About S. Daniel Owens

I am a follower of Jesus the Christ, a husband to Brittny, a father to Isabella and Qorban, a graduate of DTS, and an SpEd teacher at La Academia de Estrellas Charter School. My interests are Pauline theology, OT soteriology, Genesis 1-11, Martyr Theology and the Gospel of Matthew. The way I see the Scriptures is that they are theological texts and not historical texts. By this I mean, I do not feel the need to either confirm or deny the "historicalness" of any text. I have opinions about the text of Scripture but I am willing to, and have, changed my opinions. I do not insist that the Scriptures conform to a preconceived notion of what they should be. I believe this is the attitude of faithfulness that a mature Christian should have. Contact Info: daniel.owens@mac.com

In Dialogue with William O. Walker (Romans 8:29, 30)

In a recent JSPL article[1] William O. Walker states his case for understanding Romans 8:29–30 as being an interpolation.[2] Having recently finished a six month research project, in which I tried to explain how this passage fit into the flow of Romans, one could understand why I was saddened that I stumbled upon it almost immediately after I turned in the finished version of my work. Honestly, I hadn’t considered or even read anyone who had considered the passages authenticity.

In what follows I will critique what i believe are fatal weaknesses in his proposal, but before I do, I would like to state a few things that I appreciated about his work. First, I believe he is completely right to point out that this passage, especially vv. 29, 30, are strange in comparison to the surrounding material. Second, this article helped me think through much more carefully my methodology for determining if a passage is authentic or not. Now, on to the article. [3]

Following an earlier criticism by J. C. O’Neill, Walker believes that the passage (vv. 29, 30) creates a “logical contradiction” with what Paul has said earlier in the text. The tension is caused by the juxtaposition of two concepts: 1) it is emphasized that the believer must receive the Spirit by faith and, 2) Christians are predestined from the beginning. In other words, free will and divine sovereignty cannot be held together by a logical person.

O’Neil, though, doesn’t seem to be as convinced or clear minded about this “logical contradiction” as one would hope because he then questions the merits for the supposed contradiction that is being used for “evidence.” After he agrees with O’Neil that there is a contradiction he goes on to say, “It would be difficult to argue, however, that Paul does not elsewhere espouse some form of a doctrine of election or that he does not elsewhere alternate between divine and human agency.” It seems very difficult to ascertain the exact reason that Mr. Walker believes this “evidence” should be allowed into an argument that seeks to prove an interpolation since we know that this “contradiction” is present in undisputed portions of Paul’s writings and, ostensibly, in those texts it is not evidence of an interpolation.

Next, he says, “In the second place, the ‘person’ and ‘number’ indicated in the verbs and pronouns of w. 29–30 are different from those in the surrounding material.” He then points out that, “most of the language in w. 1–27 and much of that in vv. 31–39 is in the first-person plural— ‘we’ and ‘us,’” Strangely he only footnotes (n20) that verses 9–11 are in the second person plural. Not only that, but then he admits, “Indeed, the fact that v. 28ab (presumably Pauline in origin) shifts from the first-person plural to the third-person singular would appear to argue against such a shift as evidence for interpolation.” In spite of all the qualifying he makes he still feels that the evidence, “at least suggests that these verses may be an insertion into the text of Paul’s Roman letter.” Again, just like the first piece of evidence, I am not sure how this can be considered evidence for anything, much less his argument for interpolation.

The third piece of evidence forwarded for the case of interpolation is that this section is, “systematic, linear, repetitive, formalized, and one might almost say ‘scholastic.’” The reason for this being evidence of interpolation is that the surrounding material is, “much less formal and repetitive and much more free-flowing.”

