, Jesus is not half God and half human. He is fully human and fully God.

Therefore, whatever Jesus' divinity is, it is not his humanity. Jesus had an X and a Y chromosome. Because Jesus was born of a virgin, God must have created the Y chromosome. But Jesus could have become fully human with no human parents, and Jesus could have been fully divine with two human parents. His divinity is not contingent in any way on the nature of his human parentage, at least not as far as I can see.

Nor does it make sense to say that Jesus had to be born of a virgin so that he could be without sin. Perhaps some Christians in the early centuries like Augustine thought this because they thought of sex as dirty, but this is bad theology. Sin is not on the Y chromosome. If it were, then women would be without sin, being XX.

N. T. Wright suggests that the virgin birth was a gift. Not entirely sure what he meant. To me, it is an origin befitting the divine Son of God, a sign. [4] Not necessary for any substantial reason but fitting the divine King of Kings.

17. I did not feel God's presence much those days, although I begged him for it. Often during church I would even beg him to chastise me in his anger just so I might know he was there. Often during the prayer times at Stonewall I would plead for God to make himself known to me.

I led a college Sunday School class my last year there (Gary Cockerill's daughters were in it). We read Philip Yancey's Where Is God When It Hurts? Not that I was suffering. Not at all. I have a theory that people who observe others suffering worry about the problem of suffering more than the people who actually undergo the suffering. And I didn't even know someone who was suffering.

I also bought Hans Kung's Does God Exist? I didn't find it particularly helpful. To be honest, most of it was over my head.

On a side note, Thomas Oden came to an Asbury College chapel while I was teaching fellow. I went to hear him. I didn't know anything about him except that he was famous. He gave his testimony but I didn't understand it. That was depressing. Part of the problem is the fact that my mind wandered, as it typically did during any sustained speech at that time. By the time I would snap back to the speaker, I had lost track of their train of thought.

Back to God. At one point I had a bright idea. When I pray, why don't I talk as if I'm actually talking to somebody? That seems like an obvious suggestion, but at some point I came to the conclusion that my prayers had often been monologues. It seemed sometimes like I prayed as if I was talking to myself rather than to someone who is actually out there.

Have you ever heard prayers where it sure seems like they're talking to the other people in the room rather than to God? How many pastors provide information or a sermon in their prayers that, frankly, God already knows? It's like they are really lecturing to the congregation. "Lord, you know that ...." or "Lord, we know that..." I suspect there are some other unreflective monologuers out there.

These days, I do not presume that I will have a vivid experience of God every day or even every month. There are moments when I feel blessed or when I feel peace. I thank God for those. But I go along my way, believing that God is with me, whether I have feelings or not. God is right there with me to talk to. Whether he talks back to me or not doesn't matter. It is of course a blessing when he does.

[1] Although one of the last lynchings in America took place in Marion, Indiana. I hope there were no people associated with Marion College in the infamous photo.

[2] It seems to me that I ran to High Bridge and back once. Quite a run. I never went on that notorious bridge.

[3] This point is hard to grasp if one is still reading the Bible unreflectively, because in that pre-modern state, one has difficulty telling the difference between what you believe about and hear in the text and what the text actually says.

[4] I have already mentioned that Isaiah 7:14 seems to have had both a "near" meaning in its own time as well as the "far" meaning that Matthew saw fulfilled in it.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

University of Kentucky 3

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9. I would take Plutarch with Dr. Martin, as I recall. I always felt like I was just about ready to begin each degree as I finished it. When I finished my classics degree, I felt like I was just about ready to get a lot out of it if I were starting.

That first year doing classical Greek I felt like I was scrambling. We were given a certain amount to translate each class. Class time consisted of going around the room and translating. It was very hard for me to get through the amount of translating assigned. I would copy and blow up the pages and try to create a kind of interlinear. Sometimes I would try to work back to the Greek from the English.

One thing is certain. I was so focused on getting through the grammar and syntax that I didn't learn much about Plutarch himself. I had a nice schedule going. I might teach Greek in the morning at Asbury and then drive to an Arby's just off the campus of UK. I'd have my choice of the day with a cherry turnover and try to finish as much of the translation as I could with Cordon Bleu in hand.

I think I took Dr. Martin again for Greek Tragedy (different works) the next year. Other than that I had Thucydides with Robert Rabel the next year. By then I was a little more facile with my Greek and got a little more out of the content. I had wanted to take Plato with him and went to the first day of class. Another regret but I just didn't have the margin to pull it off and had to drop the first week. I missed out on Homer too, much to my disappointment.

There were some great students on this same venture with me. I remember one in particular who had gone to Berea College, a college where students can have free tuition if they work on campus. I wish I remembered their names. They had done classics in their undergraduate programs and seemed so much ahead of me.

