Friday, January 31, 2020

Tübingen - Dissertation 12

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86. I believe I wrote the chapter of my dissertation on dualism in Hebrews while I was in Germany. It is not the best chapter. I had a sneaking suspicion that there was a deeper background understanding of the Greco-Roman world that I was missing and that I was being reductionistic.

On the other hand, I often had that feeling when I shouldn't have. In my first few years at IWU I had a chance conversation with Greg Sterling in the stacks of the Notre Dame Hesburgh library. I asked him whether he knew some great resources on this very question. I had read some of the ones he mentioned in my first year in England. I left the conversation feeling like I was more on top of things than I feared.

When I returned to Tübingen on sabbatical in 2004, I would extensively use the Theologicum, the fantastic theological library of the university. I don't remember using it quite as much my first time there. The library of Durham somehow did not seem to have as much, and often when I wanted a book there, it seemed to be checked out.

One of the big questions was whether Hebrews pictured the full removal of the created realm in Hebrews 12:27. I had read something in Thompson's Beginnings that gave me that inkling and it seemed to fit with the overall pattern of dualism I was observing. This was a dualism not so much between matter and non-matter but between that which is created and the heavenly realm that is not created.

However, these were the days before I had really explored the topic of creation ex nihilo. When I later worked on Philo and other projects, I would more fully realize that this idea did not really become solidified in Jewish and Christian thinking until around AD200. [1] I remember that, when I taught for Notre Dame in my early days at IWU, I was thinking that 2 Maccabees 7:28 was the first instance of ex nihilo belief.

But what I came to understand is that I was reading verses like Gen. 1:1-2, 2 Macc. 7:28, and Heb. 11:3 with later theological glasses. The underlying assumption of the ancient world was that existence was not conceived so much in the ontological way of my modern worldview but in the sense of order and functionality. In the ancient worldview, when God created, he took orderless chaos and made things to exist. It is currently the consensus that the Gnostic controversies are what solidified the ex nihilo perspective.

But if creation in Hebrews is the ordering of chaos, not creation ex nihilo, then it would make sense to say that the removal of the creation is not annihilation, but reformation.

I do therefore believe that I was wrong on one of the key ideas in Hebrews for which I am known--the annihilation of the cosmos. I presented a tentative paper to this end at Pepperdine a few years ago in honor of James Thompson. Sometime soon I need to publish the error of my way in a journal somewhere. I saw Thompson in November and he welcomed my submission.

87. My dissertation had two main sections after the introduction. There were two chapters on the setting of Hebrews' story in time and two on the settings of Hebrews in space. By the time I went to Germany, the two chapters on time were drafted. One addressed the overall division of time into old and new covenant. [2] The second looked more at the trajectory of time, the destiny of humanity. Originally I had thought to do the entire narrative substructure of Hebrews, but it was too much.

I'm quite sure I had also produced a draft of the introduction in my first year. The introduction of course either has to be modified after the whole book is written or perhaps even should be written entirely at the end. Almost all dissertations grow and evolve in the process of writing, so you don't entirely know what you are introducing until it is finished.

Of course one almost always writes material that doesn't get in the final piece. I think I wrote a chapter on the structure of Hebrews in my first year. I read through George Guthrie's The Structure of Hebrews, which had just come out.

However, I was also taken with Walter Überlacker's rhetorical approach (Der Hebräerbrief als Appell), which saw the first two chapters of Hebrews as a kind of narratio, with 2:17-18 as the propositio. When I was at the University of Kentucky, I had done a paper on George Kennedy's New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism and was fascinated with the application of insights from ancient rhetoric to the New Testament.

88. I had the opportunity to go to lectures but my German wasn't good enough to get much out of them. I think I did go with Christoph to one in the later part of my stay. It was on Karl Rahner and the idea of "anonymous Christians." Rahner is a Roman Catholic who has argued that there are individuals who have a heart of faith but their head does not know Christ. The lecturer was arguing against the idea.

One application of this concept would deal with individuals who have never heard about Jesus. Picture a Native American in the year 1200. Picture someone in a remote part of South America. If they must confess Christ with their head, they are doomed to hell. They have never heard of Christ. It is simply not possible.

Now some have testified to an appearance to them before they heard the name of Christ. I have found people to be very sympathetic to the idea that, if Jesus appears to someone and they don't know what to call him, they can still be saved by faith even though they do not know his name.

The harder suggestion of Rahner is with a person who, because of where they were born, might think that Christianity is evil. Is it possible for there to be a person who, with their head, thinks that Christianity is evil, and yet has a heart of faith toward God? [3] Can one actually have faith in their heart even though they do not with their head?

I think broader evangelicalism would tend to say no to this question. However, Wesleyans tend to be more pietistic than high Protestantism. I remember growing up with the concept of God judging us according to the light we have, a Quaker idea. I grew up with the idea that God "lightens everyone coming into the world" and that, as Romans 1 puts it, God's divine power is known by all so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

I thus consider it within the scope of Wesleyan thinking to entertain Rahner's thought as a possibility. Certainly it is in keeping with Wesleyan theology to believe that God does indeed give every human a chance to be saved. Although I am not certain if Wesley took this step, the very idea of prevenient grace is that the Spirit reaches out to everyone and gives them the opportunity to be saved.

By contrast, the idea that God only chooses some--and thus that those who have not heard are just some of those not predestined to be saved--is not in keeping with Wesleyan thought. I cannot answer the problem of suffering and evil if you must have knowledge to be saved. The idea does not cohere with the character of God if we believe that all will face eternity and judgment. [4]

I sit loosely to these ideas, knowing they are controversial. I also know that they could be used to undermine evangelism. My response to this charge developed when I self-published a little booklet, The True Wesleyan. My hypothesis is that there is a threshold of light God gives to all. But a person can have much more light. Is it possible that our prayers, a Christian home, and other opportunities make it even more likely that we will believe?

If so, then our opportunity for faith is not equal but it is fair. Evangelism, unless it is done counterproductively, thus only increases the likelihood of faith.

[1] I think a chapter by David Winston in the Studia Philonica Annual was instrumental here.

[2] When I was working on Understanding the Book of Hebrews (a more general overview of Hebrews from the perspective of story), Carey Newman suggested I look at the story of Hebrews from a more global perspective (he was my publisher at Westminster John Knox). Something like creation-fall-redemption-salvation-consummation. My response was that this was a broader theological perspective on time and that I was interested in the way Hebrews itself conceptualized time.

[3] I say Christianity rather than Jesus, since for example Muslims have a generally positive view of Jesus, although not as God.

[4] If one were an annihilationist rather than believing in eternal punishment, the idea would be more theologically coherent.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tübingen - Speaking German 11

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80. I remarked as I left my two months in Germany that my German friends knew more about my visit than I did. I considered myself quite fortunate to have Christoph Lorentz as my friend as I came to stay in Tübingen. I arrived in either May or the first of June. Soon I met his close friends Reinhard Schmoltz and Gottfried Eberspeicher.

The rules were that they were not allowed to talk to me in English until I had a total language breakdown. That pretty much took place every sentence at first. I had not trained to speak German. I had studied to read German--biblical studies in German in particular.

It must have seemed to them that I didn't know any German at all. I have sometimes had the impression that some students from Asia I've known must have learned English the way I learned German. Sure, I did some records and tapes. But I learned German and French primarily from a grammatical point of view. I knew some vocabulary. I knew some sentence structure.

