Sunday, April 29, 2007

Romans in a Nutshell

I have about three weeks left in the last online course I plan to teach for Asbury. We're in Romans this week so I thought I would do for them what I've done for my classes here on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Here's Romans in a nutshell.

Chapter 1

  • Paul calls himself a slave (only here, Philippians with Timothy, and Titus; desmios in Philemon).
  • He also calls himself an apostle, one set apart for the gospel (his most frequent letter opening).

  • This gospel, this good news of an extraordinary sort, was promised beforehand in Scripture.
  • What is this good news proclamation? It is the good news of God's Son, Messiah Jesus.
  • He was David's seed according to the flesh; he was appointed Son of God in power when he was raised from the dead. This seems part of the good news.
  • These verses, 1:3-4, are perhaps an early Christian "creed" of some sort.
  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation (1:16).
  • The gospel reveals God's righteousness, beginning with His faithfulness (1:17).

  • The Roman audience was probably mostly Gentile (1:5-6; 13; 15:16).
  • Paul had often planned and been prevented from visiting them (1:13).
  • Paul's mission plan was to go where the gospel had not been preached (15:20).
  • Paul hoped to use the church as a base to launch a mission into Spain (15:24).
  • He was currently on his way to Jerusalem (15:25), likely at Corinth (16:1, 23). He was likely taking the offering of 2 Corinthians 8-9 (15:26). He fears possible persecution there (15:31).

  • God's righteousness shows itself in His enactment of the gospel of Christ Jesus (1:17).

  • Salvation is for everyone who has faith, Jew first, then Greek (1:16).
  • God's faith to all leads to a faith response by believers (1:17).

  • 1:18-3:20 present the problem: "all have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (3:23).
  • 1:18-32 particularly reference Gentile sins, although Paul never directly mentions them as such. These verses are somewhat of a "sting operation." Paul is trapping the self-righteous person of Romans 2.
  • God's wrath in Romans 1 is probably both future and "realized" wrath. It is in part wrath already in play in the world by way of God's abandonment of sinners. But it is likely also wrath coming on the Day of Judgment.
  • The basis for this wrath is the fact that while all should have known God and glorified Him as such, they have instead turned to idols (Gentile sin #1).
  • Therefore, God gave them up to sexual immorality. Paul highlights homosexual sexual activity as an example (Gentile sin #2).
  • God also gave them up to many other kinds of wicked behavior, the vice list of 29-31.

Chapter 2

  • Now Paul turns the tables on the person who relied to a large extent on their Jewish identity for their acceptance before God, including perhaps some of the more superficial aspects of the law.
  • This person doesn't recognize his/her need for repentance too (2:4).
  • Now the future dimension of wrath comes in view. God will judge everyone on the basis of their deeds on the Day of Judgment (2:6). He will judge both Jew and Gentile alike without favoritism simply because of their Jewish or non-Jewish heritage (2:9-11).
  • Paul mentions some Gentiles who will be accepted because they demonstrate the Law written on their hearts (2:15, 27). This is likely a reference to Gentile believers in Jesus who have the Spirit, which enables them to keep the Law. Law must therefore here be understood more in terms of a kind of core Law rather than the Law in its fullness.
  • Jews who don't keep the Law will be condemned despite the fact that they are Jews.

Chapter 3

  • Paul now reaches the climax of this line of thinking. God has imprisoned all under sin. No one will be considered right with Him on the basis of their law keeping.

  • 3:21-4:25 present the solution to this problem of sin. The faithful death of Jesus and human faith in what God has done through this event solve the sin problem.
  • The faithful death of Jesus solves God's righteousness problem (3:22). God is seen to be just and the one who makes just any one who has faith like Jesus did (3:25-6) in the one who could save him from death (2 Cor. 4:13-14; Heb. 5:7).
  • God is shown to be just because Jesus' death is like an atoning sacrifice (3:25; cf. 8:3). It secures redemption (3:24). He died for our sins (4:25; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).
  • The way in which we appropriate this benefaction of grace is by trust in Christ, that is, in what God has done through Christ (3:22).
  • There is no room for boasting about this, for no amount of keeping the Jewish law merits this grace. We simply trust in God's grace and return Him the honor due.
  • This does not of course cancel the idea of law. We affirm the righteous standard of the Law as correct (again, apparently vetted of its Jewish particulars).

Romans 4

  • Abraham models this theology of "justification," of being found innocent before God.
  • Paul's opponents apparently argued that the seed of Abraham are the seed of promise and they were given the sign of circumcision.
  • Paul argues that Abraham was deemed right with God because he had faith in God (4:3). This happened before he was circumcised (4:10). Circumcision was only a sign of this after the fact (4:11).
  • Abraham is the father of all who are justified by faith, both Jew and Gentile (4:11-12).
  • It is by faith, then it is by grace, not by obligation on God's part (4:5).
  • Faith in this chapter is directed not on Christ, but on God as the one who raises the dead (4:17, 24) and justifies the ungodly (4:5).

Romans 5

  • Romans 5-8, in my opinion, deal with the implications of justification by faith while we are here on earth waiting for the "redemption of our bodies" (8:23).
  • First, we have peace with God (5:1) as we hope for glory (5:2).
  • But this time may also be one of suffering (5:3; 8:18).

  • But it is a great hope we have. We will be saved from God's coming wrath (5:9). We will live!
  • While sin and death came through Adam, justification and life comes through Christ.

  • Paul now steps back and places justification into its narrative context.
  • Sin and death entered the world through Adam.
  • From Adam to Moses, they died without the law, even though they did not know the law and their sin wasn't taken into account (5:14).
  • The law entered so that sin would increase (5:20). Where there is no law, there is no transgression (4:14; 5:13). The law brings wrath (4:15).
  • The obedience/faithfulness of Jesus has made possible the justification of many (5:19; 3:22).

Romans 6

  • One question that justification by faith raises is the function of the law and sin for the justified. Romans 6 and 7 work out that question.
  • So since justification comes by God's grace through our trust in him, should we sin--violate the law more to get more grace (6:1)?
  • Paul emphatically says no (6:2)! Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies (6:12).
  • In baptism into Christ, we are buried with him so we can live a new life (6:4)--we sinned before; now we don't. He was raised for our justification (4:25), both legal and then literal.
  • We used to be slaves to sin; now we're slaves to righteousness (6:17-18).
  • So we must offer the "members" of our bodies as instruments of righteousness, not instruments of unrighteousness (6:13).

Romans 7

  • Romans 6 is so clearly about doing righteousness, that it is hard to understand what Paul means by saying "you are not under law but under grace" (6:14). Yet he has said earlier that he stablishes law (3:31).
  • Romans 7:1-6 uses the image of marriage to clarify what he means by not being under law. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives (7:2). But when the husband dies, she is free to marry another (7:3). So we have died to the law through the body of the Messiah and now we bear fruit to God.
  • This is a difficult logic for us to follow, but Paul implies that we can only keep the righteousness of the law if we die to it. Those under the law are "in the flesh" and bear fruit to death (7:5-6).

  • So what was the purpose of the [Jewish] Law, then? Is it evil? Is it to blame?
  • No, the law is holy, righteous, and good (7:12). It told me what wrong was (7:7).
  • But sin overpowers a person through the Law (7:11). The law is the power of sin (1 Cor. 15:56). Sin actually makes a person sin even more once they know the law (7:13).
  • In 7:14-24, Paul vividly and dramatically describes the plight of a person who wants to keep the Law, but finds that s/he can't because of the power of sin over them.
  • Paul dramatically ends with the plea of this desperate person: "who will free me?" (7:24). As in 6:17 he answers, "thanks be to God." Through Jesus Christ we can be freed (7:25a).

Romans 8

  • After reviewing the place of the believer in salvation history in 5:12-21 and anticipating questions from someone about the continuance of sin and the purpose of the Jewish Law, Paul returns in Romans 8 to the state of the justified person--no condemnation and freedom from the law of sin (8:1).
  • Jesus' death has done what the law couldn't do (8:3). And now the righteous expectation of the law can be fulfilled by way of the Spirit (8:4). Those in the flesh cannot please God (8:8).
  • The Spirit of Christ is what identifies a person as belonging to God (8:9).
  • And the One who raised Jesus will also through the Spirit raise our mortal bodies in resurrection (8:11).
  • This Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are sons of God (8:16).

  • So we may suffer now, as Christ did, but our bodies, like the whole creation, will be redeemed (8:18-25).
  • The material world is enslaved to corruption just as the default state of our flesh is enslaved to the power of sin (8:20-21).
  • The Spirit intercedes as we wrestle with suffering (8:26).
  • But it will all work together for resurrection in the end, for good (8:28), and we will be conformed to the [resurrection] image of the Son--God has predestined this to happen for those whom He foreknew (8:29).

  • Wow--God really loves us! Why would we fear any opposing force!

Romans 9

  • Romans 9-11 deals with another question of this present age. What about Israel? They were clearly God's people, God's elect. Why haven't they responded to the gospel like the Gentiles have?
  • Paul assures the Romans that he loves his own people and wants them to be saved from God's coming wrath (9:1-5).
  • Paul may refer to Jesus as God in 9:5. It depends on how you reconstruct the punctuation. On the whole, Paul tends to reserve being over all for God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28), so on balance I have some doubts that Paul was thinking this. It remains, however, very possible.

  • God's word is not to blame for Israel's failure to believe--not all in Israel are truly Israel (9:6).
  • Various stories in Genesis demonstrate that God chooses some and doesn't choose others, and He does so before they have done anything.
  • The clay has no right to complain about God's choices in mercy and hardening--He's God, the Potter (9:20).
  • And God has currently chosen to show mercy on the Gentiles and to harden Israel (9:25-29).
  • And He is not showing mercy on Israel because they did not place their trust in what God was doing through Christ, while the Gentiles are putting their trust in him (9:30-33).
  • They are instead pursuing righteousness by way of the Jewish Law instead of by trusting in Christ. But Christ is the goal of the Law (10:4).

Romans 10

  • Paul contrasts the two kinds of righteousness, the one by works the other by faith (10:5-6...). Those who call on the Lord Jesus will escape God's wrath, will be saved (10:13). This is believing that God raised him from the dead and thus, confessing him as Lord, Messiah (10:9).
  • Paul is one sent to the Gentiles--they won't have faith unless they hear and they won't hear unless someone is sent like him (10:14-17). Israel by and large has not listened (10:18-21).