10. Over the summer, I went through Wheelock's Latin. Quite a tall feat I was trying to pull off. Having only had two and a half years of high school Latin, I was going to jump straight into master's level classes. Wheelock is of course great. I used it several times to teach Latin at IWU and will use it again online at Houghton in March.

I think the first Latin course I took was with Jane Phillips. I can't remember if she had once been a nun (my high school physics teacher had been. can't remember if I mentioned her). I really enjoyed her as a professor. I remember once she expected me to know what "fracture" was (she was trying to give me a hint) but I didn't. Fracture is when the priest breaks the big wafer in front of the church when consecrating the elements in the Eucharist. Not my tradition.

I think my first Latin course was "Juvenal, Martial, and Statius." It wasn't too bad because these satirists tended to write in snippets rather than prose. I also had two semesters of Latin prose composition with Dr. Martin, going from English to Latin. That was a bear.

A highlight was taking Virgil with Louis Swift. He was Dean of the Undergraduate School at the time. He was a widely known and respected figure who has now passed. I remember a brief conversation with him at a fellowship where he mentioned he could never quite figure out the imprecatory psalms. I had never really thought much about it. I told him that I tended to take the enemies in those psalms as figurative enemies like my struggle with some vice.

Interesting that I had unthinkingly allegorized those psalms without even knowing it. But that is what unreflectivity does--it is something you don't even know you are doing. I do believe my openness to "more than literal" or figural readings of the biblical texts is rooted in a kind of typological penchant of holiness preaching. My grandfather Shepherd apparently taught a whole class at Frankfort at one time in "types and shadows" between the Old and New Testaments.

11. I'm trying to remember what other courses I took. I took a course with Rabel on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. We read book 10. That was very enjoyable. I had always liked Aristotle, although I have moved beyond him in almost every category. He of course is the underpinning of Aquinas.

I took two semesters of Sanskrit as linguistics courses. That was fun. I forget the professor's name but he was very kindhearted. All of my professors at UK were really nice people, and several seemed clearly to be people of faith.

I needed to have French for reading knowledge in preparation for doctoral work, so I took a French for research course. Unfortunately, it was at 8am, and I lived over a half hour away. I was not yet a morning person either. The only thing that mattered grade-wise was the final exam. So I came to the class three times--the first day, the last day, and one random time in the middle. I got an A on the exam.

I took a course on Cicero in which we read De Amicitia and De Senectute. I've tried to add up the philosophy related courses I took here and there in grad school to see if I reached the 18 hours that is standard to teach philosophy. I think I just barely make it. [1]

[1] Philosophy of Theism, Apologetics, Aquinas, Aristotle, Cicero, and then you have to decide about Barth, Plutarch, etc.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Teaching Fellow - Hebrew 2

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6. It was during those two years that I was Ichthusman. Ichthus was a Christian rock festival that Bob Lyon started in the early seventies as a sort of Christian version of Woodstock. Youth groups would come from all over and camp in tents at the Wilmore campground. The latest contemporary Christian bands would come.

For fun, Ichthusman would fight Lust Boy or Sin Man. I think Scott Brown was Sin Man one year and Jeff Finger Lust Boy the next. This is not something anyone would have asked me to do as a shy student but it fit with my new persona as a funny and unorthodox Greek teacher. I bought some old clothes at Goodwill and velcroed them so I could rip them off, leaving me standing in my underlying cape and tights.

At one point I had the idea of parachuting onto the stage. We seriously considered it until we found out that our insurance wouldn't cover such a stunt. I've only parachuted once in my life. It was my first summer in England. Rachel Leonard wanted to do it and I said I'd do it with her.

It looks so simple from the ground, but up in the air I wondered why I would agree to do such a thing. I do heights but will admit to some nervousness when I get up somewhere. It was a static line jump, meaning that a line pulled your shoot for you when you jumped. It was a propeller plane so we had to climb out on the wing and let go backward. Quite a thing.

I made myself do it. The first ten feet of falling were gone in an instant leaving a really nice float the rest of the way down. I waited for Rachel to jump. The engines went off. No Rachel. The engines came back on. It circled around. The engines went off. Finally Rachel. I guess the only reason she let go was because the guy yelled and startled her.

7. My second year I got to teach Hebrew. I think most of us would learn best by teaching someone else. I had taken a fair amount of Greek by the time I began teaching, but there were still a lot of rough edges. After teaching Greek for a year, I was pretty good at it.

I was not as strong at Hebrew. I selfishly chose LaSor as a Hebrew textbook. Lawson Stone had sung its praises once upon a time. LaSor introduced Hebrew inductively. A Fuller professor, he started with Esther 1:1 to learn the letters and by the end of the book you knew Hebrew. He paid high attention to the phonology and morphology of Hebrew, with an iconic list of rules in the back (a dagesh forte is omitted if a vocal shewa appears beneath it).