But words did not flow from my subconscious. Every sentence was like a homework exercise. Subject... auxiliary verb in the right form... direct object... participle... It was horrible. Christoph and the others were so patient. Reinhard and Gottfried used it as a chance to practice their English.

81. Most people in Western Germany also spoke English. They had a pretty positive, friendly view of the US in those days. It was very typical for people to want to try to practice English with me.

I met Frau Michel's son-in-law once, I believe it was. He was raised in east Germany. While the west Germans learned English as a second language, he had learned Russian as a second language. I remember him saying something like, "Die deutsche Zunge war nicht gemacht, russisch zu tonen." "The German tongue was not made to make the sounds of Russian."

I might add that I was in Germany five years after its reunification and six years after the Berlin War fell. It created quite a financial burden on west Germany. Make no mistakes, the communist economic system was and is a complete failure. I have a German friend whose father committed suicide in the 90s, I believe, because of the financial loss that followed reunification. Unification was the right thing to do, but the capitalism of west Germany had to absorb the economic wasteland of the east.

So the decision had already been made to relocate the German capital in Berlin. The capital of west Germany, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) had been in Bonn. Berlin had been a divided city, half BRD and half DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)

82. German gradually moved into my subconscious. I used to view fluency in a language as an all or nothing thing. Either you are fluent or you aren't. I have come to view it as a continuum, a sliding scale.

So I became fluent in certain conversations. I became very good at the "first meeting" conversation. The first minute of a conversation with a new person often goes very much the same. "Ich heisse Ken." "My name is Ken." I'm told my pronunciation was pretty good. So a person might think me fluent for a minute or so.

But I was not fluent in, say, getting a car wash.

We ate at one of the dining courts ("Mensa") on Wilhelmstrasse. There I was introduced to the Kirsch-Banane drink, a cherry-banana drink. Wunderbar!

In the Zentrum, the Marktplatz, the old part of the city, there was the opportunity for Wurst--Bratwurst, Currywurst, and Rotwurst. The Pommes frittes (french fries) with mayonnaise were good too. There was also a chance for Doner kebab. Das schmeckt gut! (that tastes good).

Then I might sit on the stairs of the Stiftskirche (the "pen church") and eat a kebab. Once I did this and Martin Hengel casually and somewhat absentmindedly wandered by. I didn't say anything to him, just smiled.

83. Lichtenberger inevitably had to speak English to me. I got a little better over my time with him but not good enough.

Even when I returned in 2004, my German was still quite lacking. A funny moment in that stay--I'm quite sure--was a paper I gave at a methodische Seminar in Reutlingen. I wrote the paper and tried to translate it into German. I'm sure it was half hilarious and half incomprehensible. I think I titled it something like, "Weltraum und Zeit in Hebräerbrief." I was going for "Space and Time in Hebrews," but Weltraum is more like outer space rather than the kind of space I had in mind.

During my first stay, I remember a man asking me how to get to the train station. I said, "Über die Brücke und geradeaus." My accent must have betrayed me. The man responded in English with a smile, "Over the bridge and straight ahead."

84. I wasn't able to speak much with Frau Michel until near the end. My main responsibility, in addition to rent, was Kehrwoche or Kehrstrasse. On Saturdays, I was expected to sweep the small sidewalk in front of the house. It took about five minutes.

I did meet with her, a young woman who took care of her, and one other person near the end of my stay. I hated that my German was no better than it was. There is so much I could have asked and learned.

In that conversation I learned that she had three sons that died in WW2. One died in a car accident, I believe. One died in battle. The third somehow was killed by a plane propeller.

Of her husband, Otto Michel, she spoke in understatement with a sly grin. I think she said something like, "Es ist manchmal schwierig zu wohnen mit jemandem der immer richtig ist." "It is sometimes difficult to live with someone who is always right." I think her children were somehow part of the comment as well.

At another point the question of Bultmann came up. Perhaps I asked her if she had known him. She said something like, "Er hat einmal in unserem Haus geblieben, aber er war natürlich ganz anders von uns." "He stayed in our house once, but he was of course completely different from us."

She gave me a copy of Michel's commentary on Hebrews as a parting gift. She even signed and dated it. It was quite lovely to stay with her. I think her house was something like Hauffstrasse 14 or 16.

85. For worship, I attended an English speaking fellowship run by Scott Caulley. At that time, he was in charge of the Institut for Christian Studies founded by Loren Stuckenbruck's father. That was a  nice, small worship opportunity in the Disciples of Christ tradition.

Near the end of my stay, Reinhard thought I had become good enough at my German for him to begin to practice his English. It was quite good. When I was on sabbatical in 2004, he was just barely still in town. He was just about to move, as was Christoph. My children called him "reindeer."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Paris to Germany 10

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76. The main reason I am writing these memories is my realization that they will only drift away more and more as I get older. My memories are not important, but it pains me to think of losing them. With every death, a chunk of history is lost, and I am an ideological hoarder.

I was not caught off guard, but it was still sobering to think of the loss of memory that happened when my father died. There are things I could have asked him the week before he died that will never be answered now. Even though they are insignificant, the web allows my memories to live forever.

77. I don't remember all the details of how I ended up going to Germany. I imagine that I got the idea from Christoph and Alex. I had of course heard of Tübingen at least since seminary. It was the place where Julius Wellhausen had developed JEDP. It was the place where F. C. Baur had applied Hegel's dialectic to the evolution of early Christianity. In fact Hegel himself had studied there.

I must have inquired with Dunn, and in typical form he made things happen. He arranged for me to meet with Hermann Lichtenberger while I was there. Then perhaps Lichtenberger arranged for me to stay with Frau Michel, whose husband had just passed in 1993. [1]

I stayed in Tübingen in June and July of 1995. I believe my parents came over just before to spy out the land. My dad had not been to England or Europe since World War II, and my mother had never been. We drove to Cheltenham, where he had been stationed when he first shipped to Europe. Perhaps we drove to Paris. [2] My dad had gone on leave at least once to Paris during the war, of course after it was liberated.

When we heard there was going to be a strike, we left early on a Sunday morning from Gare de l'Est. I wish I could remember our precise path. I know we took a train from Paris to Germany. It makes sense that we would go first to Mannheim, where my dad was stationed just after the war ended. On the way, the train passed Nancy, France, where my dad was I believe when the war ended. The factory in Mannheim where he had been stationed was now a Mercedes plant, I believe. [3]

I will say that in Germany there was a tinge of my Dad having to adjust his thinking from fifty years earlier. When he had been there before, the Americans were in charge. Now the Germans were equals. Another interesting thing I noticed in Germany were buildings with one year for the first floor and another year and style for the upper floors. Clearly most of Germany had been blasted to bits during the war.

It makes sense that we would go to Tübingen next to meet Frau Michel. I would live in her basement for two months (Keller). Some other scholar had just left, maybe Robert Jewett.

I believe we then continued on to Munich for the night. We visited Dachau the next day. From Munich we went to Zurich and on to Bern. We had something like a three country pass in five days, so our intention was to do France, Germany, and Switzerland. In typical Ken fashion, I did not anticipate that the train went very briefly through Austria. It was something like 20 miles or so. My dad had to cough up train fare through Austria for three people.