In response, a couple of obvious points should be brought out. First, why if we are seeking to establish an interpolation should we only consider the surrounding material? Mustn’t we ask if there are other places in the “undisputed” letters where Paul does this sort of thing? Second, even if for the sake of the argument we assume this criticism is valid, then wouldn’t we first be led to the possibility that Paul is using tradition? Wouldn’t a creed, confession, or liturgy of some sort naturally lend itself to have all of these characteristics? I can’t help but think of the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2 and this passage as being taylor fitted for this sort of claim.[4] While I will have to postpone my thoughts on the form and function of this passage to a later post, I do think Walker is right to point out the characteristics of the passages form as being a reason to reconsider its function; this is the way communication works in general.

The fourth piece of evidence that Walker sees is, “there appears to be something of a disjunction between w. 29–30 and their context in terms of subject matter.” By continuing to point out Walker’s own hesitancy to clearly label his own evidence as clear or indisputable I run the risk of appearing to beat a dead horse, yet when one builds a circumstantial case for something their own uncertainty of their own evidence must actually become key evidence itself. In regards to the subject matter of chapter 8 he says, “It is difficult to assemble the somewhat disparate parts of Romans 8 under a single topic.” I have much more to say about this (rightly) so-called subject change, but, for now, I will simply point out that while I will concede with Walker that the general topic of the chapter is, “life in the Spirit,” suffering and its ability to rob the community of its Spirit-life through unbelief plays the antagonist in the story of the Church and this section can easily be seen as building hope for people who need to endure suffering.

The fifth thing that is used as evidence for the case of interpolation is, “the removal of w . 29–30 would leave a smooth transition from v. 28… either with or without the last five words—to v. 31.” I do not disagree with this conclusion. In my thesis, which was finished before I read this article, I brought up what is almost the same thing,

“Interestingly, if one would remove vv. 28–37 the section would still make complete sense. Paul would have moved from the presence of suffering, to its temporality, to its effect (produce endurance and hope), to the believers defense against it (the Spirit) to suffering’s inability separate the Christian from God’s love. The section following vv.28–37 would still function nicely as an inclusio since it incorporates all of the themes found in the the pericope that opens the section.”

My only reason for discussing this aspect of his case’s evidence is that what we disagree with here is the most likely application of this evidence. I do not think that the evidence leads one to conclude that this section could be an interpolation, but the most likely conclusion is to understand that Paul is doing something much more subtle here with this section. This subtlety should leads us to reflect on the text as a whole and what we believe we can surmise about its provenance and audience.

The last thing discussed about this section is that it, “can stand alone as a complete, self-contained, and meaningful theological statement that sets forth, in systematic fashion, a logical progression from foreknowledge to predestination to calling to justification to glorification.” I don’t really know how to respond to this charge since I am not really sure how the logic works. If the logic of this charge is: the surrounding section is not this way (complete, self-contained etc.), so this section could be viewed as an interpolation, then, I must disagree with the logic. Also, I would wonder how I should understand Rom. 1:2–4 which itself is very similar in that it doesn’t really ‘fit’ the way the rest of the passage is constructed (using the previous logic).[5]

Finally, I would like to comment on the legitimacy of an argument for interpolation by the accumulation of circumstantial evidence. From what I understand about jurisprudence, certain crimes tend to require certain types of evidence in order to secure a verdict e.g., a body in a murder case. The same expectation is usually (except among the mythicists) required in the case of interpolation. If there is no textual witness to interpolation, then the case for interpolation is typically viewed as suspicion and not as an argument of facts and logic.[6] I do not have a problem with an interpolation having made it through the early years if the cannon’s formation undetected; undoubtedly that sort of thing happened and scholars should endeavor to find interpolations. My main problem is that there is nothing in the case that cannot just as easily be argued in the opposite direction. When this is the case, the evidence is not really evidence it is opinion.[7]


  1. Walker, William O. “Romans 8:29–30 as a Non-Pauline Interpolation” JSPL vol. 2, no. 1 (2012): 28.  ↩

  2. Actually he includes v. 28c and v.33 in his article, but for my purpose I will only discuss the material relevant to vv. 29–30  ↩

  3. In this review I will only discuss what the author calls “contextual” evidence for his argument. Maybe, at a later date, I can engage with his linguistic evidence for interpolation.  ↩