With LaSor, I believe, students learned Hebrew more quickly and more thoroughly than with a classical approach. Moreover, they learned it where they could use it even after one semester. The problem is that your head swims for the first month or so. You are seeing everything in the language from the very beginning.

The hyper-J personality is prone to panic. Frankly, I don't know if I would have enjoyed learning Hebrew that way but it was much more fun to teach. The J wants to learn a small bit, master it, then go on to the next bit. This is really not the way language works. As children, we are thrown into the whole language.

To learn a foreign language, one ultimately needs to go somewhere where that is all that is being spoken around you. This was the rule when I first went to Germany in spring 95. They were not allowed to speak English to me until I had a complete fail.

Teaching Hebrew with LaSor thus requires a bit of pastoral care. I was good at that. You have to assure people that it's going to be ok. You have to get them to trust the method. And, sure enough, it suddenly all begins to click a month or two into the course. Then you're reading real Hebrew. You're seeing the same things over and over again.

I'm proud to say that I taught Brian Russell Hebrew. He has since gone on to be and Old Testament scholar and Dean of the Orlando campus of Asbury. He was of course much more gifted at Hebrew than I was. He would constantly ask questions whose answers I didn't know.

I have always had a penchant for teaching things inductively. This was part of the initial genius of Wesley Seminary--problem based learning that induces principles from realia. There is a certain personality that hates this. It wants to learn systematically in building blocks. Most of academia is this way.

I have to view this approach, however, as somewhat artificial, even if it is helpful for some very intelligent people. It is not the way of the real world. It is a quasi-Platonic approach to life that is not actually the way the world works. I call it the Platonic fallacy. Perhaps I will return to this question.

8. Joe Dongell is a brilliant professor at Asbury. He came I think my last year as a student. He is the son of Herb Dongell, whom I had for Greek at Central. His younger brother Pete is another good friend who came to Asbury a little after me. After Fred Long, Pete also became a Teaching Fellow.

It wasn't really intentional, but my life path mimicked Joe's to some extent. Of course he had surpassed me at every step. He went to Central as I would. Then he went to Asbury as I would. He was a Teaching Fellow as I became.

While he was a Teaching Fellow, he decided to do a MA in Classical Languages and Literature at the University of Kentucky. He told me once he wanted to see if he could do well in a secular environment as well as in a Christian one. He received a full scholarship to do his master's there.

It seemed like a good idea to me. I get antsy if I do the same thing over and over again anyway and I need to be learning something new all the time. So I applied for the same scholarship he had received and was accepted to work on an MA in classics at UK.

I jumped into Greek Tragedy, perhaps as early as the spring of my first year teaching. That was an eye opener. For one thing, it's poetry. The normal rules of language are typically bent in poetry. I had learned a little about meter back in high school, but now I was analyzing iambic pentameter in Greek. Hubert Martin was the professor, the nicest of people. He helped me limp through the course.

I would soon learn that some of the rules I thought were universal were not. I probably was a more effective teacher for not knowing the nuances. I learned that ἵνα didn't always take a subjunctive and that οὐ could actually be used with participles. I got a glimpse of the disdain some classicists have for "that merchant Greek" of the New Testament (none of my professors at UK said that).

Before the discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Greek of the New Testament was a bit of an enigma. Some suggested it might be "Holy Ghost" Greek. But when this cache of ordinary documents were discovered in Egypt in the late 1800s, it was realized that the New Testament is actually written in "street Greek," ordinary, common, "Koine" Greek.

This fact throws a bit of a wrench into the argument that we should read the Bible in the King James because of its lofty language. Apparently God didn't think so.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Teaching Fellow 1

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1. I was 23 when I began as a two-year Teaching Fellow at Asbury. These were truly some of the best years of my life. I was not only working, but I was doing something I dearly loved--teaching Greek and Hebrew. I had close friends who pretty much thought the same way I did about God and the world. I got along very well with students and got to hang out with some really smart professors. I even dated for several months.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy teaching the Bible, especially Paul's earlier letters. But the Bible can be controversial. People often shape their faith around a certain unreflective understanding of the Bible they learn as a child. And while they think they want to go deeper with the Bible, I don't think it's always true. What a lot of them want is secret knowledge that goes along with what they already think.

In fact, for some people, serious study of the Bible can result in the Bible becoming more distant than before. Joel Green speaks of it becoming a dissected frog. You can label all the parts but it's not jumping anymore. This was especially true in the purely "modernist" phase of biblical studies, where only the original meaning was of interest. One of the strengths of "post" modernism is the possibility of a second naivete that can accept both ancient and living meanings to an autonomous text.

I say this to explain why I enjoy teaching biblical languages so much. No one in my Greek classes ever argues over the forms of the third declension. There is no stress worrying over whether someone will tell their pastor that you said the perfect tense is completed action. And you can make all sorts of random puns of no significance whatsoever.