My dad had taken leave in Bern once while he was stationed in Mannheim. That was the attraction to go there. I believe it was not entirely different from what he remembered. Then it was back to Paris, back to London, and my parents returned home.

78. I think I stayed in Paris three more times that summer. It's hard to believe that I would go back to England in the middle of my stay in Germany but it seems like I did for some reason. Here are the fragments of my memory.

There was no internet in those days, no Google, so I made my plans by way of travel books. [4]  That's how I found hotels. My front weapons were thus a small French or German pocket dictionary and a travel book for either Britain, France, or Germany.

Back in my room were books on conversational French and German. I always tried to prepare myself in advance for such trips. I always wanted to speak the language. The idea of using English was anathema to me. I have never understood the presumptuousness of Americans who expect everyone else to speak English when you're in their country. I find this quite angering, to be honest.

When I first headed for Tübingen, I stayed in a hotel I found in a book in Montmarte. I believe it was called the Hôtel Régyn, just outside the Abbesses stop on the Métro. It is in Montmarte, just south of Sacré Coeur. There was also a small place to eat just across the street, I think Le Saint Jean.

I believe I took a Hovercraft across the channel the first time. It was the usual struggle with a box full of books and my rucksack full enough to break my back. I arrived in Paris with just barely enough time to get to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa. I was never able to get back. It was always closed by the time I arrived in Paris.

I had arranged though to have a day to look around. I saw Notre Dame and the Champs-Élysées. I did not go up the Tour Eiffel, but I went to see it. I went out to Versailles. I actually found the city quite sewery in general, but I have good memories of it.

Then it was from Gare du Nord to Stuttgart, Stuttgart to Tübingen. Train station to Frau Michel's house.

79. I'll mention my intermittent trip here now. I wanted to get to Hamburg, where Alex was from, so I took a ferry back to Durham from Hamburg to somewhere like Hull. When I returned to Tübingen, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris through the chunnel. I booked a round trip ticket for my final return in July. I've already mentioned that I sat next to someone who had seen Anastasia before she was executed.

When I called the Hôtel Régyn for my final stay, I tried to speak to the hotel in French. But by that time, every time I tried to speak French, it came out German. The hotel person was not amused. He did not speak German. Finally, I spoke English and he was fine again.

[1] It is fascinating how easy it is for me to find out such things now that Google exists. I did not realize how recently Otto Michel had passed when I was there. I certainly knew nothing of his past with the SA and such. No one really did at that time.

[2] We must have driven at some point in Paris because we have a picture of my mother stuck in the car in Paris. She had put her coat on in the car after her seat belt and so found herself initially unable to get out of the car.

[3] Every time we drove south of Gainesville, Florida on 1-95 in Florida my dad would mention coming down to the plains of Westphalia into Germany from France. That's a bit north of where we were. I remember my dad saying that there had been a sniper in the plant when it had been cleared out, not long before he arrived in Mannheim.

[4] Durham had just gotten email. My mother, who hardly ever had received a letter from me, now could expect to hear from me more regularly.

Monday, January 27, 2020

England - Second Year 9

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71. I went home for a brief visit in late summer. Then I was back for Michaelmas in October. Second time teaching Greek. Another year as residential tutor. More acting and singing.

Christoph Lorentz was back to Tübingen. Helen Fox was off to continue her life. There was no more rowing team.

I did run my first marathon the next summer in Leeds. I did my training, but about mile 18 I hit the well-known wall. I came up over a hill to see another gully and another hill. I thought to myself, "I'll just walk up this next hill then start running again."

But I was unable to start up again. I little bit of Orangina at a hydration station might get me going for a few feet, but I mostly walked the last eight miles. It was very annoying, because the last few miles were well downhill, but I just couldn't get going.

I tried to jog the last few hundred meters. A 70 year old man pulled up beside me. He had run a marathon the previous Saturday in Belgium. Very humbling... especially when I suddenly developed a cramp in my leg and had to limp across the finish line. "Don't stop now!" The very few people left yelled from the sidelines.

I had fish and chips in a nearby chippy afterwards. Very greasy. One of the best meals I had for my whole time in Britain. :-) [1]

I couldn't let that be my last marathon so my final year I ran in the London marathon. I was determined never to stop. Even if I slowed down to a pace that could hardly even be called a run, I must not stop. And I didn't. I believe it was 4 hours and 20 minutes.

72. Christoph left and Alex Jensen came. Alex was not a stereotypical German. He was from Hamburg in the north and also a Tübingen student.

Alex's very first degree was a PhD. It takes seven years to get your first undergraduate degree in Germany. I've also mentioned already that you have to do the equivalent of two doctorate degrees to get a teaching post in Germany.

So Alex did a year abroad in Durham in something like his sixth German year. Then he switched to Durham as a master's student. Then after satisfactory process, I think with Stephen Barton, he became a PhD student. He did his work on theological hermeneutics and the Gospel of John.

Alex was a hoot. In his early days you could tell when he didn't understand what you had said because he would go "uh huh." Of course my German was much, much, much worse than his English.

I believe it was in my third year that George van Kooten wandered through Durham from the Netherlands. He has gone on to become quite a significant scholar at Cambridge. I saw him this fall at SBL.

73. With the departure of Sandy Wedderburn, Loren Stuckenbruck came to the university my second year. Postgraduates had participated in the sample lectures at the end of the previous year. Another well-known scholar also presented. I enjoyed that presentation as well. He suggested that the Jews would have likely understood the star over Bethlehem to be some sort of heavenly being.

But Stuckenbruck's presentation was clearly the best. He fielded the questions well and did a great job teaching. Over the years, I have found him to be one of the most personable brilliant people I know. He's clearly a genius, so it is always a little surprising to find him also to be one of the most helpful of people. It always seemed like he bent over backward to help students on their path, even well beyond graduation. It didn't matter whether a person was his student or not.

His work on Angel Veneration and Christology was helpful to my work on Hebrews, since he deals with Hebrews 1 in his book. He studied with James Charlesworth at Princeton and so was particulary good when it came to the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Jewish literature. In recent years he has been heavily involved with the Enochic literature.

I was also sad to see Bruce Longenecker leave Cranmer at the end of my first year. Bruce is the son of well-known evangelical scholar Richard Longenecker. He is currently thriving at Baylor and has a great book on Pompeii coming out next month.

So in my second year we also interviewed for Bruce's replacement, who would eventually be Mark Bonnington. I don't remember the name of another person who interviewed but he didn't choose a good topic for the setting. I felt sorry for him but it was pretty amusing.

His paper was on the seven last words of Jesus. [2] He basically did a historical Jesus study on the words, asking which words it was likely that Jesus actually said. Principal David Day wasn't impressed. He made some snarky comment like, "So you're saying that Haydn got it all wrong? Good luck with that."

74. I believe Dunn was working on a small commentary on 1 Corinthians in my second year. So the graduate seminar worked through 1 Corinthians. It was incredibly helpful and enjoyable. It was because of that semester that I would jump at the chance to write a commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians for the Wesleyan Commentary series.

Scholars would occasionally come through. Paul Trebilco wandered through Durham one semester. Carl Holladay appeared. I seem to remember a brief exchange with him about coming from a fundamentalist background. I got the impression that a lot of prominent mainstream New Testament scholars had come from more sectarian backgrounds.