Romans 11

  • So is that it for Israel? It is not.
  • It is not, first of all, because there is a remnant that has believed (11:5).
  • But is not as well because it is still possible for hardened Israel to be saved (11:11, 25-26). This fact undermines any approach to Romans 9 that sees predestination as some fixed and unchangeable concept. It is after the fact language--we know what is predestined as we see what happens. We know Israel is predestined to be hardened because it is hardened.
  • So if God cut out the natural branches in order to graft in the Gentiles/in response to their unbelief and boasting (notice the duality: one a statement of predestination, the other a consequence of human choice), then if the Gentile believers become arrogant, he can cut them out as well.
  • All Israel will be saved (11:26). God's election of Israel is irrevocable (11:29).
  • What a mystery! (11:33-36)

Romans 12

  • Paul now turns to practical matters of the believers at Rome. In consequence of all that has gone before, here is how they should live.
  • They should present their bodies as living sacrifices (12:1). This recalls what Paul said in Romans 6 about presenting their members and instruments of righteousness.
  • Romans 12-15 will clarify what it means to have a transformed mind.
  • First, it means not thinking more highly of yourself than of others (12:3).
  • Those in Christ form one body--imagery like 1 Corinthians 12. Different gifts.
  • Miscellaneous admonitions in 12:9-21, most of which have to do with loving one another and clinging to the good. Love is after all the fulfillment of the law (13:8)

Romans 13

  • Material here on submitting to authorities over you. Implies agreement with governments punishing criminals (including capital punishment and war--he bears the sword) and taxes.
  • Love fulfills the law, is apparently the essence of having the law written on our hearts.
  • Augustine became converted from conviction occasioned by 13:13.

Romans 14

  • Perhaps Paul has heard of divisions at Rome like those at Corinth between the "weak" and the "strong."
  • The "weak" are those whose consciences will not allow them to eat meat because of the possibility it would have been offered to an idol. Similarly, weak Gentiles might feel the need to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Paul says these things are a matter of personal conscience. The food is neither clean nor unclean in itself. Faith is what is important, even though a person can be wrongly convinced about their faith.
  • The strong should not despise the weak and the weak should not pass judgment on the strong (15:1).

Romans 15

  • See above at the beginning.

Romans 16

  • Many think this may have been sent to Ephesus rather than to Rome. Would Paul know this many people in Rome in such detail? Priscilla and Aquila were in Ephesus last thing we knew... and in 2 Timothy! The first convert of Asia is there (16:5). Some manuscripts do not have chapter 16.
  • Phoebe is a deacon of Cenchrea--the masculine word, not deaconess! Romans 16:1-2 is probably her letter of reference. If this is to Rome, she is probably conveying the letter and would perhaps read it to the churches in Rome as a substitute for Paul's presence.
  • House churches!
  • Priscilla mentioned before her husband (16:3).
  • Many women co-workers!
  • Paul apparently considers Junias an apostle. She and her husband were in Christ before Paul (16:7).
  • Tertius is likely the secretary who wrote down the letter (16:22).
  • Gaius, Erastus are significant in the Corinthian church. Perhaps the whole church of 40-50 could fit in Gaius' house.
  • Erastus, Corinth's aedile, perhaps paid for a pavement with his name in it that you can still see at Corinth.
  • The doxology is quite possibly not original to the letter (16:25-27).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Partaking of the Spirit: The Threshold of Belonging

While Christian identity in the NT almost certainly was formulated in a collectivist sense, the fact that it was not ethnically linked surely begged for rites like baptism to make it clear who was a member of this new group, the assembly.

Nevertheless, the book of Acts indicates that being baptized did not automatically imply that one had the Spirit. The Samaritans of Acts 8 are baptized before they receive the Spirit. Similarly, the Gentiles of Acts 10 receive the Spirit before they are baptized. While baptism is the rite most associated in Acts with receiving the Holy Spirit, the laying on of hands seems even more closely related.

Acts treats receiving the Spirit as a natural consequence of true repentance and baptism: "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, every one of you for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:36).

Again, we Western individualists probably need to be reminded that this is probably not simply an isolated individual experience. "You are the temple of God and God's Spirit lives in you" (1 Cor. 3:16)--the "you's" in this verse are plural. We are the temple, and the Spirit dwells in us. Perhaps the wording of Hebrews helps us conceptualize the relationship between the Spirit in the individual and the Spirit in the church: we have become partakers of Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4).

To be sure, Hebrews is not here making the distinction between the Spirit in the individual and the Spirit in the church. Hebrews' point is that we are now partakers in part now of what is only fully to come in the coming age. But perhaps the language is helpful. No individual has "all" of the Holy Spirit in him or her. We all partake of Holy Spirit when our hearts are sprinkled clean of an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22; cf. Acts 15:9) and our bodies are washed with pure water (i.e., in baptism, Heb. 10:22). But there is in a sense "more" of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ than in me as an individual believer, and there is more of the Spirit in the age to come than is available to us corporately now in this age.

What we have been suggesting throughout our discussion thus far is that the Holy Spirit, more than anything else, defines the church, the assembly of the firstborn. This is true both of us collectively and individually. Crossing from death to life means being "designated and made holy by the Spirit" (Rom. 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13).

Thus in Romans 8:9, Paul says, "If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not of him." This verse indicates that all true Christians and thus all true parts of the church have the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 1:21 implies the same: God "has sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Very similar is 2 Corinthians 5:5: "God is the one who has made us into this very thing, who has given us the earnest of the Spirit."

The NIV translates 2 Corinthians 1:21 with the idea of God putting his "seal of ownership" on us. This is an appropriate dynamic rendition of the idea of sealing here. It is not sealing as in sealing up a jar but sealing as in placing one's seal on something. It is like branding, thus indicating that we are in fact God's.

The notion of an "earnest" will be familiar to any who have bought a house. Earnest money does two things. It first guarantees that you will receive the house (rather than someone else) if the agreed conditions are kept by both parties. But it also is a downpayment toward the purchase.

Accordingly, the Holy Spirit in us is a "foretaste of glory divine," as we saw in Hebrews. Yet the Spirit is also a guarantee of our inheritance. It is not an absolute guarantee, for one can grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

So we see that more than anything else, the Spirit defines the assembly of God. It does so individually to be sure, but it does so individually in relation to its corporate definition of the church as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Spirit inhabits the Church

In the last probe, we discovered that the church is "visible" in the sense that it is the embodiment of the Spirit. We also noted that it is not individualistic but as an assembly involves a plurality of people by definition.

Today we want to follow up briefly with some thoughts on Ephesians 4:4--"There is one body and one Spirit." To be sure, we each have the Holy Spirit individually (next post). But we are prone today to see the corporate Spirit in the "universal assembly" as simply the sum of the Spirit in the individual members. This is wrongheaded at least in terms of the perspective of Paul.

Paul and all the biblical writers and audiences were primarily collectivist personalities. What this implies is that they identified themselves as individuals primarily in conjunction with the groups to which they belonged. They did not see groups as a collection of individuals, but individuals as members of groups.

We can of course ask whether this is a cultural or timeless element of the biblical perspectives. But let's be sure to get the biblical perspective right. Paul's way of thinking would not have been "we each have the Spirit which adds up to the body of Christ which the Spirit inhabits." Rather, he would have thought, "we each have the Spirit because we are part of the body which the Spirit inhabits."

This raises a serious question. Is it possible for an individual to possess the Spirit and not be connected to the body? A severed finger might possess life for a few moments, but detached from the "spirit" of the body, it will soon die. This analogy seems true to the inner logic of Paul's thought as well. It seems more than possible that Paul would not thought it possible for an individual to have the Spirit in disconnect from the rest of the body of Christ.

And it is the body of Christ we are talking about here. Once again, we remember that a primary category for Paul is that believers are "in Christ." The logic of Galatians 3 is that the promise is not to seeds, as to many, but to the seed, which is Christ. We are thus, collectively in Christ as the singular seed. We thus do not have, strictly speaking, a one-on-one relationship with the Spirit. We have a plurality-on-one relationship with the Spirit through the singular Christ, who as head of the body nourishes it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What is the Church in the New Testament

I'm writing a paper this week on the Spirit and the Church. I thought I'd do some thinking here.

First, in Paul's writings, we should really translate the word ekklesia more as an "assembly"--a local assembly in fact--than church.

[By the way, I have long assumed that the Assemblies of God Church took their name from some passage like 1 Corinthians 11:16 or 14:33--"the assemblies of God."]

The idea that the church are those who are "ek + kaleo"-ed, the "called out" ones, is rubbish from a linguistic and NT meaning standpoint, although it has some value as a sermon illustration. The churches of Paul are the local assemblies of people in house churches, primarily.

Paul can broaden the term, apparently. He speaks in Galatians 2:13 of persecuting the "assembly of God" where he must at least mean the believers of Jerusalem--a seemingly larger target than some sole house church. Here he refers to believers in a particular region, it seems.

Of course this broadening of the term reaches its fullness in Colossians and Ephesians, where the universal church is said to be the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23-24). This is a development from 1 Corinthians, where Christ is a part of the body, namely, the head (1 Cor. 12; but also Eph. 4:15).

An interesting parallel to Ephesians' use of "church" language is in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus tells Peter that he will build his "church" on the rock either of Peter or his confession of Jesus as Messiah or both. This of course does not refer to a local assembly but presumably to all who confess faith that Jesus is the Son of God.

Again, an interesting extension of this imagery is in Hebrews 12:13, where Hebrews refers to the "assembly of the firstborn" in heaven.

Some thoughts:
1. First, it is striking to me that this church imagery seems to presume embodiment and visibility. The local assemblies are clearly visible. The assembly in heaven of Hebrews, even if a metaphor of some sort, is a visual metaphor of people gathered in heaven.

And when Colossians and Ephesians extend the scope of the assembly metaphorically to include all Christians, the metaphor is visible and embodied. It is the body of Christ that is the church, not the Spirit of Christ! Indeed, "There is one body and one Spirit" (Eph. 4:4).

Here is where the relevance to my topic, the Spirit and the Church comes first into view. The Spirit inhabits the church. Here we see that the Spirit inhabits the church as the visible embodiment of the Spirit.