  4. Of course, it is equally likely that Paul used some of his more memorable creations in suitable places within his written compositions.  ↩

  5. From the commentators that I checked, this section is usually viewed as at least having its genesis in an earlier creed. (see Jewett, Robert and Roy David Kotansky. Romans: A Commentary. Edited by Epp, Eldon Jay. Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006, 103 – 104.  ↩

  6. of course, there are extreme circumstances when the need for this type of evidence can be excused but there would need to be extreme mitigating circumstances e.g., eyewitness testimony of the crime. The same could go for interpolation; if there was an ancient testimony of a text being an interpolation or one of the earliest witnesses quotes the passage and leaves the section out (or, visa versa), then maybe we could proceed.  ↩

  7. I am doing my best to channel my inner “grand inquisitor” here.  ↩

D. Campbell’s Covenant vs. Contract Distinction

Many things that Douglas Campbell claims are controversial but arguably none are more controversial than his claim: Much of the church (post 1600) has built their interpretation of Paul’s soteriology upon a faulty understanding of how God relates to his people. Aided by Alan Torrence, Campbell makes the distinction between two fundamental ways God can relate to humanity: covenantally or contractually. For Campbell and Torrence the important distinction between the two lies in that the purpose of the covenant in the Hebrew Bible was, “to denote the Lord’s relationship to Israel as an unconditioned and unconditional covenant commitment to Israel grounded in love and characterized by hesed – God’s sustained and unconditional covenant faithfulness,”1 while a contract defines the basis of a formal relationship between two (or more) parties as being grounded in the agreement to meet certain conditions.  This distinction, though, is hard for many to swallow (or understand) due the fact that much of the material found in the Scriptures is ‘conditional,’ that is, God says that he will do X if Israel does Y. So, how exactly can Torrence and Campbell’s distinction be faithful to the material of the H.B.? Well, I don’t know if the distinction does keep, but what follows are what I think the most necessary points that still need to be made:

1) Conditional elements and/or language are found in both covenants and contracts. This can easily be seen in today’s world. A (Christian) marriage is (supposed to be) based upon a new relationship that is so strong it recreates one’s identity my means of merging with another. So, actions not in keeping with good faith do not void the relationship. The only time this contract can be voided is if one of the parties joins themselves to another party or dies (literally or effectively through abandonment).

2) Covenants had rules. The covenant was unilateral which means that one party makes all rules. Threats of judgment or the actual enforcement of the the threat did not end the covenant even though it may have for particular individuals. (See #3 for more on individual/corporate distinctions.) If a person, family or tribe was brought into judgment that did not mean that the King was no longer King of those people. In fact, the judgment was meant to be understood as being legitimate because of the king’s right to judge those who did not meat the obligations of the people.

3) We must be able to make some necessary distinctions between individuals and corporate entities. When two parties make a covenant the two actually become one entity. So the relationship is no longer one of convenience but of commitment. Usually though, a covenant has terms that if are broken evoke certain judgments on the offending individual(s). This judgment though, is not to be thought of as what we would call ‘punishment’2 but instead as ‘discipline.’3

4.) Obligations don’t change the nature of relationship, the relationship defines the nature of the obligations. (During the conference this distinction was talked about as being that of descriptive/prescriptive. That distinction was not very helpful for me.) So, say a king enters into a covenant with another land of course obligations came with it for both sides e.g., taxes, worship, support. The obligations do not make the basis of the relationship a contract, since a contract’s distinctive feature is that it is based on convenience, but the obligations make the relationship a reality. The obligations that are found in a covenant are to be understood as being for the mutual benefit of both parties.