Ralph Martin gave a presentation once. I remember being struck with how "in progress" his work was. It gave me hope. I felt pretty inferior in those sessions. I felt like if I would say anything, I would inevitably look stupid. There would be some obvious work that I should know about but didn't.

Stephen Barton encouraged me once on this score. He said I always prefaced my comments with something like, "this probably is overlooking something but ..." Yet he said my questions and comments were always helpful or insightful. That was encouraging.

75. I believe it was at the 1995 British New Testament Conference that I presented a paper. My paper was "Did Hebrews Know Wisdom?" In it, I argued that the book of Hebrews demonstrates an awareness of the book of Wisdom.

[1] I had some family friends do a bus trip around England, and they stopped down at the Durham City Centre. They had seen enough castles and cathedrals so weren't interested in seeing another one. But they were up for some fish and fries. The most memorable moment was when he complained something like, "What do I have to do to get some ketchup for these fries?"

[2] There's a famous piece by Haydn called The Seven Last Words of Christ. We may have even performed it that year. I can't remember.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

England - Problem of Evil 8

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67. In the early 90s, the biggest challenge to my faith was not so much theology. I've already mentioned that the resurrection is historically likely if you accept that it is philosophically possible. And having gone through the fires of historical criticism, I believe you come out the other end with an outline of Jesus' earthly life that coheres with the Christ of faith.

The greatest boost and the greatest challenge to faith, in my opinion, is experience. If a person has benchmark experiences of God to which they can refer back, their faith has an asset more powerful than any argument. If a person experiences unfathomable suffering or deafening silence, that is when their faith will likely be most vulnerable.

My sense of apologetics has developed over the years. When I was in my teens, I was totally on board with the "evidence demands a verdict approach." In more recent days, I've integrated my theology of prevenient grace into the mix. Wesleyans technically believe it is only the prevenient grace of God that makes free will possible when it comes to justifying faith.

When you bring that into discussion of apologetics, it becomes clear that apologetics is only a tool. Our minds cannot bring us to faith; only our hearts can. Apologetics can thus remove obstacles to faith but it cannot produce faith. Only a heart of faith can produce an act of faith. Reason is just the messenger.

To quote Blaise Pascal, "God wishes to move the will rather than the mind. Perfect clarity would help the mind and harm the will." To put it in my words, "God has left the evidence for his existence and the truth of Christianity potentially ambiguous. If your heart is inclined to faith, you will see the positive evidence. If your heart is not, you will see the negative."

68. There were two powerful movies that reached Durham in the summer of 1994. It always took a few months for movies that had already shown in the States to get to England. Very annoying! This summer, the two movies of interest were Schindler's List and Shadowlands.

Schindler's List was of course a powerful movie relating to the Holocaust. Why did God allow the Nazis to wreak such havoc on Germany and the world? From 1933 to 1945, Hitler inflicted such great injustice and seemed to go unchecked. When I took my sabbatical in Munich in 2011, I became acquainted with the Munich students who called themselves the "White Rose." They tried to muster public opposition to the Nazis and were executed by guillotine in 1943.

Why didn't God stop their execution? Why didn't people listen to them? Even the assassination attempts on Hitler's life failed, when their success would have saved thousands, maybe even millions of lives.

I spent some time in the summer of 1995 in Tübingen, Germany. I stayed in the home of Frau Ilse Michel, wife of the great conservative German scholar Otto Michel. She lost three sons in World War II, all fighting on the German side. Her husband Otto spent the last half of his life as an ardent supporter of Jewish-Christian relations. He is remembered and honored as a pious man, which I believe he was.

However, it turns out that in the early 1930s, he signed up first for the NSDAP and then for the SA. [1] He resigned from the SA in 1936 because of his health. I strongly suspect that, in those days, he was not unlike many conservative American Christians today in his faith. He simply did not see the contradiction. I would like to think that, as Hitler's dictatorship progressed, Michel came to realize the error of his earlier ways.

But I was not surprised to find this backstory out today. I did a little digging today on a hunch. Michel fit the temperament of a certain kind of American Christian I know very well.

This raises a serious question for faith. Why doesn't God let the truth be known to Christians like this? Surely there were many ardent Christians in Germany who had a zeal for Germany but were deceived. Why didn't God correct them? Why did God let Otto Michel, of all good people, know that he was dead wrong about Hitler's movement? [2]

I suspect there were many conservative Christians in Germany who supported Hitler in his rise. They probably believed he was only punishing bad people and that the Jews were evil people who needed to be stopped. And they didn't believe reports about what Hitler's real intentions and ambitions were. Maybe even Hitler himself didn't fully know at first where his political maneuvering would end up.

In a particular phase of his rise, all it took was for him to say the right thing or do something that fit their values, and their subconscious doubts fled away. Those Christians who objected soon learned that if they continued to be vocal, they would face persecution or even death. For their own safety they watched the Nazis take away the non-German, the immigrant, the homosexual, the communist, the liberal.

69. The second movie of the summer of 1994 was Shadowlands. It was a movie about how C. S. Lewis came to grips with the suffering and death of his own wife. I was annoyed at the movie because I did not know enough about Lewis to know the degree to which the movie might be overly dramatizing the story.

In the movie, Lewis goes from giving glib answers to the problem of suffering to a real personal sense that those answers were inadequate. Lewis' early answer to the problem of suffering and evil, as I understand it, was largely limited to what we might call the "Irenaean theodicy." This is the idea that suffering helps us grow and become more mature moral individuals.

In the movie, the death of his wife makes him feel this answer inadequate. I believe there is truth to this portrayal. At the end of the movie, he does decide for faith, even though he recognizes he doesn't have all the answers. By contrast, his step-son chooses in the opposite direction. [3]

Many who choose the step-son's direction, I believe, don't really mean it. Their anger betrays them. You can't get angry with God if you truly don't believe he exists. While the problem of pain may present a challenge to our sense of God as love, pain would be completely meaningless if God did not exist. This is the desirability of Gods' existence based on our belief that evil is real and not meaningless.

70. Sometime that summer an atheist student asked me why I still believed in God in the face of such questions. I could not explain it. "I just do," was my answer. [4]

Faith is a mystery. I do not agree with Kierkegaard that it is blind or irrational. It is reasonable to have faith.

But it is something deeper than reason. "The heart has reasons that reason doesn't know." (Pascal). There are those who confess faith whose heart shows no sign of it. Is it possible that there are some who confess doubts but whose heart is full of faith?

[1] The NSDAP was the Nazi Party. The SA were the storm troopers, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party.

[2] In a slightly different vein, Hannah Arendt wrote about the "banality of evil" as she observed the trial of Adolf Eichmann. He appeared "terribly and terrifyingly normal."

[3] A delightful student named Emma had on her door once at Durham, "If evolution is true, then animals are just as significant as humans. Discuss." I never responded, but my thought was, "If [atheistic] evolution is true, then humans are just as meaningless as animals."

[3] On an occasion at dinner my first term, I sat with another person who would become a friend. Quite innocently, I asked him if he was a Christian. After all, Johns had a Christian foundation. His response was a little strong. "No, I'm an atheist, the thinking kind." :-)

England - Traveling Britain 7

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59. It took me a long time to formulate positions on issues. [1] The arguments on both sides usually seemed pretty strong. The same was true of my Hebrews writing. It was hard to decide. I might go for a run or a walk, talk myself through a question.