2. Second, we see that by very definition, the church is a collective concept, that is, it is plural. There is no such thing as an assembly of one. There are no instances in the New Testament where the church refers to anything close to one person. It implies both gathering and plurality.

When we come to appropriating this imagery today, new questions emerge that none of the NT authors might have imagined. Can there be a church of one? Is a person a part of the assembly of the firstborn without interaction or connection to the rest of the body?

This question is completely foreign to the Bible. When Paul removes a lone person from the assembly, he is delivering this person over to Satan. In the modern scenario, the ear doesn't talk down to the eye--it just leaves to go fishing. Paul's imagery of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 requires that all its believers be on the same body (hard to do when you're not in the same room).

And when Ephesians suggests that we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:5-6), the theology doesn't work unless this is a unity expressed across a plurality of individuals, in this case, across the ethnic divide of Jew and Gentile. We are not to forsake the regular assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25). Our forebears were of course way off in using this verse to make us feel guilty for not attending Wednesday night service... but if you are an Easter and Christmas nominal "Christian," the verse well suits.

In short, we might say of the lone Christian the same thing that Paul told husbands and wives: a believer should not stay away from the body of Christ except for a time, perhaps to devote oneself to prayer, then come together again so Satan will not tempt you (1 Cor. 7:5).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Classroom Snippets: 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians in Miniature

Chapters 1-7

  • Whole lot of “comfort” going on! The thanksgiving section suggests the tone of the first 9 chapters, which is one of reconciliation.
  • 1:8, “hardships in Asia”: may allude to Paul being imprisoned at Ephesus, perhaps when he wrote Philippians—“in our hearts we felt the sentence of death” (1:9).
  • Paul has had a painful visit (2:1; 12:14; 13:1-2) and written a harsh letter (7:8) since 1 Corinthians.
  • Paul had also planned a visit that didn’t materialize, and the Corinthians thought Paul was playing games with them (1:15, 17-18).
  • Some sinner that Paul chastised the Corinthians over—in part for not disciplining him—has apparently repented (7:12). The Corinthians have proved themselves to be obedient (2:9).
  • Godly sorrow leads to repentance that leads to salvation (7:10)!

  • As Paul doesn’t play games with promises, God’s promises are a “yes” in Christ—they are fulfilled (1:20)!
  • For the Holy Spirit is a “seal” that indicates we are God’s property (1:20).
  • And the Holy Spirit is an “earnest” of our inheritance, both a guarantee and a down payment of what is to come (1:21; 5:5).
  • Jesus was without sin (5:21).
  • God made the one without sin, to be sin (probably an allusion to the idea of Jesus as a sin offering, see Rom. 8:3)...
  • So that we might become God's righteousness (I would go with those who see it along the lines of Rom. 3:26 and this understanding of Rom. 1:17--in other words, Paul is not thinking here about us becoming righteous [although he believes this too] but about God being demonstrated to be righteous).

  • 2 Corinthians is full of the paradox of our suffering being our triumph. For example, there is the image of us being led in triumphal procession—we are in chains but we are victorious!
  • Also the image of being pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair… (4:8-10).
  • Paul identifies with the sufferings of Christ—we carry around his dead body, knowing we will also wear his life in the resurrection (4:10).
  • According to Schenck, Paul identifies with the faith of Jesus that God would raise him from the dead (4:13-14).
  • We will all appear before Christ’s judgment seat to receive the due of our deeds (5:10).
  • Now is the time to sign up for salvation (6:2)!
  • To be away from the body is probably a reference to resurrection rather than the intermediate state (5:8). The heavenly tent is our resurrection body (5:2) and the naked are those who do not receive one at the judgment (5:3)!

  • Some teachers in the name of Christ “peddle the word of God for profit” (2:17). This is possibly an allusion to the “super-apostles” of 11:5.
  • Paul and Timothy are ministers of a new covenant of the Spirit, which is a ministry which replaces the ministry of Moses (3:6).
  • In Schenck’s view, as Paul allegorically applies the story of “Lord to Moses=glory which faded” in Exodus, it comes out “Spirit to us=glory which increases” under the new covenant (3:13-17).
  • Paul has a ministry of reconciliation just as in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself (5:19).
  • Transformation into the Lord Jesus’ likeness is an allusion to our resurrection bodies (3:18). Being reconciled to God is about becoming a new creation (5:17).
  • Like in Colossians 1:15, Christ is the image of God

  • Many scholars regard 6:14-7:1 as an interpolation, perhaps even something Paul wrote to the Corinthians at another time. It comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. You can read from 6:13 to 7:2 and not know you’ve even missed anything.

Chapters 8-9

  • Deal with the offering Paul is raising to take to Jerusalem, interestingly not mentioned in Acts, even though the names in Acts 20:4 sounds like such a delegation. We don’t know what happened to the money. Did Paul use it to pay for the men with a vow?
  • Prosperity goes around. Sometimes one group has it and another doesn’t. Then things switch around. When God has prospered you, it’s your turn to take up the slack (8:13-15).
  • The Lord loves a cheerful giver (9:7).
  • Jesus set the example: “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor” (8:9). However you understand Philippians 2:6-8, Paul's thoughts here are likely similar.
  • Who are these brothers??? (8:18, 22) Is it Apollos? Timothy? I’m inclined at least to Timothy.

Chapters 10-13

  • The tone of 10-13 is quite different from 1-9. Paul is grieved and on the offensive. Most probably would say that these are from a different letter, either the harsh letter before 1-9 or a subsequent letter after 1-9.
  • The church is under the influence of individuals Paul calls “super-apostles” (11:5) or even “false apostles” (11:13). They are trained speakers (11:6; like Apollos). They take patronage, unlike Paul (11:7-9).
  • Paul argues that he is superior to them (11:22-29)—he’s a Hebrew like them; he’s an Israelite like them; he has suffered more than them for Christ…
  • Some good autobiographical stuff here (11:24-33).
  • Paul has had better revelations and visions (12:1-4). Many think this is Paul’s conversion experience, although the timing is difficult (14 years ago?).
  • Paul performed signs and wonders when he came (12:12).
  • Paul feels like a fool to boast like this (11:23; 12:11), he is in fact nothing (12:11). Elsewhere he talks of how whatever was to his credit he considered nothing next to Christ (Phil. 3:7). And in Gal. 6:14 he says “May I never boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ.”
  • Paul mentions here a thorn in his flesh that God did not take away to teach him that “my strength is made perfect in weakness” (12:9). Many think eye problems mentioned in Galatians 4:15, perhaps associated with his conversion experience.
  • Paul talks about coming to discipline the church (10:11; 12:21), including his fear that many who had earlier sinned might not yet have repented.The question of dating these chapters centers in my mind on 12:17-18. The mention of “the brother” along with Titus seems to date these chapters after the visit planned in 2 Corinthians 8-9. So if 8-9 were connected to 1-7, then 10-13 are likely subsequent to 1-9. It is also possible, however, that we have three letters here, 8-9, then 10-13, then 1-7. The 1-9 then 10-13 hypothesis is simpler, however.
  • Also it would be strange in the same letter, after giving no indication whatsoever that he has changed who he's talking to, to rejoice in the repentance of a notorious sinner and the obedience of the community (7:8-13) and then at the end of the same letter suspects he will find many who haven't repented (12:21) and a community in need of discipline (10:2).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Classroom Snippets: Biblical Genres and Interpretation

For the last part of the Inductive Bible Studies class this semester, we have gone through the final chapters of Duvall and Hays, which deal with some of the particulars of the various genres in the Bible. Since IWU's curriculum has no place where they are made aware of higher critical issues in each of these genres, I have also at least mentioned to them broader issues in the history of interpretation relating to these parts of the Bible.

Here is the final exam review of these chapters and issues:
How Genre Can Impact Interpretation

· Ancient letters had a format, knowing it can impact interpretation.
· For example, thanksgiving sections were a standard feature—the fact that Paul says similar things at this point of his letters does not imply insincerity.
· Expansions of prescripts were not typical. So Paul’s expansions imply meaning.
· Paul’s “grace and peace” embodies his theology—it is half Jewish (peace) and half Gentile (grace).
· Paul’s thanksgiving sections anticipate things he will say later in the letter.
· Non-evangelicals would consider several NT letters to be pseudonymous, that is, written under the name of, say, Paul or Peter although not actually by Paul or Peter. In this scenario, several decades after the deaths of Paul and Peter someone would have written what they believed God would have said to their generation through these individuals if they were still alive. The letters about which such discussions are held in scholarly circles include Ephesians (maj.), Colossians (min.), 2 Thessalonians (min.), 1-2 Timothy (maj.), Titus (maj.), James (50), 1 Peter (50), 2 Peter (maj.), Jude (50).

· Matthew, Mark, and John probably come closest to ancient biography.
· Ancient biographies focused on the character, the focal characteristics of a person (quote from Plutarch).
· Character was not thought to develop in some Freudian way but to be inherent in a person from birth. Thus the way a person was born often said something about who they were as an adult.
· Jesus seems to have used simile, metaphor, irony, and hyperbole extensively, not to mention parable, of course.
· Source criticism is the branch of biblical studies that asks what sources might stand behind a book or series of books.
· The majority of scholars currently believe that Mark was a source behind Matthew and Luke, and that Matthew and Luke also drew on another source, called “Q” for short.
· Redaction criticism asks how each individual gospel (in this case) has edited its sources in keeping with its own particular themes.
· The synoptic gospels do not seem to want to be read as minutely harmonizable. To harmonize them on the level of detail often requires the creation of a story that is so different from the original four gospels that the essential form of any of the original stories is lost.
· This is not error since the genre seems to have allowed for creativity in presentation.

· Luke-Acts seems to come closest to the ancient genre of history.
· Thucydides the Greek historian writes that he sometimes composed speeches when he could not remember exactly what had been said. This corroborates that the sense of precision for such writing was not exactly the same as ours and opens the possibility that the speeches of Acts might not be exactly what was said on those occasions. Yet this would not constitute an error.