5) Morality does play in keeping with contracts, but morality is the basis of for the obligations in a covenant.4 As I sit here, in the Raleigh-Durham airport, my flight was supposed to leave at 7:00am yet, due to mechanical and scheduling issues I cannot leave until at least 2:00pm. This failure does not make American Airlines morally bad or wrong since our relationship was one that was based on something other than personal commitment.  The more I think about this distinction the more I think it it may work. One problem remains for me, though. If the distinction holds true, it may not have the payoff that Campbell and Torrence claim? I guess that problem is for my next couple of weeks of reflection.

1 SJT 65(1): 82–89 (2012)
2 Punishment here refers to inflicting pain to a party without the purpose of this pain being changed behavior for the benefit of the person who is receiving the pain.
3 Discipline her refers to inflicting pain to a party with the purpose of this pain being that it aids the party in changing their behavior for their benefit. This does not exclude anger in the offended party.
4 A swindler is not morally wrong because he failed in his obligations but he or she is wrong due to lie that the relationship was based upon.

Cherry Picking Fool?: A Response to Dr. Cargill and Others

In a recent blog post, Dr. Robert Cargill, took his turn in throwing a young and admittedly zealous young man under the bus for tattooing his Lev 18:22 to his right arm in support of his anti-homosexual marriage stance while somehow missing that Leviticus 19:28 forbids the tattooing. I have seen this meme around for quite a while (even on Dr. Daniel Kirk’s FB) and each time I see it I think that I should interject but I don’t due to my fear of looking like a fundamentalist prick. I am over this fear now. Before I get into the main part of my critique I would like to make a few things crystal clear so that my view is not reject for the (wrong) reasons: a) I do not oppose gay marriage as a law of society. b) I do not think that the Scriptures insist that Christians have a view on marriage outside of the Church. c) I strongly oppose the ordination or “legalization” of any type of sexual practice that does not fall within the one-man and one-woman view. d) I do not think homosexuality is any worse than greed, malice, etc. e) I would feel just as comfortable attending church with a homosexual as I would with a thief, drug addict, racist, or whoremonger because the gospel that I participate in and proclaim involves initial acceptance without excluding the demand to change. I am not scared of homosexuals and I do not think “they” are any more dangerous to society than those despicable thieves parading themselves around on TV and calling themselves “preacher” or “apostle.”

Fool?

With all that being said I would like to say that Dr. Cargill and others are wrong. Period. Yes, the young man appeared to be guilty of overzealousness and (maybe) ignorant but it is not so clear that he is inconsistent. If it can be shown that his hermeneutic was the same as the NT writers *and* it can lead to his current view it is not inconsistent — even if one wishes it were. My argument will follow the following path: I) I will question the rhetoric of Dr. Cargill’s post to see if it is guilty of “poisoning the well” or misunderstanding Christian hermeneutics toward the Torah for Gentiles. II) I will demonstrate that, in Acts, James and those at the Council, used laws from that very section of Leviticus to show that the Gentiles must only keep some of the Torah (i.e., they must be a particular type of “cherry picker”). III) We will examine the verse in question to see if it may be properly used to support his stance as being God’s will.

I. Hate Crimes, Civil Rights and Inerrancy

The first questionable piece of rhetoric used by Dr. Cargill is found when he claims that this young man, “is a friend of a suspect in a brutal hate crime in Queens, N.Y. He insists that the assault was, in fact, not a hate crime, but that the openly gay victim deserved what he calls a “beat down.” So, the logic of the two sentences is that A.) the young man’s friend (admittedly) attacked a gay person B) the young man did not disapprove. C) Therefore the attack was a hate crime. Uh, no not necessarily that still has to be proven. It is the same sort of twisted (il)logic that convicts someone of a hate crime because they described the other person in the attack by their ‘race.’ False. (It seems here the problematic aspect of this young man’s actions is that he approved of violence — we are not sure of the assailants religious orientation.)