Sometimes I would get to the part of my dissertation where I had to take a position on an issue and would sit there trying to decide what position to take. I remember doing this when I got to Hebrews 2 and needed to decide whether I thought "son of man" referred to humanity in general or Christ in particular.

Eventually I began to take positions. Each position taken suggested more likely positions to take on other questions. Eventually I had my own interpretations.

60. Being in St. Johns was such a blessing. I made all sorts of friends. I don't know whose idea it was but I was on a rowing team with friends from Germany, Spain, and England. Christoph Lorentz was a theology student from Tübingen doing a year abroad in Durham. Juan was doing the same from Spain. Jonathan was a normal English student.

Together, we were the "international team." Helen Fox served as cox: "Stroke, stroke, stroke." We were horrible. We came to be known as the "crowd-pleasers." But it was good fun.

In the early summer I flew with a group from Johns to Belfast in northern Ireland to do a 200 mile bike race. The only other person I remember going, maybe, was Ceri Huws, a Welsh student who played the harp. It was my first and only time in northern Ireland.

I bought an orange bike for £100 and started training. The seat feels like a knife over time if you don't get used to it. But that was fun, riding out into Durham County to train for the race.

At that time, Britain was at the tale end of trouble with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a northern Irish group that would bomb things in England. There were still signs in the London subway warning about packages left alone. So there were still armoured vehicles patrolling up and down the streets of Belfast with machine guns aimed at the sidewalks. It was quite a sight.

In the morning we started the 100 mile trip to Dublin. The border was about half way. Although I didn't like Snickers bars in general, I very much enjoyed one at the half way point that day. In Dublin I saw a Subway shop from the bus shuttling us to Trinity College to spend the night. It was the first Subway I had seen over there. So close, yet so far away.

Then the next day it was 100 miles back to Belfast.

By the way, the closest McDonalds to me was a three mile walk. I was not a super-McDonalds fan before I went to England. But the hamburger was so scarce and bad that I did actually walk to McDonalds and back early on to get something that tasted half good to me. Six miles for a "hamburger royal" or whatever they called it.

61. I can't remember if it was that spring that I was Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. My American accent was amusing to them and so I was cast in a few plays put on in Johns. I was also in Comedy of Errors and then Dame Sirith my final year. I also did some singing. Andrew Lloyd Webber was really big at the time.

In the summer I went with a couple friends to the Edinburgh festival. I think it was Neil and possibly Alistair Kirk. It was my first time to Edinburgh. We climbed to the top of Arthur's Seat. We walked the mile.

I tried blood pudding and Haggis while I was there. Haggis is pig innards in a sheep's bladder. It basically just tasted like anything fried. Same with blood pudding. I had a twinge of conscience because of Leviticus, but felt like it had to be done. Once a year, on Burns night, Jimmy Dunn would sometimes read Robert Burns' Ode to a Haggis in a thick Glaswegian accent.

62. At some point I parachuted with Rachel Leonard, which I mentioned before. I think we both intended to go back. I think you had to do five jumps before you could pull the cord yourself. We could have gone again immediately but we both chickened out.

I think it was also that summer that Rachel, James Quirk and I did a backpack trip around Scotland. I bought a great military green backpack. We went up by bus from Edinburgh to Inverness, then headed west to the Isle of Skye. The mountains were magnificent, the most stunning I had ever seen.

There wasn't a bridge to the island at that time. We took a ferry. I had booked a hostel for us in Armadale in the south, but it was a Sunday. In those days (unlike the trips I took later with my family), I expected everything to work out. But there were no buses after 5 to Armadale on Sunday.

No problem. We'll take a taxi. When we got to the hostel, the guy had given our beds away. "I know I guy who'd like to get in the hostel business," the hostel manager said. Then ensued Rachel's nightmare.

The guy had this small trailer that looked like it had been under water. James and I slept in it. Rachel slept in the bedroom of one very disgruntled daughter of this guy. We gave her the bedroom because, frankly, we expected the house to be better than the trailer. We were very happy to leave the next morning. In the words of Rachel at one point on that trip, "Basically, you're crap." :-)

63. I learned to despise Henry VIII. David Fox, maybe James Quirk, and I took a walk up the Weir once to Finchale Priory, beautiful walk. The priory is in ruins. It ceased to be used after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. You could see that some of the stone from the priory had been used to build the farmhouse next door.

Neil turned out to be in an interesting phase of his spiritual pilgrimage. Prior to coming to Johns, he had done master's work on John Jewel. As I understand it, Jewel had argued in the mid-1500s that the Anglican Church was in fact a catholic church, not a Protestant one. In fact, Neil would always correct me if I said "catholic church" in reference to the Roman Catholic Church. I would say "Catholic Church," he would interject "Roman Catholic Church."

So it was very interesting to hear after I left England that he had finally converted to become a Roman Catholic priest. I would not have guessed it at the time, since he had worked so hard to claim a truly catholic identity for the Anglican Church. It was from him that I really learned about Cardinal Newman.

There was a woman teaching church history? in Cranmer at the time (Anne?) who was part of the first wave of women to become priests in the Anglican Church. That transition first took place while I was living in the country. I remember having a conversation with her about whether lay people could serve communion. I didn't see any biblical basis for prohibiting them. With a smile on her face, her response was that, having spent so long waiting to become a priest, it was hard for her to relinquish the authority of communion.

It was interesting to watch Neil process the ordination of women. His hesitance was not biblical but historical. It represented a departure from "catholic" practice. They even set up "flying bishops" as I recall for individuals concerned about apostolic succession. There was quite a flight to the Roman Catholic Church in those days.

Another professor in Cranmer at that time was the late Michael Vasey. I believe he taught theology. Not long after I returned to the States he came out openly as gay. He published a book revisiting the key passages on the subject in the Bible. It was interesting to be around individuals who were openly gay in England in an environment in which there was no stigma attached. Apart from the student I knew at Asbury, it was really the first time the subject was not just a matter of ideas but actual people.

64. I attended the United Reformed Church while I was in Durham, with Bob Fyall as pastor. It was on Claypath, but now looks to have become an evangelical Anglican church. Bob taught Old Testament for Cranmer Hall. He was the first person I ever remember taking about how God conquering the "chaos monster" Leviathan. I'm not sure who first invited me to go there, but it was a little more evangelical in flavor.

I've already mentioned the Tuesday evening service in John's. It was evangelical Anglican. I cantored for it often. I did attend some services in the cathedral. They were quite ethereal. There was a school with young boys associated with the cathedral. They sang angelically.

Life in Durham was delightful. British food is not known for its greatness. There was a restaurant called Garfunkel's in London that I was told had American hamburgers. Several suggested I just had to try it because I was American, but the hamburgers just didn't quite taste the same. In fact, the hamburger I myself cooked didn't taste the same. The Angus steaks from Scotland that were supposed to taste so great didn't quite float my boat.

There's a joke I heard about the peoples of Europe in the afterlife. In heaven, the French are the cooks, the English are the police, the Italians are the lovers, and the Germans organize everything. In hell the English are the cooks, the French are the police, the Germans are the lovers, and the Italians organize everything.