· The NT book of Revelation partakes of several genres: it is a letter to seven churches, a prophetic writing, and an apocalypse.
· There are four different approaches to Revelation as prophecy: the preterist (about John’s time), the futurist (still to come yet), the historicist (events fulfilled throughout history), and the idealist (symbolic in a more general, all time kind of way).
· An apocalypse of Revelation’s type involved a visit to an important earthly figure by a heavenly one in which the earthly person sees a “revelation” of what is going on behind the scenes in the heavenly realm and what is soon to happen on earth (this pushes Revelation in the preterist direction).
· This can imply things for interpretation as well. So the fact that Jesus does not tell John to get up and not worship him would have been noticeable and mean that Jesus is worthy of worship. We also have to wonder if some of the angelic appearance is more following the form of the genre rather than a literal blow by blow.

· Narratives can be analyzed by looking for key events, characters, and settings. This is true of any kind of narrative, whether historical or fictional.
· Narratives have an “evaluative point of view,” which is the point of view that allows you to evaluate the other points of view of other characters. In biblical stories, God’s point of view or that of Jesus is the evaluative point of view.
· So in Job, God’s perspective at the end allows us to put in proper perspective the points of views expressed of Job and his comforters. Job’s perspective is mostly, though not completely correct, and that of his comforters is quite wrong.
· Many scholars believe that the Pentateuch was also based on source material as well. The theory in its late 1800’s version was called JEDP.

· From a standpoint of our appropriation today, we can divide the legal material of the OT into moral, ceremonial, and civil material, although neither the OT nor NT used such distinctions.
· The civil material, which was a matter of Israel’s governance is variously applied. No one applies the specific punishments today, but some streams of Christian thinking would replace the general spirit of these laws with the Sermon on the Mount (Yoder), while others would set up similar theocratic structures in society if they could (e.g., Calvin).
· Hebrews implies that the sacrificial codes are no longer valid. Paul dismisses the necessity of many other “ceremonial” codes for at least Gentiles. What is left is most of the Ten Commandments, the love command, and the sexual prohibitions of Leviticus 18.
· Several OT books are a mixture of legal and narrative material (e.g., Numbers).

Prophets (Former)
· The Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) are sometimes called the Deuteronomistic history, not least because they seem to embody the theology of the book of Deuteronomy, which was arguably that to which the phrase “the Book of the Law” referred in these books.

Prophets (Latter)
· We should not think of prophetic collections as written down in the order in which the prophecies came. Nor is it necessarily the case that the prophets themselves put their prophecies in their current form. We know, for example, in the case of Jeremiah that Baruch edited some of his material. Several of these prophets prophesied over long periods of time.
· Many scholars believe that the prophetic traditions of some authors continued long after their deaths. So for example many believe that Isaiah reflects continued prophecies both from the time of the exile (chaps. 40-54) and after (55-66).
· Prophecy was not mainly directed at the distant future but at the present. Common topics included idolatry, social injustice, particularly while emphasizing cultic practices at the same time. In response Israel was told to repent or be judged. If in the process of judgment, restoration was promised on repentance.
· Some prophecies push us toward having a sense of a near and a far fulfillment. Many of the prophecies the NT takes to be about its own time (far) were also about the prophet’s own day (near). The prediction of the virgin birth is a good example.

· Hebrew poetry functioned by way of parallelism rather than auditory rhyme: synonymous, antithetical, and synthetic. Hays and Duvall add illustrative and formal.
· Some figures of speech mentioned by Hays and Duvall include simile, metaphor, hyperbole, anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, metonymy, synecdoche, apostrophe, etc.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Classroom Snippets: Thessalonians/Corinthians

As final exams approach, I wrote out for a class something like what I would have written for the short answer questions on a previous exam. Here they are:

Summarize the content of 1 Corinthians 15.
The chapter basically divides up into three parts. In the first part, Paul presents the earliest tradition about the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection, starting with Peter and ending with him. In the second part, Paul defends the idea that there will be a resurrection. His basic argument is a contrary to fact—if there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins, people who are baptized for the dead would be stupid, etc. In the third part, Paul addresses those who would object to the resurrection over what kind of a body it would entail. He argues that it is not a body made of flesh and blood like we currently have but a spiritual body, a heavenly one.

Summarize the eschatology of 1 Thessalonians 4-5.
In these chapters Paul addresses uncertainty on the Thessalonian’s part concerning what will happen to believers who have died. Paul indicates that they will in fact be the first to go out to meet Christ as he returns to earth. Then we who are alive at the time will also be snatched up to meet them in the air. These events should not surprise those of us who are awake because we are ready.

How would you interpret the following terms from 2 Thessalonians 2: the rebellion/apostasy, the man of lawlessness, what/who is holding him back, sets himself up in the temple?

Very difficult to know. In terms of what was likely to be going on in Paul’s mind, the temple to which he would likely have referred was the Jerusalem temple that was destroyed in AD70 (although he does tell the Corinthians that they are the temple of the Lord). Caligula had already tried to set up an image of himself there around AD40. But of course there is no literal temple today, so if this is meant to be fulfilled literally, one will have to be rebuilt.

Paul says that a “man of lawlessness” will set himself up in the temple as God. Surely any of Paul’s listeners hearing such a thing would have thought of the Caligula incident. Paul says nothing here about such an individual claiming to be the Christ, and the emperors were worshipped as gods. It is thus quite possible that Paul would have pictured a Roman emperor as he wrote this. Of course we’re fresh out of Roman emperors, so if it is to be fulfilled literally today, some similar figure will have to rise.

The rebellion perhaps relates to opposition against the true God and in favor of the “lie” in this passage, which seems to be that this lawless one is a god. The “Left Behind” scenario of Christians who believe an Antichrist to be God would work if we are headed for a literal fulfillment.

What is holding him back is even more difficult. Was it Paul himself—while he is still alive this won’t happen? Is it the Holy Spirit, which is a neuter word but also a “He”? Hard to know. Paul frustratingly told the Thessalonians, "you know what is holding him back." Unfortunately, though, none of us where there to know!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Classroom Snippets: Applying OT Law

With one more class to go, we looked briefly at the genre of Old Testament Law in Inductive Bible Study today. The textbook, Hays and Duvall, wants to take a covenantal approach to the topic--the Law of Moses no longer applies in the new covenant. See the NT for ethics. They find the "moral," "ceremonial," "civil" partition of the Law arbitrary and unhelpful.

Of course they are right that it is doubtful Paul or any Jew of his day would have divided the law into these categories. Philo treats all the smaller laws of the Law as subheadings within the Ten Commandments. The Ten commandments also divide roughly into duties toward God and duties toward fellow humanity.

Having said that, I wonder if Paul's way of dividing up the law did appear somewhat arbitrary to some of his fellow Jews. We can say "new covenant" in hindsight. But when the rubber hits the road, Paul retains certain ethical requirements and doesn't retain others.

First there is what Justin Martyr (I believe) called the moral law. These are elements of OT law that are fully retained in the NT. If we piece together comments in the NT, this includes:

1. The Ten Commandments (Exod. 20; Deut. 6; with the exception of the Sabbath legislation, at least for Gentiles)
2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus; understood as a general summation of human to human ethics)
3. The sexual prohibitions of Leviticus 18 (at least insofar as they are mentioned in the NT)

From our later perspective, this list makes sense, although I'm not sure we could articulate why. One of the natural aspects to the lists is that these are things that apply easily to everyone, Jew and Gentile.

A second category that makes sense to us (but wouldn't have to Jews of Paul's day) is the category of ceremonial law. This list basically amounts to things that Paul does not retain for Gentiles (and they are largely things that separated Jew from Gentile).

1. circumcision (Galatians)
2. food laws (Mark 7; Acts 10; Colossians 2)
3. Sabbath observance (Romans 14; Colossians 2)
4. sacrificial laws (Hebrews)

A final category that is logically distinct is that of civil law. These are laws that relate to the governance of Israel as a nation.

For example,
1. laws of punishment for crimes
2. property issues, land distribution
3. "Eye for eye; tooth for tooth" (Matthew 5)

Christians debate in some respects the appropriateness of applying Israel's civil law to our contemporary world. Few would of course advocate stoning a disobedient son or stoning a person who engages in homosexual sex--indeed, few would think Jesus would advocate such a thing. But we can distinguish among Christians those who think the Sermon on the Mount decisively replaces the approach of OT law on these points (e.g., Yoder) to those who would take a very OT approach to governance if they could (Calvin, and he could ;-).

A snippet of IBS today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Night: In Jerusalem Again

John 20 tells us that eight days later the disciples were in a room again, presumably in Jerusalem. When Jesus had appeared to them before, Thomas had not been with them. He had said he would not believe Jesus was risen unless he could thrust his hand in Jesus' side and in his nailprints.

Now Jesus appeared to them again and went up to Thomas, encouraging to touch Jesus in his hands and side. Thomas felt no need. "My Lord, and my God," he said.

Then Jesus blessed all those who would later believe even though they have not seen, which is us.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Evaluating the Bible Curriculum

It's the end of the semester at IWU--time for me to take stock of my teaching once again. What's in a Bible course aimed to train ministers, what is it supposed to accomplish? Even more significant, days are coming to evaluate curricula. What's in a Bible Curriculum meant to prepare ministers, what is it supposed to accomplish? I'm thinking both undergraduate and graduate.

Here's my list, trying to go from most essential to more tangential. My assumption is that the list is pretty much the same whether you're thinking of a Christian Ministries undergraduate or an MDiv.

1. An IWU Bible curriculum, rooted in Wesleyanism, should foster and develop a sacramental relationship between the student and the Scriptures.

We should not be a people that preaches sermons where the Bible is conspicuously absent. The Bible is the crucible of our lives, the playground where we play, the battlefield where we fight. A curriculum will involve the Bible as object, but it must leave the student with the Bible as place par excellence to hear God's voice.

2. A good Bible curriculum should equip the minister to teach, preach, and counsel from Scripture. This requires the high skill of moving from text to life with integrity.

In my opinion, subordinate skills required to do this with integrity and excellence include:

a. a vibrant relationship with God the Holy Spirit
b. a thorough knowledge of the canons of Christian theology and ethics
c. the ability to distinguish between the original meaning and other meanings
d. skill at integrating individual Scriptures together
e. the ability to distingish between our time and their times

3. A good Bible curriculum should leave a future minister with a high level knowledge of the content of Scripture, including both knowledge of original meaning options and any meanings inherited by broader Christendom and the Wesleyan tradition in particular.