Teaching over the years has always involved varying degrees of ice below the surface of what I teach. There has often been a depth that just wasn't helpful to bring up. There are books I haven't written. Perhaps they would have been pointless.

One of the reasons I always enjoyed going to the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting was to be able to talk to people who understood. When I first showed up there from IWU, Keith Reeves from Azusa expressed great surprise that a professor from IWU would be there. That would dramatically change over the years.

More than once I have thought how nice it would be to teach something uncontroversial like math or physics. I bet I would have been a great calculus teacher. And no controversy!

2. I was so excited the night before my first Greek class. I had a hard time sleeping. I even thought about having everyone get in boxes on the lawn representing noun endings. I used to have "subjunctive day" where students would arrive to a note on the board that said, "We might be in room x." I was silly. It was great fun.

A fellow before me, Rory Skelly, had put a number of Greek paradigms to music. Although I always footnote him, I have often gotten credit for these ditties. They are quite helpful. The only one I added was an adjective ending song.

The teaching fellow I replaced was Felix Sung. His parting words to me were, "And remember, people are stupid." At the time I thought it was a little harsh. I will say that not everyone has the aptitude for biblical languages. At least a couple of ministers later confessed to passing the Greek competency exam by improper means.

The senior teaching fellow was Bill Patrick, one of my best friends. Bill is brilliant. He is hilarious. Every once and a while we will still have a text exchange with short snippets of shared experiences, Deep Thoughts, and Saturday Night Live.

Bill was never good at playing games in the academy. He could have done a dissertation in his sleep. Indeed, I would have been glad simply to write up conversations with him. He has enough in his head. But at some point it all seemed foolish to him. I personally would say that some games are worth playing.

If he ever wrote a novel, I picture it being a bit like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. That is, I see him writing one book in a lifetime that becomes a classic (realizing that there is now a second). Bill did start a novel once. But then he read Of Human Bondage and decided that the novel had already been written. I read the novel in England, perhaps the first I read outside of school. [2]

Students seemed to enjoy me for Greek, but they learned more with him. Bill has to be one of the only Teaching Fellows to go four years. He robbed me of ever being the senior teaching fellow. :-)

3. I roomed with Brian Matherlee in the same apartment after Don Crowson got married. Brian was extroverted with not a hint of nerd. Imagine my surprise when the two prettiest new students were in our apartment. Hilariously, when he was showing them our apartment he pointed out my room and said, "And that's Ken's room."

"Who?" they said.

"Ken, he's right there." And indeed, there I was, standing right behind them, completely unnoticed. :-)

One of them was Greta (Lemons) Lebo, who would become part of my circle of closest friends for those years. Brian, Greta, Laura Lambert, Quin Monahan, Tracie Jordan, Greg Shannon, Jenny Stewart, and more. We had a booth at Applebees. I actually started to sketch a painting of five us in the booth. Finally got rid of it in the recent move, unfinished.

I forgot to mention that in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. John Hull and Scott Gunn decided to go see Berlin on the fly. They invited me but I just didn't have the money. I was finally able to see it five years later.

4. I was ordained in 1991 at the age of 24. The rule was that you needed two years of ministry service after bacheloreate education, one after an MDIV. I don't think they counted my teaching, although I was under appointment by the Florida district. I think they cobbled together the bits and pieces of church ministry I had done here and there. I think I forgot to mention some summer ministry I did with Trinity Wesleyan in Central.

I asked for an NASB for my ordination Bible. We had used the RSV at Asbury. The EB professors liked it because it didn't have headings that would bias your outlining when you were doing a survey. But I knew it was viewed as a somewhat liberal translation, so I asked for an NASB. I didn't want another KJV and at the time I couldn't stand the NIV.

O.D. Emery was the presiding general superintendent, a long time friend of my family. Also signing my Bible was J.D. Abbott, after whose son I was named. Virgil Mitchell also signed. I had served as student body chaplain at Central my senior year under him.

Then there was the DBMS (now DBMD): Raymond Kensell (DS), Dennis Waymire (Asst DS), Richard Cowley, M. Lee Schenck (my dad), Walter McKee, and Mac McCombs (sec).

5. I taught Greek in a three hour + three hour format, a whole year, using Machen. I taught a six hour block, a one semester crash course. I also taught intermediate Greek, using Brooks and Winbery's Syntax of New Testament Greek (again following precedent). Metzger's Lexical Aids also featured. [1]

Patrick Eby had me as a torturer in those days, along with others like Jim McNeely. They not only had to parse Greek words but give the semantic nuances of the cases and tenses. I think we even did a little sentence diagramming.

[1] It occurs to me that the way I was able to get through Hebrews in Greek was Sakae Kubo's, A Reader's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

[2] Between my doctorate and starting teaching, I read Crime and Punishment and Things Fall Apart.