There were some English options I liked. For a while there was a place that made great cold sandwiches under the train bridge. At the Court Inn I could get "chips" with garlic mayonnaise. Once or twice I got the Croque Monsieur. Yorkshire pudding wasn't a bad option in those places that had it.

But the non-English food was phenomenal. Every once and a while Neil and I got Chinese from a little place up Claypath. There was an Italian restaurant just across the Silver Street Bridge. I learned to love spaghetti carbonara in Durham. I've rarely found good carbonara in the States.

There was an Indian restaurant on the Bailey that Fox, Leonard, and the crew sometimes visited. They loved the chutneys. Again, I've found it hard to find peshwari naan, papadum, and beef bhuna in the States.

65. There was a bookstore on the Bailey that had used books. Given the location of Durham, I was sometimes able to find biblical studies classics there. On perhaps my first trip home for Christmas, I took the bus to Oxford to look around. There I was able to see the famous Blackwell's book store.

I would eventually visit Cambridge with Neil. When Neil and I visited Cambridge, we were sure to get out to the Orchard Tea Garden, which Wittgenstein used to frequent. I can't remember if we also went to Stratford on Avon on that trip. It seems to me Neil and I also did a brief drive through Wales as well, his homeland. As in Scotland, the mountains were magnificent.

I preferred the flavor of Cambridge to Oxford. Oxford seemed so cluttered and showy. It also seemed more snooty. I had a friend named Elisabeth who had done her undergraduate work at Oxford. Even as a northeasterner, she had found Oxford pretentious. She and I were the actors in Dame Sirith.

We had a race on to write. She was a grad student in English. I was hoping to finish a novel in a year. Of course that didn't happened. I've started over fifty novels over the years. Finally self-published one in 2017. I don't know whether she ended up writing.

I made a couple trips to the Birmingham area while I was in Durham. The first was to visit David Wright and his family. He was coordinating the Wesleyan work in Birmingham and London at that time, a largely Caribbean community. We went to church in London. I remember him asking me if I thought postmodernism was actually amenable to our Wesleyan heritage.

Then after he left, Kerry Kind brought me down to see if I would feel called to continue where he had left off. I still had over a year to go on my doctorate. There was a school consortium of some sort at that time too. But it was not the right mix at that time.

66. In my final year, David Fox, Rachel Leonard, and I went to the west coast of Ireland. David had a relative with a cottage there. I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of Galway. I remember having to stop in the middle of the drive across so that sheep would get out of the road. It was still a little cold, so there wasn't much swimming.

Durham on the whole had mild temperatures. Although we were pretty far north on the globe, the Gulf Stream kept it much like the temperatures of Indiana. Sometimes there was some wind up the Bailey. There was almost never snow. But it only got really warm for a few weeks in the summer. In the winter it got light at 8 and dark at 4pm. Then in the summer it was light till about 10, as I recall.

[1] In my younger years, I might have looked to my tradition to answer such interpretive questions. What did Wesleyans think? What did Adam Clarke think? Now the question had become, "What is true?" What is the most probable interpretation? Obviously this is no guarantee that someone will be right, but it makes you more likely to be right.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

England - Paul and the Law 6

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52. The highlight of my first year in England was surely the Durham-Tübingen Symposium on Paul and the Mosaic Law in the spring of 1994. The papers from the conference were later published. Jimmy was the convener of the meeting and scholars on Paul came from all over.

Looking through the Table of Contents of this book you can see that we graduate students were privileged to sit on the sidelines of the greatest world experts on Paul at that time--and we literally did sit in chairs at the edge of the room. Frankly, I do not think that the current lay of the land has yet added anyone comparable. Now that Dunn is retired, I'll give John Barclay the nod, who, interestingly enough, currently sits on Dunn's chair in Durham (or shall I say Lightfoot's). And he was present at the conference.

Dunn was obviously there, whom I consider the greatest scholar of Paul in that generation. Tom Wright and Richard Hays were there. I got to show Wright to the train station as he left the conference a little early. I believe he was at Oxford at the time. It's hard to believe that the later Bishop of Durham would need to be shown how to get to the train station, but I think we were meeting in St. Johns, with which he might not have been as familiar. Perhaps I am mis-remembering.

From Germany had come Martin Hengel, whom I had met in Kentucky. At one of the meals he came over to the long table where I was sitting and spoke to Richard Hays, I think it was. I think Stephen Barton was also at the table. He was not a man of small talk, as I experienced him.

He launched in, "Luke could not have used Matthew as his source instead of Q. Can you think of it, taking a hammer to the Sermon on the Mount and scattering it around the Gospel of Luke." I don't know what got him on the topic but he was addressing the Farrer/Goulder/Goodacre hypothesis that Q did not exist and that Luke used Matthew and Mark. It seemed like an out of the blue comment at the time.

Frankly I find this argument persuasive. I can see Matthew collecting and molding Q sayings around a sermon core in Q, but I find it hard to believe that Luke would break the majestic Sermon on the Mount into pieces. Similarly, it seems to me that Luke's scattered Q sayings are sometimes less edited than Matthew's versions (e.g., "poor in spirit" in Matthew versus just the "poor" in Luke).

53. Hermann Lichtenberger was the leader on the Tübingen side. He would be my host when I spent a couple months there in the spring of 1995. He was a Methodist and a man of faith. Also from Tübingen was Otfried Hofius, who wrote a couple books on Hebrews: Katapausis ("rest") and Der Vorhang vom dem Thron Gottes ("The Veil before the Throne of God").

I believe it was Hans-Joachim Eckstein that I spoke with over a meal about Hofius' work. Eckstein was working on his Habilitationschrift that year. Germans not only have to write a dissertation but, in order to become a professor, they must write the equivalent of a second dissertation. To be frank, the rigor of the German system made me feel minuscule.

I remember saying something to Eckstein about how I had not really dug into Hofius' work because I considered the Gnostic reading of Hebrews to be anachronistic. Patiently, he explained to me that Hofius' work actually had argued against the Gnostic reading of Käsemann. Man, did I feel stupid! It would not be the last time. I plowed through most of Hofius' Vorhang eventually.

Others at the conference included from Germany, Karl Kertelge and Hans Hübner. Hübner was the strongest representative of the "old perspective" on Paul. It was interesting to see Hübner function as a man out of time, a man who had lived beyond the moment of his paradigm. In a similar vein, I believe Charles Cranfield came to one of the sessions. In retrospect I would put Stephen Westerholm from Canada as someone who was a little bit of a fish out of water.

Representing French-speaking scholarship were Peter Tomson and Jan Lambrecht. During the conference, each speaker was welcome to speak in their most comfortable language, but it was pretty much German and English. The French speakers spoke English. The other English speakers included John Barclay, Graham Stanton, Stephen Barton, and Bruce Longenecker. Sandy Wedderburn was German but spoke English. Heikki Räisänen was the sole Scandinavian representative. [1]

54. A notable absence from the conference was Ed Sanders. I heard a rumor that he was not invited out of respect for the name of Joachim Jeremias. Jeremias was a mid-twentieth century German scholar who is much respected as a person in both Germany and English speaking countries. Many would know his book, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. I believe that he was a good man and a good scholar.

His work, however, was a child of its age. It was skewed by the centuries-long inability of so many scholars to see ancient Judaism accurately rather than through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. I want to be clear. I am not saying that Jeremias was anti-Semitic, not at all. I am saying that the old perspective on Paul took some time to shake its stereotypical view of what Judaism was and what the nature of early Christianity was in relation to it.