4. Of lesser importance is an acquaintance with contemporary issues relating to Scripture. These include knowing where to go when someone asks you about everything from the Da Vinci Code to some scholarly trend.

What is missing from this list? What do you think the priorities are for a Bible curriculum as regards someone going into ministry of one sort or another?

Friday, April 13, 2007

John Wilson's Prayer for Kurt Vonnegut

John Wilson, the editor of Books and Culture, was on IWU's campus today as part of our "Celebration of Scholarship" extravaganza. He had been on the road and hadn't heard yet that Kurt Vonnegut, who was actually from Indianapolis, had died.

There were two things about Wilson's comments that I found striking.

The first was Wilson's sense that despite the virulent anti-theism of Vonnegut and others like Salmon Rushdie, they could not have given birth to such art apart from the common grace that we all enjoy as humans made in the image of God. He seemed to think that their creations reflected the image of God in them, even though the content they created was sometimes vile.

The second was even more striking. He prayed for Vonnegut, sorta. He made some prefatory remarks about how much we are uncertain of, and mentioned that there was one stream of Christianity that believed a person's eternal destiny might be changed even after death. He did not think the evidence for this was ultimately very good.

But then he prayed. He did not exactly pray for Vonnegut, as I remember. But he thanked God for His great mercy, in fact, had to stop in the middle of the prayer to regain his composure.

It was a profound prayer to me, even though I remember hardly a word from it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Galilee: The Great Commission

Again, somewhat arbitrarily, I'll mention the giving of the Great Commission today of Matthew 28:16-20. If you're like me, you might blur this together with Jesus ascension after forty days in Acts 1. But the Great Commission occurs on a mountain in Galilee. The ascension takes place in the vicinity of Bethany, according to Luke 24. As Drury has pointed out, this is at least 2 1/2 days journey south.

So I'll mention the Great Commission today. Jesus says, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. As you go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded you."

Then Matthew ends in what seems to be an inclusio with Matthew 1, where the prediction is that he will be called "Immanuel," "God with us." In Matthew 28 Jesus says, "I am with you, always..."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Galilee by the Sea

We have no real idea when John 21 took place. Keith Drury has commented below that it would have taken at least 2 1/2 days to get back to Galilee from Jerusalem at break neck speed. And if we go with John, we should see it some time late next week at the earliest. But I'm going to tell it today.

Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others are fishing overnight on the Sea of Tiberias (=Galilee). They are not having much success come morning.

Then someone on the shore tells them to throw their nets on the other side and they have a massive haul. Peter says, "It's the Lord!" He jumped in the water and headed for shore.

Then Jesus cooked breakfast for them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday: Back in Capernaum?

I'm guessing it would normally be at least a three day trip from Jerusalem back to Capernaum, and even more if you had children or slow movers with you. But just for fun, let's pretend that the disciples hurried back to Galilee. Let's say that tonight they arrived back home.

Classroom Snippets: 1 Corinthians

I'll continue tracing the hypothetical path of Jesus' disciples.

But today's a test over 1 Corinthians and I thought I would post a summary of some study material:

Chapter 1

  • Sosthenes the amanuensis?
  • “To those sanctified”? set apart to God as holy. But since they are carnal (3:1), they are apparently not “entirely” sanctified…
  • Spiritual gift issue anticipated as early as 1:7
  • 1:10 the key verse of the letter—need for unity
  • Divisions primarily fall along lines of those loyal to Paul and a group using Apollos as an excuse to undermine Paul’s authority on various issues
  • The mention of Peter, however, may allude to some in the church who would consider Peter a higher authority than Paul. The mention of Christ may be an allusion to Peter or other disciples (not at Corinth, but in Jerusalem, for example) who claim higher authority than Paul.
  • Did Stephanus arrive with the letter mentioned in 7:1 after Paul had started writing (see 16:17) and remind Paul that he had baptized his household too?
  • Honor shame dynamics in the end of chapter 1: for Jews, the Messiah will win, not get crucified… let’s step out back and I’ll kill you for saying that Israel’s Messiah let himself get crucified by the Romans (=stumblingblock)
  • For Gentiles, that’s just stupid (=foolishness)
  • Not many, but some of them were apparently of some status

Chapter 2

  • Center of Paul’s message the cross?
  • Miracles probably attended Paul’s mission, even though many of us tend to think of him as this heady theologian.
  • There is a wisdom that is spiritually discerned, that doesn’t make sense to the world.
  • The language of “spiritual” and “soulish” people at the end of chapter 2 probably takes up language Paul’s opponents at Corinth themselves are using, calling themselves spiritual (spiritual gifts, tongues, anyone?) while putting others like Paul down as only “soulish.” 1 Corinthians 15 takes up this language again.

Chapter 3

  • The Corinthians are not spiritual but “fleshly” (carnal). Now Paul introduces his own language—they use “spiritual” versus “soulish”; for Paul it is “spiritual” versus “fleshly.”
  • Although Paul has mentioned others, when he gets down to business, he and Apollos seem to be the main contestants at issue.
  • No foundation except Jesus Christ can be laid. Note: Ephesians expands the list to Christian apostles and prophets, with Christ as chief cornerstone.
  • Some interpret 3:14-15 to teach eternal security—a person who builds hay and straw on the foundation will be saved but scorched through the fire of judgment. Note that the foundation is intact despite the building on it, and Paul is really talking about ministers who build the church.
  • You plural are God’s temple and the Spirit dwells in you, plural, us.
    Note the subordination of Christ to God the Father which is standard in Paul’s writings.

Chapter 4

  • Paul says no one should judge him here, but in the next chapter he judges a sinful man. Is one difference the fact that Paul is talking about his intentions here, while the actions of the man in chapter 5 are external and undisputable?
  • The Corinthians have an attitude of having already arrived spiritually.
    Although he and Apollos are only servants of God (chap. 3), he is their father in the Lord and so argues that he should get higher respect

Chapter 5

  • Man sleeping with his father’s wife—way out in terms of Leviticus 18
    Is this guy a patron to the community—harder to discipline those who financially support the church.
  • Note that Paul does not seem to have a “all sin is sin” view. He does not kick every sinner out of the church… but he does kick some!
  • They are proud… is this because they are seizing on Paul’s “not under Law” theme (in other words, watch what sermon you preach to what audience). Is the “all things are lawful” quote also a spin on their false perception of Paul’s teaching? Praise the Lord, Paul, look how not under the Law we are?
  • Church discipline: hand him over to Satan so that the flesh might be destroyed but the spirit saved. One could argue again for eternal security from this. Alternatively, delivering to Satan might be a redemptive strategy, hoping he’ll come running back to the church.
  • Two main functions of church discipline: redemption of the sinner and purity of the body of Christ. Does it play out differently today given that a person can just go to another church (only one church at Corinth at this time)? Is the purity of the body affected the same way in a church the size of Willow Creek?
  • Sacrificial image of Christ: our Passover (lamb)
  • Shame and purity technique—don’t even eat with someone claiming to be a Christian who is sexually immoral.
  • Paul functions with a “two kingdoms” model of church/state relationships. It’s not his business to judge those outside the church right now (but it will be in chap. 6). It’s his business to judge those inside the church!

Chapter 6

  • First part, taking each other to court. Probably the Apollos, spiritual, privileged group taking some from the Paul group to court (but perhaps still the well off ones—you don’t take a poor person to court in the Roman empire).
  • In the eschaton, Christians will judge angels and the world. So Paul’s “so shall we ever be with the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians probably doesn’t mean we go off to heaven after the “rapture.” Rather, we are meeting in the air before the judgment.
  • In general, better to lose out than to shame the church by taking some other Christian before a secular court.
  • These two chapters, 5 and 6, both deal with issues of body integrity—with corruption of the body by sexual sin and by corruption of the body by airing our dirty laundry before the world.
  • Second half of chapter anticipates the rest of the letter, yet focuses on the issue of visiting prostitutes.
  • Visiting prostitutes defiles the body of Christ—it’s like taking Christ to a prostitute.
  • Note: Paul says such a person becomes one flesh with the prostitute, but he surely wouldn’t have someone marry a prostitute. This debunks the whole sex=marriage view you hear sometimes. It also undermines the monogamy interpretation of Genesis 2:24 because a polygamous man becomes one flesh with all his wives.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9 has key words on homosexual sex, one of which seems to refer to the active person (arsenokoites) and the other to the passive partner (malakos).
  • Note that individuals in the church who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:10).

Chapter 7

  • In chapter 7 Paul begins to respond to their questions. Wherever you see “now concerning” you are likely seeing a response to a question from them.
  • As such, there are a probably a number of quotes from their letter in this second part of 1 Corinthians.
  • The first is here: “is it good for a man not to touch a woman”? The letter seems to have married couples in mind, and Paul’s first argument is that husbands and wives should have sex to keep them from being tempted to go elsewhere.
  • Paul’s comment that a husband’s body belongs to his wife seems startlingly revolutionary for his context.
  • Paul has the gift of being able to go without sex.
  • Implications for pre-marital sex in 7:9—better to marry than to burn (with passion)
  • Paul passes on Jesus tradition—wife is not to divorce her husband or if she does, she is not to remarry. This contrasts with what Paul will tell men later in the chapter—it is better for divorced men not to remarry, but they do not sin if they do (7:27-28). This implies that cultural factors are involved in these admonitions and also that these are not absolute commands (meaning exceptionless) but universal (with exceptions).
  • Interesting Jesus tradition, since Jesus almost certainly focused on the man. Yet Paul focuses on the woman. Does this belie some problem with women at Corinth?
  • Paul adds that if the unbeliever departs, let them depart.
  • Unbelievers can be sanctified! The implication is that being made holy is not, in the first instance, about purity, although it is in the second instance. This is not salvation, for “how do you know if you will save your spouse.” This passage relates also to infant baptism, as a believing parent with an intact marriage sanctifies the children as well.
  • Paul evidences a sense that the return of Christ is close. Accordingly, he has no sense of changing the structures of society (e.g., slavery). Rather, Christ is coming and we need to get down to business.
  • Married person must take care of wife—ministry does not trump this responsibility.
  • Uncertainty about the final part of the chapter—is this a father thinking about his virgin daughter (NASB, Schenck) or is this a man thinking about his betrothed (most)?