Next, Dr. Cargill says, “One argument I make consistently to those who would seek to use the Bible* to suppress the civil rights*…” (emphasis mine) Opposing homosexual marriage may be a civil rights question to Dr. Cargill but I do not believe that it can be described as that per se. The issue is very complicated and should not be reduced to such pejorative labeling. I will use my own situation as an example of how Dr. Cargill’s assumption is false and therefore unloving. I am a minister who does not oppose the civil unions of persons who are of the same sex. The government is by the people for the people and I am fine with that. If I were in the position to vote on the legality of this issue I would vote to allow it if, and only if, it were clear that clergy were free to reject performing marriages (as they can now for couples living in flagrant sin of other sorts). By Dr. Cargill calling it a Civil Rights issue he is implicitly saying that for me to take a stand within the Church for heterosexual marriage that I would, “seek to use the Bible to suppress the civil rights of modern Americans.” Nope. Just doing what I am supposed to do Dr. Cargill and, in a perverted sort of way you seek to prevent my ‘freedom of religion.’

Finally, we turn to the tired case of inerrancy. On this topic Dr. Cargill says, ” there is a very high correlation between people arguing against same-sex marriage and a belief in biblical inerrancy…” Am I the only one who finds this statement as laughably false? So, we are to believe that when Prop 8 was passed in ’08 we are to believe that it was because of the inerrantists in California? Doubtful. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those who voted for Prop 8 were not even Christian. This is not a fundamentalist-religious-person vs. the-rest-of-the-enlightened-world debate like many would like to frame it but, of course, I forward as much evidence for my supposition as Dr. Cargill did for his. Nada. So, what we have here is a bunch of rhetoric used (misleadingly) to poison the well. [The following has been added for clarity’s sake.] Let’s take my family for example. I grew up in Maryland which is an extremely (maybe the most) liberal state. My father’s family, though, is not liberal but extremely conservative yet, they are not religious. In fact, when my grandmother heard I was going to seminary she wondered why I would waste my money. They all oppose homosexual marriage as not being good for society. The way I understand their view it very similar to what I know of the Romans who permitted the practice but didn’t allow it for marriage.

II. Cherry Pickin’ Fool!

The real problem Dr. Cargill has, in this post, with this errant young man is that he is guilty, as are many who disagree with his stance, of “cherry-picking” verses. In this section I will demonstrate that Acts 15 does this very dastardly thing in establishing the Torah requirement placed on Gentiles. Here is the relevant section:

Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25 we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (NRSV)

It has been shown by many scholars (R. Bauckham, C.H. Talbert, E. P. Sanders, etc.) that the Apostles here are elevating four commands that come from Leviticus 17 & 18 that pertained to the “alien in the land” and how they could live in YHWH’s land, Israel, without becoming an Israelite and without offending YHWH. Here are the four commands:

1) Things sacrificed to idols Lev 17:8-9
2) Prohibition of ‘blood’ Lev 17:10, 12
3) ‘Things strangled’ Lev 17:13
4) ‘fornication’ Lev 18:26

III. Inconsistant Hermeneutic or …?

The last command that the Gentiles had to follow was found in Leviticus 18:26 (that is four verses away from the zealous young man’s tattoo). About this verse Bauckham states, “These [immoral acts] include “all the forms of sexual relations specified in Leviticus 18:6-23. Now I go to DTS so I may not know much but I do know that verse 22 falls within that range. One suspicious absence (i.e., verse that fall outside of that range) in the Apostles’ decree is the tattooing reference. Hmmm. It seems that the Apostles are guilty of precisely the same bad hermetical practice — “Cherry picking.” Whether this practice seems right to you or not, I do not see how Dr. Cargill can say, “I know of no New Testament command countermanding or otherwise “trumping” this law against tattoos,” or, “Sheer and utter hypocrisy.” Well here is one big example of exactly what you say you don’t know. So, I don’t think hypocrisy is the right word.

Now, let’s be honest, I do not think that this young man possessive the hermeneutical sophistication to explain this hermeneutical move. Better yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if the tattoo is a result of straight up homophobia. Of course, I can only suspect since I don’t know. What I just did was falsify Dr. Cargill’s claim that anyone who ‘cherry-picks’ is being unacceptably inconsistent hermeneutically since this view can be demonstrated to be precisely the same as found in Acts.