It is often said that Luther was anti-Semitic, with quotes that seem to demonstrate it. We cannot pretend that centuries-long stereotypes of both Jews and Christianity in relation to them did not play a role in German attitudes in the lead up to the second world war, culminating in the Holocaust. Frankly views toward Jews often were not terribly different in England and the United States prior to the war. In the Protestant Reformation, Luther imposed his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church onto Paul's conflict with Judaizers. The Jews became the Catholics, and Paul was Luther.

Sanders more than anyone broke the dam on this misreading of Paul and Judaism in his 1977 book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism. A Methodist by background, Sanders was able to see that the Jewish writings did not reflect the kind of "works-righteousness" that Luther and high Protestant scholarship ever since had read into it. In fact, as he went through the intertestamental literature book by book, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was clear that the grace of God permeated these texts.

The problem was a blistering chapter in a Festscrift Sanders wrote in 1987. In it he accused Jeremias either of being an incompetent scholar of rabbinic literature or, as Sanders seemed actually to think, of Jeremias intentionally misrepresenting Judaism. You can read the aftermath in two articles, one by Ben Meyer and the other by Sanders in a 1991 issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature.

It's my impression that Sanders was somewhat isolated in the Pauline scholarly world for some time after that. Only recently has he published Paul: The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought.

55. There were responses to Sanders, not least the two-volume collection of Don Carson and Peter O'Brien, Justification and Variegated Nomism. I did not personally think that these volumes undermined the basic thrust of the new perspective on Paul. If anything, I thought they embodied to some extent its influence.

Calvinists and Lutherans stood to lose the most to this new reading of a Judaism that believed in the grace of God and a Paul who expected works as part of the life of a believer. Wright has done the best job of synthesizing Calvinism with the new perspective, in my opinion. For him works are part of final justification, but if you are truly justified initially, you will have those works finally.

As someone from the Wesleyan tradition I have found the new perspective refreshing. Wesleyans have long been accused of works-righteousness, like the Jews of high Protestantism. A sense that Paul saw one's actions as potentially undermining final justification fits hand in glove with Wesleyan theology. You can see where there would be a natural resistance in other theological quarters.

56. Thinking back to Jeremias, rabbinic literature in itself is problematic when it comes to the study of the New Testament. I would agree with Wright that the destruction of the temple in AD70 fundamentally shaped the nature of subsequent Judaism. For example, there were militant Pharisees prior to that time. It is thus unclear the extent to which the practices and thought of rabbinic Judaism go back to the time of Christ. When I encounter Christians who do Seders, I always have the lingering question in the back of my mind--was it really done this way at the time of Christ?

It is quite common in the church to be enamored with those who might bring rabbinic insights to the New Testament. However, the Talmud and Mishnah largely do not provide background to the New Testament. They are much more the after-life of the Judaism of Jesus and Paul's day.

I was once privileged to tour Israel with a dear friend. However, I was also conscious on that trip that my friend was not really an expert on first century Judaism. It is not clear in my mind, for example, that the synagogues of Capernaum and Nazareth actually met in buildings at the time of Christ. A synagogue was a gathering, like an early church house "assembly." At the time of Christ there seems to have been a transition underway toward meeting in buildings. So maybe. Maybe not.

Disciplined history can really ruin the sentimentality of a biblical tour. [2]

If you want to know about the Judaism at the time of Christ, read the intertestamental literature. Read the Apocrypha. Read the Pseudepigrapha. When I taught the course, I used James VanderKam's An Introduction to Early Judaism, along with Vermes' Dead Sea Scrolls and a copy of the Apocrypha. This is the background to Judaism at the time of Christ, not so much rabbinic literature.

57. Dunn was a little disappointed that no greater consensus was reached by the end of the conference. I think this reflects his "T" personality. He is a modernist through and through, expecting that a group of scholars could reach common conclusions if they were objective enough. He hoped that the most likely reading of the facts would win out. This was far too optimistic.

I heard that he presented lectures at the Pontifical Institute in Rome on Hebrews, not long after I finished at Durham. Quite bold! He argued that the book of Hebrews indicated that there was no need for any human intercessor or priest between humanity and God because Christ was the sole intermediary. Of course he is right but what a cheeky thing to teach in Rome!

Chris Bounds would later describe me as a "chastened modernist." I am still generally a modernist. I aim for objectivity even though I know it is unattainable. But I have taken my lumps from postmodernism.

58. If you were to ask me what I have taken from these scholars in relation to the new perspective, it might go something like this:
  • From Sanders I took that the sense that keeping the Law was more a matter of "staying in" the people of God than "getting in." 
  • From Sanders I took the sense that some of Paul's argument is a movement back to the problem from the solution. Paul knew Jesus was the answer, therefore the problem could not be inadequate keeping of the Law because he did fine at that (cf. Stendahl). His little book on Paul was much more helpful to me than his more scholarly version.
  • From Dunn I took the insight that the "works of Law" on which Paul was focused in his arguments were primarily the works that excluded Gentiles, matters like circumcision and purity rules. His seminal essays are now collected in one place.
  • From Wright I took the sense that Romans 2 is about Gentiles who keep the Law even though they do not have the Law by nature. From him I took support for a final justification by works in 2 Corinthians 5.
  • From Hays, although not really a new perspective name, I would eventually take a sense that Romans 3:22 and Galatians 2:16 are initially about the faith of Jesus Christ. But I agree with Dunn that Paul moves on in those arguments to talk about human justification.
It is still hard for many scholars to kick against the pricks. So much of scholarship today, it seems to me, has become sentimental. Has postmodernism empowered sloppy exegesis in the guild?

[1] I used to joke about Räisänen, for whom Paul's theology was completely incoherent. He has been my footnote for that position ever since. Although extreme, I have come to appreciate him for his attention to detail and as a representative of a certain detailed savant who can only see detail and difference rather than similarity and connection.

[2] Gordon's tomb is a perfect example of this. Some nineteenth century soldier sees an outcropping of rock that looks to him like a scull. There's a garden there--1800 years later. A tomb there fits the picture book in his head, unlike the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is far too catholic in feel. All of it is rubbish. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the most likely location for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.

England - Postmodernism 5

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46. I have mentioned a number of my friends in England so far--Neil Evans, Helen Fox, David Fox, Rachel Leonard, James Quirk, David Morton. Another friend was David Mossley, who was working on his doctorate in philosophy.

I have always liked philosophy. Sometimes I daydream about getting another PhD in philosophy. I would love to write some real philosophy book. I did write what I think is a mighty fine introduction to philosophy from a Christian perspective. David was a real philosopher.

It is fairly common to invoke postmodernism as some kind of trendy boogie man that threatened us twenty years ago but that thankfully faded away. I read a paper not too long ago by someone who casually labeled relativism, romanticism, and empiricism as postmodern. Thus post-modernism had come to be an overarching label for anything but absolutism. In fact relativism is modernist and romanticism was a late eighteenth/early nineteenth century phenomenon. Empiricism is certainly modernist and some would even describe Aristotle as an empiricist.