Chapter 8

  • Chapters 8-10 have to do with the issue of meat offered to idols.
  • Two Jewish approaches—1) no one’s there, go ahead and eat at the pagan temple (Apollos?); 2) there are demons there, stay away from the temple (Paul?)
  • The Apollos party, which is “spiritual” (and may speak in tongues?) may also claim, “We have knowledge,” namely, that “an idol is nothing in the world.”
  • 8:6 is a modified form of the Shema, now including Christ as Lord. This may be the first instance of Christ being called the agent of creation.
  • Operating principle here as elsewhere in 1 Corinthians is to think of the other rather than about your rights and freedoms.
  • Don’t eat at an “idol’s temple” (the phrase “food offered to idols” is a bit like the way some Christians called television “hellovision”—it is “food offered at a temple” (hierothuton) changed to food offered to an idol (eidolothuton).

Chapter 9

  • Paul illustrates how to put others before yourself by way of a comparison with his own ministry practices. This chapter is thus sandwiched, “intercalated,” into this discussion
  • Peter and James had wives!
  • Paul thinks the ox-muzzle Scripture in Deuteronomy had no significant literal meaning—it was only meant allegorically for his day!
  • More Jesus tradition—a workman is worth the pay. Churches should support their ministers financially.
  • Paul probably did not rely on patronage at the places where he was to avoid the strings that came attached.
  • Paul’s ministry philosophy—to the Jews he became a Jew (which implied that he now saw himself in somewhat of a third category); to the Gentiles a Gentile.
  • Paul is not under the Law (Jewish Law) but is under Christ’s law.
    It was possible for Paul himself not to get the prize if he did not persist.

Chapter 10

  • Paul continues with the need to persist in order to get the prize. Israel left Egypt but did not make it through the desert because of their sins. Things like idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling destroyed them. So those who persist in sin, even someone like Paul, will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Some believe there are Christophanies in the OT. The rock that followed Israel (in some Jewish traditions) is a candidate, albeit a very weird one.
  • No one need ever be defeated by temptation!
  • Communion liturgy: “though we are many, yet we are one, because we all partake of the one bread.”
  • Don’t eat at a pagan temple—that’s the table of a demon.
  • Eat with thanksgiving anything from the marketplace.
  • If you are eating at an unbeliever’s house, eat with thanksgiving unless someone tells you the meat has been offered to an idol (don’t ask; don’t tell).

Chapter 11

  • First half deals with head coverings; second with the Lord’s supper
    Headship language: God head of Christ head of man head of wife.
  • Husband headship language is not uniquely Christian—Aristotle says this 350 years earlier.
  • Again, is there a woman problem at Corinth, women who are using their new found power in Christ to undermine the stabilizing structures of their society?
  • Paul assumes that women can pray and prophesy in the assembly.
  • Woman needs to veil her hair (not face), otherwise she shames her husband before other men, shows herself a dishonorable woman before putative males like God and the angels.
  • An unveiled woman was like an unmarried woman. So we have issues of infidelity and issues of modesty involved.
  • Cultural assumptions that long hair on men and short hair on woman is dishonorable.
  • Yet Paul strikingly balances his comments out with the fact that man is through the woman.
  • Some are getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper; others going away hungry. Clearly it is a meal.
  • Cultural issues involved, since dinners often seated and served according to social status.
  • Earliest tradition about the Lord’s supper.
  • Some have died from their attitude toward others in this practice!

Chapter 12

  • Chapters 12-14 deal with the matter of spiritual gifts. Chapter 12 deals with the general principles of how they operate, but Paul gets down to the specific problem in chapter 14 (how tongues are practiced at Corinth). Chapter 13 is intercalated to give the basic solution to their problem.
  • One Spirit, one body, many members, many gifts
  • This is not an absolute list of gifts.
  • One part is not to look down on another part (i.e., those who speak in tongues should not think less of those who don’t)
  • All do not speak in tongues, which Paul lists last on the list.
  • Seek the greater gifts, meaning those that benefit the body more, which as we see when Paul picks the theme up in chapter 14, means prophecy more than tongues

Chapter 13

  • The love chapter, the solution to the Corinthian problem (which is disunity, strife, and division). Like chapter 9 was sandwiched between 8 and 10, so this is “intercalated” here to show the solution to their spiritual gift problem.
  • Love trumps their claims to knowledge and their boasting in various things. Love doesn’t boast.
  • The mention of angelic tongues reminds us of their tongues in chapter 14 and indeed, the Testament of Job mentions Job’s daughters speaking in angelic tongues. Ecstatic tongues was thus probably conceived in Judaism as angelic languages. It is not a strictly Christian phenomenon, then, at the time.
  • The idea that tongues and prophecy have ceased finds no basis in this text.

Chapter 14

  • Paul now gets down to the underlying issue here—the unedifying use of tongues at Corinth.
  • These are not human languages, for no one understands them and the mind is not involved. Paul likely conceives of these as angelic languages.
  • Prophecy is better because it builds up the body rather than the individual.
  • They said “Amen” after individuals prayed.
  • The picture of worship here is a cross between the old time Quaker services where they waited on the Lord to move and individual and a charismatic service. There’s no mention of a designated preacher or sermon.
  • Paul speaks in more tongues than all of them? What kind of tongues? Notice that tongues is not on Paul’s list of gifts in Romans 12 and is not mentioned in Ephesians.
  • Tongues a sign for unbelievers—not a good sign! Something different going on here than in Acts 2, where tongues helps evangelize.
  • Two or at the most three, one at a time, only if there is an interpreter, don’t forbid their use in worship.
  • Prophets are to be evaluated by prophets
  • The women verses don’t fit and Schenck doesn’t think they are original. However, if they were original, they cannot refer to spiritual speech because Paul has already assumed that in chapter 11. They would have to refer to talk that disrupts the worship.

Chapter 15

  • Some at Corinth question the resurrection of the dead, but apparently not that Christ is alive. Some wonder if they believed in the immorality of the soul rather than the resurrection of the body.
  • The earliest testimony to the resurrection appearances.
  • In Paul’s mind at this point, the alternative to physical resurrection is no resurrection at all.
  • Paul lock steps our resurrection with Christ’s. He’s the firstfruits, we are the rest of the crop.
  • Adam imagery Paul will use later in Romans. In Adam all die; all in Christ will be made alive.
  • All of Christ’s enemies are not yet under his feet (contrast Ephesians). Same subjection language as elsewhere—Christ will be subjected to God after everything is subjected to him.
  • Baptism for the dead? Possibly some Christians with an ex opera operata view of baptism—if they are baptized for their dead relatives, they will be resurrected
  • Allusion to contemporary Epicurean philosophy—eat, drink, be merry, tomorrow we die…
  • Had Paul already been arrested once at Corinth (15:32)?
  • Second half deals with question of what kind of body the resurrection body is—Paul doesn’t even consider disembodied afterlife.
  • It will be a spiritual body in continuity with our earthly body. It will be a body like Christ’s resurrection body. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This will happen at the last trump.

Chapter 16

  • Do they meet on the first day of the week? Take an offering up for saints of Jerusalem. Paul may think this is fulfillment of prophecy.
  • Paul talks about plans that he apparently does not keep. He perhaps sends the letter with Timothy. Clearly he is sending 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (3rd missionary journey).
  • How are things between him and Apollos? Shaky?
  • Household of Stephanus the first converts of Achaia.
  • Aquila and Priscilla with Paul in Ephesus.
  • Marana tha—an early Aramaic invocation for the Lord to return.
    Paul’s usual greeting with his own hand.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday: Back to Galilee?

In Mark, the young man tells the women to tell the disciples that they will see Jesus in Galilee. Matthew says the same. For some reason, Luke completely omits this part of the story.

But I have a hunch that come Monday morning, the disciples high tailed it back to Galilee. I don't know the exact distance, but my finger measurement on a map came up with about 80 miles. I'm thinking that's at least a three day journey unless they were breaking speed limits--which you'd think they were if an angel type figure tells you something like this!

So let's say "for fun" that they made it about half way Monday and that tonight they are along the Jordan River about Samaria distance north.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Evening: Behind Closed Doors

When the men returned from Emmaus, they found the eleven and some others together. They reported that the Lord had appeared to Peter (cf. 1 Cor. 15:5).

Then Jesus appeared to them as well (John tells us Thomas was not with them). He showed them his hands and feet and encouraged them to touch him. To show them that he was not just a spirit, he asked for fish to eat.

An interesting puzzle is to coordinate Luke's depiction of Jesus with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Luke tells of Jesus wanting to prove that he had flesh and bones. Meanwhile, Paul is strong on the resurrection involving a body, but says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The typical solution is to suggest that Jesus' resurrection body looked like flesh and blood and was definitely a body in continuity with his earthly body (it had nailprints and such), but it was not literally flesh and blood.

Sunday Mid-Day: Road to Emmaus

That very day, two men were going to a village called Emmaus. They were bewildered because the women had reported the empty tomb.

Jesus came and went along with them. He asked them why they were so sad. One named Cleopas basically asked where he had been these last few days. He told Jesus about how they had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel, as well as how the women had heard from angels that he was alive again.

Jesus opened the Scriptures and showed them how all this was a part of God's plan. As evening approached, they asked if he would dine with them. As he broke the bread, they recognized him. Then he vanished from their sight.

They rushed immediately back to Jerusalem.

Sunday Morning: He is Risen!

Early Sunday morning when the sun had risen, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices with which to anoint Jesus. They wondered who might roll the stone away for them.

But they found that the large stone was already rolled back. A young man (or two, Luke) was sitting in a white robe. "Do not be amazed," he said, "He is risen!" He then told them to go and tell the disciples and Peter that he would appear to them in Galilee, as he promised.

Matthew tells of the angel rolling back the stone and the guards becoming like dead men. They later went to the elders, who paid them off for them to say that the disciples came and stole the body.

The women told no one, because they were afraid (Mark). But Matthew tells of Jesus appearing to them and telling them not to be afraid. This is the first appearance of Jesus in Matthew. They tell the disciples.

In John Mary Magdalene finds the stone rolled away and runs to tell Simon and the Beloved Disciple. They run and find the stone rolled away and the linen clothes lying there. Peter is confused, but the Beloved Disciple believes. Then as Mary Magdalene weeps near the tomb, Jesus appears to her, the first resurrection appearance told in John. Mary then tells the disciples that Jesus has appeared to her.