IV. Conclusion

My hope for this post is that the out of control rhetoric will stop — at least amongst those who should know better. We may disagree with each other and still be civil and not resort to comparing homosexual marriage with slavery or women’s right to vote. This is a difficult issue with an uncertain path heading forward. Can we please, those of us who are mature, act that way in thought and in deed? Dr. Cargill I respect your work and am a routine visitor on your blog but this post needs to amended or taken down.

 

Edit: I have fixed some of this post for clarity and tone. The things that I said which were out of line with an irenic tone I crossed out. The things added are underlined.

Douglas Campbell and Romans 1:16-17

I just finished watching “Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul,” which was a conference held a King’s College in London. I am particularly interested in this conference because its purpose was to engage with the work of Douglas Campbell who is, in my mind, currently one of the most important scholars in Pauline Studies. I have read his two books cover to cover and simultaneously agree and disagree with much of his work. One of my favorite proposals in his most recent work regards the translation of Romans 1:16-17. Here is the text, then the current accepted translation and then his translation.

Rom. 1:16-17 ¶ Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται.

Rom. 1:16-17 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” NRSV

Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel for the power of God is salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the right act of God is revealed by faith for faith as it is written, “The Righteous One will live by faith(fulness).”

I absolutely love this translation. Campbell has helped me see that Paul’s emphasis was not on the Gospel (i.e., the thing that is opposed to the Law) but on the act of God in Christ. It is not that Paul didn’t preach the Gospel; it is just that he didn’t see it as being defined by being the antithesis of something else. The act of God in Christ is the means by which all other aid from God flows. God has rescued all those who have turned to him due to Christ’s faith — not our own.

Maybe Campbell’s work won’t be accepted in many circles but I think that his work will end up having a much greater and more lasting effect on Pauline scholarship (and hopefully preaching) than most people think. Here is a short exempt of his justification for the translation.

This noun phrase precedes the verb and therefore is best construed in the first instance as that verb’s subject Moreover, in so preceding, it parallels exactly the following sentence, which has a similar substantive phrase concerning God in the first position — a phrase that is invariably read as the sentence’s subject. If “righteousness of God” is read in the predicate, then both these apparent signals are being ignored. Such a reading is not impossible, but it would need supporting reasons, and it is difficult to know what they might be (that is, other than a priori ones). At first glance it seems that the “righteousness of God” and the “power of God” in w. 16b-17a are parallel acts of God. Indeed, 1:18 also fore- grounds an act of God — there his wrath — in the position of subject, although not in the sentence’s first position.” DOG 702

 

 

 

Jesus Kept Kosher

What follows is a review of chapter 3 in Daniel Boyarin’s new book The Jewish Gospels. I intend to review all the chapters but this was the first chapter review I finished. In this chapter Boyarin’s thesis is simple: Despite centuries of interpretation otherwise Jesus did not, in any way, abandon the Torah and not only that but, he is representative of an older more conservative Judaism not a heretical liberal spin-off. The old misinterpretation, he claims, results from the misreading the controversy story found in Mark 7.

¶ Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

9Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14  Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” 17   When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Traditionally, this text has been thought to teach that Jesus was abandoning the Torah’s restrictions on food. This interpretation has seemed unavoidable due to the interpretive gloss found in v. 19 “Thus he declared all foods to be clean.” Boyarin quotes a few top scholars to give a sense of the consensus but he then proposes in contradistinction, “Jesus was…not fighting against the Jews or Judaism but with some Jews for what he considered to be the right kind of Judaism.” Not only does Boyarin’s view claim that Jesus was Torah observant he takes it a step further and claims that the Pharisees were the “dangerous innovators” of the day.

His argument rests on two major observations: 1) Scholars have not often distinguished between the forbidden and allowed paradigm and the clean and unclean paradigm. 2) Christianity is not, as has traditionally been thought, an anti-Jewish movement. It is a movement from within Judaism and is in opposition to a current view within their religion (that of the Pharisee’s).