There was an intellectual vastness that was part of my England days. These were days where truth was truly the aim. My own thinking on Hebrews was of course limited by my own limitations. I did my best and I think some of my resulting work was good. I would go for five mile runs out South road to Darlington Road to Neville's Cross and back, thinking all the while about some exegetical decision I needed to make.

In this time I found discussions on postmodernism most stimulating with David Mossley. I already knew Derrida from my literary studies. I never had any sympathy or interest for him. Meaning happens. Derrida is thus a footnote, a reminder that language divorced of context is mere lines and squiggles without meaning. If you specify a language for the lines and squiggles--a general context--a sentence becomes polyvalent and ambiguous, but it takes on certain more probable meanings in a word cloud. But since words can have metaphorical meanings, the polyvalence is still practically infinite. Only in a specific context does the waveform collapse into a specific meaning.

My philosophy of language and meaning has become refined over the years. Wittgenstein has been my greatest partner on this quest. I stopped at Frege's house for a reference but he didn't make sense. J. L. Austin was helpful but was really only clarifying Wittgenstein. Paul Ricoeur gave me language to express the situation very nicely. If I ever write a real philosophy book, it will be on this subject matter.

47. It was from Mossley that I learned names like David Davidson, W. V. O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty. Perhaps I had heard one or two of these but knew practically nothing of their contributions. Except for Derrida and perhaps John Rawls, I knew little of philosophy beyond the existentialists. [1]

The focus of our philosophy discussions, as I recall, was Michel Foucault, who had died ten years earlier in 1984 in France of AIDS. In my mind, Foucault is an extension of the fundamental ideas that Thomas Kuhn set out in science. However, Foucault applied these ideas to history and culture.

The problem I see with Kuhn and Foucault is of course the problem with postmodernism in general. They make it difficult to say that any way of understanding reality is truer than another. When I read Tom Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, I was quite taken with the construct of critical realism--the world is real and exists but our apprehension of it is skewed in our perspective.

This is a little different from Rorty's pragmatic realism, which is agnostic on the question of any underlying reality. Rather, some conceptions of reality "work" better than others. Sometimes I have wondered if my approach became a certain "pragmatic epistemology." By faith I accept the underlying reality. I believe there are constructions that are true and false, certainly ones that are more true and less true. But our language and paradigms are constructions, not das Ding an sich.

I didn't have those things worked out much in my head at the time. That would take teaching philosophy my first couple years at Indiana Wesleyan.

48. I found Foucault's thought fascinating. It had a ring of truth. :-) For example, his book Madness and Civilization showed how societal constructions of insanity had changed over the years. In ancient times, the insane were sometimes viewed as touched by the gods--"Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." Insanity was thus seen as a divine action. Even today we can sometimes think of insanity as a kind of genius.

Many have wondered whether some of those Jesus healed in the Gospels were mentally ill or schizophrenic. If so, demon possession would be another paradigm by which those at the time of Christ processed certain types of mental illness.

The "ship of fools" might have suggested to some in the late medieval period that the minds of the insane were wandering on a journey. They are looking for their place in the world but cannot find it. Then we went through a period where we locked up the insane, such as in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Currently, the insane are viewed as having an illness that needs to be treated.

Kuhn's notion of paradigms is very helpful here. The current paradigm is a medical one. Where my critical realism takes over is our sense now that insanity has an underlying biochemical, perhaps even brain structural cause. But this is not just another equal paradigm. It corresponds much more to physical reality and can even be treated by real chemical reactions. Some paradigms thus work better than others.

49.  Foucault also did a three volume History of Sexuality and a work called Discipline and Punish. I never plowed through them, but my cursory knowledge of them has again, I believe, brought me insight. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault talks about the shift from execution as a matter of public shaming to its current "revenge" form.

This perspective fit insights I gained from Bruce Malina. His work The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology is a classic that helped attune me to the fact that the ancient world was an "honor-shame" world rather than an individual guilt world. The cross was not primarily about punishing Jesus. That's the way we process executions. The cross was meant to humiliate Jesus and to tell everyone who walked on that path into Jerusalem what happened to people who crossed the Romans.

In England I tried to brush up a bit on my British history. Why were "political" figures assassinated publicly outside the Tower of London? To humiliate and to warn everyone what happened when you opposed those in power.

Now Western culture has shifted toward individualism, away from group identity and collectivist personality. Execution is now focused on paying the individual for what he or she has done. Foucault saw modern executions as private revenge ceremonies. Of course the paradigm has shifted again in the current trend away from capital punishment altogether.

In all these things Foucault and Kuhn gave me a good sense of how any society operates on the basis of paradigms that they think are intrinsic to the world, "the way things are," when in fact we are largely driven and tossed by the winds, ignorant of the forces on us.

This is no bit less true in the church as in broader society. We think we are standing on the Bible when in fact we have no idea of the forces leading us to interpret certain passages certain ways. Sometimes we believe things vehemently and we don't hardly even have a passage.

50. Foucault catalogs similar shifts with regard to sexuality. He posits that sexuality as a category of human identity is a fairly recent development. I have not read his work so my examples may or may not be in his books. As an example, I understand that King James may actually have been what we would call "gay" today. Yet he was married and had children. Foucault suggests that this was the norm prior to recent times.

Foucault thus suggests that homosexual acts were seen as something certain individuals might do on the side within a marriage in earlier times. The idea first of a diagnosis in the eighteen hundreds (a medical condition) and then as a fixed orientation that someone might have in the nineteen hundreds are both changes in paradigms.

Yet without insight into one's cultural glasses, one will inevitably project your current paradigm onto a book like the Bible. Homosexual acts are mentioned in the Bible, but it is not clear that homosexuals are. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about an attempted gang rape but not at all clearly about homosexuality. There are other cultural elements here that were equally or more significant in ancient times, such as the way one treats a visitor to your city.

I used to make fun of such interpretations because they seemed to miss the "obvious." It took some time to realize that in fact certain interpretations were obvious to me because of my cultural paradigms and that, in fact, I was ignorant of the cultural influences on me and my own inability to listen to the text on its own terms.

51. I might mention the work of Mary Douglas here, Purity and Danger. This book opened the book of Leviticus to me like never before. We have a tendency to interpret the food laws of Leviticus in terms of food safety because it makes sense to us in our paradigms. Douglas unfolds possible ways of processing purity and such things in more likely cultural categories.

I have come to call this aspect of the Levitical paradigm, "kind" theology. The ancient Israelite priestly worldview processed the world in terms of certain "kinds" of things. Certain characteristics went in the bird box. Others went in the sea creatures box. Surrounding peoples ate pig, but the Israelites were shepherds. To eat pig was thus to be a traitor to your people and to your God, Yahweh. While I will not say these interpretations are certain, they fit much better in the Ancient Near East than our weak attempts to make these laws fit within our modern paradigms of hygiene.

This period opened up a dimension to the biblical texts to me that I liken to seeing a third dimension to Scripture that I had never seen before in church. It made understanding the Scriptures a profound thing. I do not expect this third dimension from preaching. A sermon is good to me if it helps people on their journey with God through life.

[1] It is noteworthy that the Principal of St. John's prior to David Day was Tony Thiselton. Through knowledge of him and his work I was introduced to Gadamer (cf. The Two Horizons).

Thursday, January 23, 2020

England -- First Term Studies 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

England -- NT Background and Theology 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 20, 2020

Michaelmas in England 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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