Notice that in Matthew and John, Jesus first appears to women, apparently even before he appeared to Peter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday: Low in the grave he lay...

"On the sabbath they [the women] rested according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56).

The next day, the chief priests came to Pilate and urged him to have a guard placed on Jesus' tomb because they feared the disciples would steal the body and tell the people that he had risen from the dead. They sealed the tomb and put a guard on watch there (Matthew).

Christians have of course asked where Jesus was on Saturday. Did he go to a place of torment so that penal substitution might fully take place? I can think of nothing in the biblical text that suggests this. Nothing in the biblical text suggests that Jesus took our exact penalty, as if it were some sort of mathematical equivalency. He did not, for example, spend eternity in hell.

Did he preach to the dead of the time of the old covenant in order to give them the opportunity to repent? 1 Peter 4:6 sounds like this (especially when you take out the word "now" that the NIV translators added). But I don't think 1 Peter is suggesting this took place on holy Saturday. 1 Peter 3:18-19 locates Christ's proclamation (of victory?) to the fallen spirits of Noah's day at a point when Jesus was "made alive in the spirit," in other words, post-resurrection.

What does the biblical text tell us? "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). The biblical answer would thus seem to be that on Saturday, Jesus' body was in the tomb and his spirit was in Paradise.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Beginning of Evening: Jesus' Burial

Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin, and someone looking for the kingdom of God (John says he was secretly a disciple of Jesus). He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to find that Jesus was already dead, for crucifixions were a long and torturous death. The Gospel of John actually mentions a soldier piercing Jesus in the side just to check if he were dead. They broke the legs of the two thieves to expedite their suffocation as their lungs filled with water.

Joseph wrapped Jesus in linen and placed his body in a new tomb, Matthew says it was his own. John says that Nicodemus anointed Jesus with a hundred pounds worth of spices, and that the tomb was in a nearby garden.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph noted where Jesus was laid so that they could come back after the sabbath and anoint his body.

Friday Afternoon: Jesus' Death

At the ninth hour (3pm), Jesus cried with a loud voice in Aramaic, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," quoting Psalm 22:1. Some mistook him to be calling for Elijah, since the Aramic word for "my God" is "Eloi." Someone went to offer Jesus some vinegar. In John this is in response to Jesus saying that he thirst and in John he drinks it.

John records, "It is finished." Luke records, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." In Matthew and Mark we are just told that Jesus utters a loud cry and dies.

The curtain of the temple rips from top to bottom, and a Roman centurion standing by the cross voices at last the connection between Jesus' death and his suffering: "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Luke, truly this man was innocent).

In Matthew, there is an earthquake and various saints of the past rise from their tombs and appear in the city.

Those present at the cross include many women looking from afar who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Matthew; is this Salome in Mark?).

Friday Noon: On the Cross

In John Pilate hands Jesus over at about noon, the 6th hour. This is about the time that the Passover lambs are being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening (in the synoptics, the Passover meal has already taken place the night before). John also records a conversation between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, who stands nearby with Jesus' mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus bids the Beloved Disciple to take his mother for his own, and he takes her into his own house from then on.

In the synoptics, however, Jesus has been on the cross already for about 3 hours by noon. At noon, however, darkness comes over the land until about three, the 9th hour.

Friday Morning: The Third Hour

They crucified Jesus about the third hour (9am).

It is about this time in Mark and Matthew that they flog Jesus, put a purple robe on Jesus and a crown of thorns, and begin to mock him. A man named Simon was passing by on his way in from the country. They forced him to carry the cross (John says Jesus carried his own cross; 19:17).

The sign over Jesus' head, giving the charge against him, reads, "The King of the Jews." John tells us it was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, and that the chief priests didn't like it. The soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing. In Luke Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do."

He is crucified between two thieves. They mock Jesus, as do the chief priests and teachers of the law. "He saved others, but he can't save himself." In Luke of course, we hear that one of these thieves chides the other for mocking Jesus. Even in the final minutes of his life, Jesus promises that he will be with him that day in Paradise. Luke also tells us that a large number of people followed Jesus, including women, highlighting the pervasive attention Luke gives to the interaction of Jesus and the gospel with women. Jesus tells the "daughters of Jerusalem" not to weep for him.

They offer Jesus wine vinegar. Mark and Matthew say he refuses it.

Mark tells us that the children of Simon of Cyrene were Alexander and Rufus. Surely these individuals are mentioned because they continued to be a part of the early Christian community. They are likely guarantors of this tradition.

Early Morning: Before Pilate

In the morning the Sanhedrin has a consultation (Mark 15:1; Matthew 27:1-2), and they send Jesus to Pilate. In Luke this is the time when the Sanhedrin meets, and Jesus acknowledges that he is the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71). Matthew alone records Judas at this point trying to return the money (Matt. 27:3-10). When they refuse, Judas goes out and hangs himself, again, unique to Matthew. They buy a "Field of Blood" with the thirty pieces of silver (Acts 1 says it was called the field of blood because Judas fell headlong and died there).

Pilate now interrogates Jesus: "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus responds, "You have said so." But Jesus does not respond to any of the charges the priests and elders brought against Jesus. Pilate is curious in Mark and Matthew about this. In Luke, in keeping with some of his special themes, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus.

Luke also uniquely records a visit to Herod Antipas at this point, who is in town for the Passover. Herod had been wanting to meet him. After questioning him, he put a robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate again affirms his innocence.

John has more dialog and presents Jesus in a more active, dominant role. Jesus is hardly silent. When Pilate asks if Jesus is the king, Jesus questions Pilate, Are you confessing this or are you just passing along what you have heard from others. Jesus indicates that his kingdom is not of this world and acknowledges that he is indeed a king. As in Luke, Pilate confesses Jesus' innocence.

Pilate brings Jesus and Barabbas before the people, offering to release one of them. In Matthew, Pilate's wife signals to him that she has had a dream about Jesus and that he should have nothing to do with this righteous man. The people want Barabbas and want Jesus crucified. In Matthew, Pilate washes his hands of the whole matter. The people cry, "Let his blood be on us and on our children," probably an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem.

John tells of Pilate having Jesus scouraged and a crown of thorns put on his head before he appeared to the crowds (19:1-2). Pilate continues to contest Jesus' innocence. The Jews present tell Pilate he is no friend of Caesar's if he does not crucify this man. Pilate sits on his judgment seat at a place called Gabbatha and says, "Behold your king." They deny that they have any king but Caesar.

So Jesus is taken away to be crucified.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Middle of the Night: Questioning Jesus

Mark alone tells of a young man following, who when confronted, ends up running away naked (Mark 14:51-52). Many suggest it was Mark.

In John, they take Jesus first to Annas, Caiaphas' father-in-law, who questions him about his teaching and followers. The Beloved Disciple, who knows the high priest, enters with Jesus. Meanwhile Peter denies Jesus the first time in John to a maid, after the Beloved Disciple gets Peter into the courtyard.

Jesus reminds Annas that he has spoken openly about such things and tells him to ask those who have heard him. A nearby officer has him slapped. Meanwhile Peter denies Jesus a second and a third time by a fire. The third time a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter cut off, confronts Peter and Peter denies Jesus the third time. They then take Jesus to the praetorium of Pilate, but do not enter because they want to be able to eat the Passover meal, which in John has not yet taken place (18:28).

In Matthew and Mark, they take Jesus to Caiaphas from the garden. Instead of the private questioning in John, this seems to be a full blown meeting of the Sanhedrin (in Luke this takes place when day comes; Luke 22:66). Peter follows Jesus right into the courtyard of the high priest and warms himself, as in John. The council seeks out testimony against Jesus.

What is interesting is the "false" witnessing, which includes things like, "Destroy this temple made with hands and in three days I will build another not made with hands." But this is very similar to what Jesus himself says in John 2:19: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up." Of course in John Jesus is speaking of his body.

But Jesus does confess that he is the Christ before the high priest: "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62). Here Jesus equates himself with the figure of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. This they consider enough evidence to kill him.

Meanwhile Peter denies Jesus three times in the courtyard (Luke does tell of this at this point). Twice to a maid and a third time to another bystander. Then the cock crows (for a second time in Mark). In Luke, Jesus then looks at Peter (Luke 22:61).

Thursday Night: In the Garden

In Matthew and Mark, it is at the Mt. of Olives that Jesus tells Peter of how he will deny him that night. Then they go to the Garden of Gethsemane, at the base of the Mount to pray.

John does not give a place where Jesus delivers John 15-17. This discourse looks to the time after Jesus will depart and then later will return. Jesus speaks of his existence before he came to earth, of the fact that he is going back to the Father, and also that they will see him again. When Jesus goes away, he will send the Spirit to lead them in the meantime.

John 17 is of course Jesus' high priestly prayer in which he prays not only for his disciples but also for those who will later believe through their word. We are wont to think of ourselves as the ones Jesus is talking about. Surely we are in a secondary sense. But John surely has his own audience first in mind, who indeed did believe through the word of the Beloved Disciple.

In Matthew, Mark, and John, Jesus procedes to a garden. Jesus encourages his disciples to pray, but they fall asleep instead. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus prays for God to remove the cup from him. In Matthew and Mark, he finds his disciples sleeping three times.

Then Judas arrives and signals who Jesus is by greeting him with a kiss (Matthew, Mark, Luke). In John they all fall down when Jesus tells them who he is. Jesus points out that they were afraid to arrest him in public and so had to do it on the sly.

One of those with Jesus cuts off the ear of one of the slaves of the high priest (John says it was Peter). Jesus heals the ear (Luke). But then all flee.

Thursday Evening: Passover Meal

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Thursday at sundown begins the Passover, a new day, 14 Nisan. It is at this meal that Jesus announces that one of them will "hand him over" (betray him). They all begin to ask which one of them it will be: "It's not I, is it?" Jesus simply says that it is one dipping in the dish with him. Matthew records further Judas' doubt, "Surely it's not I, is it?" But Jesus acknowledges that it is.