As for the first point, I must say that this is a brilliant distinction that makes complete sense. The argument is not about the legality of food but about purity. Jesus’ remarks are not changing scripture by allowing what it had not allowed but they are meant to attack the “traditions of the elders” which contradicted the original intent of the deeper meaning of the instructions. Jesus is simply stating that food cannot make one impure since food does not operate within that sphere of understanding. Food is either allowed or it is disallowed. To eat from the forbidden foods would be an act of rebellion i.e., a moral act. Purity did not connect to morality in the same way. One may become impure through no fault of his own and would not be guilty of sin. (Of course, to partake in ritual while unclean is a moral issue but that is not what Jesus is talking about.) Scripture did not teach that food could effect purity. So, when Jesus is said to “declare all foods clean” he is only saying that Scripture has not said that food should be thought of in those categories and not that now all food is “allowed.”

Jesus is not anti-Jewish he is anti-Pharisee. He also points out that this dispute is not a dispute over Halakah (how to apply the commands of the Torah) but is a dispute over the purpose of the Torah. Jesus wants the “deeper” truths that the Torah points toward to be fundamentally involved in the application while the Pharisees desire to focus on only the outward reality. So, Jesus’ claim that only things that come out of the body can render one impure (i.e., bodily fluids, etc.) is rightfully applied to actions since the also originate “inside” and are completed “outside.”

The second observation, that Christianity was originally conceived as true Jewish religion, is not new but Boyarin adds an interesting twist to this view. He claims that Christianity was not, as many Christian and non-Chritian interpreters have sought to demonstrate, a liberal view but instead is the conservative view in distinction from the ultra conservative view of the Pharisee’s. That is why the passage on foods being “clean” (or, unable to make one “impure”) is connected to the teaching on Qorban. The Markan Jesus is claiming that these so-called “traditions of the elders” (the Qorban) are in opposition to God’s commands (honoring father and mother) and therefore are wrong as they do not understand or sustain the teaching of Scripture. So, this Pharisaic movement, which would eventually (as is supposed) from into the Rabbinic movement, was being exposed by the Markan Jesus as being the too-far-to-the-right Scriptural interpreters and thus enemies of YWHW.

(This observation, according to Boyarin, also helps shed light on Jesus’ claim, in Matthew, that they sought to “convert [other Jews]” since they were not the “only” form of Judaism in the day but they merely were in the ascendent in the certain geographical parts of Judea.)

My takeaway from this chapter is that it just another example of Boyarin’s brilliance − whether his view is accepted or not. Jesus was Jewish, Christianity was/is Jewish. The division between the two religions only exists because of later Creeds. The only thing that would have made the chapter better is if he had engaged with the word of Crossley on this. The rhetoric of the chapter makes the reader believe that this view has not been proposed when it has, by Crossley*. Beside that minor quibble I must commend this chapter for its intriguing thesis.
* Crossley, J G. The date of Mark’s Gospel: insight from the law in earliest Christianity. Vol. 266. T&T Clark, 2004.

 

 

 

The Emperor Has No Clothes – 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Pt. 3

The first SBL that I attended was in San Diego (2007). I had just been introduced to N.T. Wright and I was ready to have every theological and methodological assumption challenged. When I arrived in San Diego I overheard a conversation about a debate between N.T. Wright and one of his former student (I now know this was John Barclay) regarding Paul and Empire. I couldn’t wait! I arrived at the massive meeting room more than an hour before the debate was to start. (Actually, I had time to eat my lunch before anyone else even arrived.)

As the debate was approaching I just knew that N.T. Wright was going to trounce Dr. Barclay. Well, that didn’t happen. Wright decided that he wouldn’t even engage in Barclay’s argument and instead chose to give a speech. Barclay, gave a clever and engaging speech as well which thoroughly convinced me that Paul proclaimed Jesus as the Lord of the world and while his words may be interpreted as anti-empire the reality of this polemic was as real as the claim that emperor’s new clothes were really there.