In John, before announcing this, Jesus rises from supper and washes the feet of the disciples (John 13). Peter of course initially refuses Jesus' offer, that is until Jesus tells him that he will have no part in him unless Jesus wash him. We suspect that this is yet another Johannine double entendre, that Jesus is talking about more than just feet here. Peter responds with a desire for Jesus to wash all of him. But Jesus indicates that a washing of the feet is enough to make the whole person clean.

In John, Peter asks the Beloved disciple to ask Jesus who is the one who will betray him. Jesus gives a morsel to Judas and thereby indicates that he is the one. The Gospel of John never tells us who this beloved disciple is, although tradition has mostly identified him with John the son of Zebedee. I wonder if it is another John mentioned by Papias, who would later be known as John the elder. It is tempting to think it was John Mark, since he lived in a Christian home in Jerusalem, but in that case we would have to conclude that Mark wasn't written by Mark, since the style and theologies of Mark and John are so distinct from each other.

It is at this point in John's gospel, when Judas gets the morsel (13:27), that Satan enters Judas (remember, it was the previous day in Luke). Jesus tells Judas to do what he is doing. Judas leaves.

John does not record the words that we understand to be the institution of the Lord's Supper. John aptly indicates the atoning value of Jesus' flesh and blood elsewhere (e.g., John 6). But in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians 11, we have the sequence of bread and wine. The bread is Jesus' body, then after supper, the cup is his blood.

Luke peculiarly has an added cup--cup during dinner, bread of dinner, cup after dinner. Luke and Paul both mention that it is a new covenant in Jesus' blood. Jesus predicted that he would not drink with them again until he drank with them in the kingdom.

At this point Luke places a dispute that occurs earlier in Matthew and Mark. The disciples are arguing over which of them will be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus points them to the way of service rather than lordship. Nevertheless, after passing through trials they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (a "Q" saying also in Matthew at an earlier point in the narrative).

Luke also places Jesus' prediction that Peter will betray him at this point, before they leave for the Garden of Gethsemane. There is also unique mention of now taking a bag and a sword as they go out, where before they did not on their mission. I generally take this as an indication that rough times are ahead for them.

In Matthew and Mark they sing a hymn and then leave for the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26).

John of course has long discourses at this point in the story. Before they rise from supper (John 14:31), Jesus announces that he is now going somewhere they cannot follow. He tells them to love one another as his "new" commandment. Peter does not know where Jesus is going, but here, as in Luke, Jesus predicts that he will deny him three times.

In John 14, Jesus continues the theme of going somewhere. He says he will prepare a place for them to come later. He utters that he is the "way, the truth, and the life" (14:6). Philip is quite curious to see the Father, and Jesus chides him for not getting it--seeing Jesus is seeing the Father. Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit after he has gone. The Spirit will lead them into all truth and he will teach them all things.

Some scholars debate whether Jesus anticipated his death or not. But in the words of the Last Supper, recorded by Paul as early as the early 50's, we have strong indication that Jesus did anticipate his death and that his death would in fact have atoning value. The Lord's Supper is a reminder that Christ died for our sins, the godly for the ungodly, so that we might have eternal life.

Thursday Morning: The Lambs are Killed

Thursday morning and afternoon end the First Day of Unleavened Bread in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus sends Peter and John into Jerusalem to make preparations for the Passover. They find a man with a jar who meets them and takes them to an upstairs guest room. This appears to be an arranged in Matthew (26:18). Is this the upper room where the Spirit later came? Is this the house where Mark lived and where they were praying when Peter was freed from prison?

Part of the preparations would of course be the killing of the lamb for dinner. In John, Jesus seems to die at the same time as the Passover lambs are killed (19:14), which fits with his teaching that Jesus is the Lamb of God (1:36).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wednesday: The Plot to Betray

Mark 14:1 tells us that two days before the Passover, the chief priests and scribes were plotting Jesus' demise. Matthew 26:3 tells us more specifically that it was at the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, that this plotting took place. John mentions such plotting the previous week, where Caiaphas utters those ironic words, "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50). Caiaphas is thinking, this man Jesus is going to get the people into a revolutionary frenzy and the Romans are going to come and destroy our nation and holy place (11:48). But ironically, it was Jesus in fact that was the path to salvation.

Matthew and Mark both record a story at this point in which Jesus is dining in Bethany at the home of someone named Simon the leper. The very "name" of this man tells us that Jesus is at work again putting on the inside those that stood on the "outside." A woman comes and anoints Jesus with a flask of oil.

One of Jesus' followers complains. This oil could have been used for the poor. But Jesus diagrees. He is about to be buried, and she is anointing him. She will be remembered wherever the gospel spreads. And so she is, even on 21st century blogs.

This story always makes me think of cathedrals. My church is building a large building right now. To be sure, it will be used to worship and teach for ages. But what of all the poor that could have been fed with the money from building it? I don't know God's will on everything, but this story tells me that sometimes God is worth it.

John's version of the story places it the day before Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, except he gives specific names. It was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus who anoints Jesus, and it is Judas Iscariot who questions her.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is on this day, Wednesday, that Judas goes to the priests and promises to deliver Jesus over to them for money--Matthew says 30 pieces of silver. Luke says that Satan possessed him (Luke 22:3). Judas begins to look for opportunities to hand him over.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tuesday: Controversy Day

In Mark it is the day after Jesus' action in the temple that he has a series of arguments with various parties and individuals in Jerusalem. He leaves Bethany in the morning (Mark 11:20) and the disciples now see that the fig that Jesus cursed the preceding morning has in fact withered. In Matthew, the cursing and the withering occur at the same time (Matt. 21:18-22). Jesus uses the opportunity to teach his disciples about prayer and what faith can do. Luke does not tell the story.

This is a busy day. It is, first, a day in which Jesus has a series of challenges from various Jerusalem parties. It is also the setting for the "eschatological discourse," Jesus prediction that the temple will be destroyed.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record four challenges from various parties and a challenge from Jesus to others. These are honor challenges, and Jesus "shames" his opponents.

Challenge 1: On what authority do you do these things? (Mark 11:27-33; Matt. 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8)
This question is brought by chief priests, elders and scribes. Jesus meets their challenge with a counter question: Where did John the Baptist get his authority? They did not want to say from God, for they didn't listen to him. They didn't want to deny it was from God because of the people.

Immediately following this "challenge-riposte," Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have at least one parable. Mark and Luke only have the parable of the vineyard, where Jesus indicts the leaders of Israel who have ignored the owner of the vineyard and in fact were about to kill the Son of the vineyard's owner. The moral of the story is that the owner will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to another, which seems to be a prediction of Jerusalem's coming destruction.

Matthew has two additional parables at this point. The one is the parable of the two sons, which is Matthew's equivalent to the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus' point is that prostitutes and toll collectors will enter the kingdom before the Jerusalem leaders. The other is the parable of the wedding banquet, which foreshadows the burning of the city of Jerusalem (by the way, the way Matthew seems to edit this material is an argument for a date for Matthew after the temple's destruction).

Challenge 2: Pay taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17; Matt. 22:15-22; Luke 20:19-26)
They hope to catch Jesus again. This time it is Pharisees (and Herodians in Mark, possibly individuals who preferred to have a Herod ruling rather than a Roman procurator; it is chief priests and scribes in Luke). Should they pay taxes? If Jesus says yet, the revolutionary sentiment of the crowds will move against him. If he says no, they can use it with the Romans.

Jesus points out that it is Roman coinage they are talking about. Jesus comes from an agricultural world where Roman coinage is not the preferred option. It is a barter world where goods are traded, not paid for. "Give Caesar his coin back."

Challenge 3: Does resurrection make sense?
The third challenge is Sadducees, who don't believe in a resurrection. They pose a woman who has had seven husbands legally with no children... Whose husband will she be in the so called resurrection? Jesus' answer, woman aren't subordinated to husbands in the kingdom. All become like the angels (is this the nature of our spiritual bodies?).

Challenge 4: Greatest commandment
This is the least confrontational of the challenges, "What is the greatest commandment?" Jesus answers "Love God and love neighbor," the sum of the law. The questioner is satisfied with Jesus' answer.

Jesus' challenge: Whose son is the Messiah?
Now Jesus asks a question. If the LORD calls the Messiah, Lord, in the days of David, then how is the Messiah David's son? The gospels don't record an answer, but Jesus may allude to his pre-existence.

Jesus comments on the Pharisees
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have at this point a criticism of the hypocrisy of some in Jerusalem. In Mark, Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of scribes (12:38-40) and tells of how a poor widow gave much more than any of these (12:41-44). Luke has the same (Luke 20:45-21:1-4). Matthew, who is the hardest on the Pharisees, has an entire chapter condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees at this point (Matt. 23).

The eschatological discourse
It is at this point in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. The disciples remark at the huge stones of the temple, and Jesus predicts that not one of those stones will remain on top of each other. In Matthew and Mark, then, on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, the disciples ask when this will happen.

The way in which these questions are worded in each gospel probably reflects on the time when the gospels were written:

Mark: "When will this [destruction of the temple] be, and what is the sign that these things are about to be accomplished?"

Matthew: "When will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?"

Luke: "When will this be, and what will be the sign of when this is about to take place?"

Luke in particular speaks almost exclusively of portents surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Luke puts the wording of 21:20-24 so that it clearly reflects the destruction and has little that might connect to the end of the age. In fact, the destruction of Jerusalem for Luke inaugurates the "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), in which we might still consider ourselves to be.

Matthew divides the questions into two distinct questions. As such 24:4-28 almost all can be taken in relation to the events surrounding the destruction of the temple. Then 24:29-44 speak more about the end of the age. It is difficult not to hear in Matthew the expectation that the second coming will happen soon after Jerusalem's destruction.

Mark's prophecy is more mixed together. But it substantially has the same content as Matthew.

Matthew is known for its five large sermons that it seems to have "added" to Mark. The final one is Matthew's expanded version of Mark 13. Matthew 25 goes beyond the eschatological discourse of Mark 13 to give the parable of the ten virgins, the five talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats.

In my opinion, these parables are more challenges to the church of Matthew's day than challenges to the Jews of Jesus' day. They warn us to be ready for Christ's return, to work for the kingdom, including reaching out to those in need with the resources God has given us. The most natural way to take these parables in Matthew is to recognize that it is not those who start off with the master who enter into the joy of the Lord, but rather those who do the will of the Father.