Thankfully, my favorite professor did his second Phd on Paul and polemics so he helped me see (by letting me read his dissertation) that a stark dichotomy was not necessary like Prof. Barclay was insisting on. Flash forward now to this years SBL, I am in a session on intertextuality and Dr. Fredrick Long makes an extremely compelling case for ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου referring to Caesar. I will do my best to reconstruct his argument from my notes and his handout. (As of yet I haven’t receive his paper.)

The basic claim of the paper was that we have missed the imagery that the Apostle Paul has been using in 2Corinthians ― the imagery of the triumphal procession (2:14). He claims that much of what Paul says is imagery from this process (and the mystery cult tied to it). He links 30 motifs overall but I will give you the strongest links:

1) 2:15 “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” ― many captives died when they arrived at Rome but many times the enemy became Roman.

2) 3:2 “You yourselves are our letter” ― before a general could get a triumph he would write a letter to the city asking permission.

3) 3:3 “You are a letter of Christ” ― paralleled with (with Deissmann) the Imperial letter that would be sent to cities requesting support and then engraved and posted for all to see.

4) 3:18 “Seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror” ― the devotees of Isis wore mirrors in the procession to show respect to the goddesses following them.

5) 4:1 “since it is by God’s mercy” (καθως ηλεηθημεν) ― starting with Julius, pardoning was an imperial strategy with the enemy.

 

The parallel that Dr. Long wants to tease out is that Paul is claiming that he, and those with him, are being led around in procession. He is in bad shape (in regards to his suffering) but he is the prize possessions of the victorious κυριος i.e., if he (the persecutor of the κυριος) could be given mercy, then so could they! But, if they do not have a change of heart and welcome him as the representative of the κυριος then they would be counted as enemies. This is why Paul brings up Moses and the wilderness generation. They two were being led around in procession in the wilderness since they had just defeated Egypt and YHWH wanted procession in his land. They did not trust him; Israel had yet to recover from this. This is why later Paul will proclaim, “Make room for us,” the exact proclamation of those leading the procession.

I am not sure what to make of this view. As soon as I become more familiar with the source material I will be able to make a better judgment. As for now, I have a really tough decision to make when I write my paper.

I’m not sure about Christmas but I know a bit about Sunday

This year the blogsphere has been busy discussing, or should I say condemning, other local expressions of the Lord decision to cancel service due to its conflict with χ-mas. My take on the whole matter is simple: A. To go or not to go to (or have) service is a minor issue that falls in the “gray” area of practice. B. Christmas is not important on the Church calendar C. Therefore, local churches may do what they want. (The Lord will let us know on That Day which was the right call!)

As for my family and I, we attended our old church since I was asked to preach. My sermon was short and this was the thrust:

Every time this year there is always a debate about the validity of Christmas as a CHRISTIAN holiday. Is it the celebration of the Jewish god’s victory over the Roman god? Is it a result of syncretism? Is it blah, blah, blah…

I don’t know and don’t care. I enjoy many things about the “holiday season” and I loathe just as many (if not more). So what…

I don’t have anything to say about Christmas today but I do have something to say about Sunday. It is the celebration not of the coming of the King but of the coming of a servant. The celebration of one who was different. So different our we resist the very thought of Jesus rejecting the title of King yet assuming the role of Messiah, the anointed suffering servant.

Matthew 1:1 ― The book of Jesus the Messiah’s origin, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

The son of David:

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew Jesus has one thing that he needs to make clear

to the characters in the story and to the implied audience ― they have no idea what a Messiah looks like! The messiah was to come to Jerusalem as a servant of Israel’s father not as a glorious king.

King David, whose name means servant, was great because he had a heart after YHWH i.e., a heart that sought to serve YHWH and not to be served by his people. He was Israel’s true king for reasons incomprehensible to his family or his people. While David was successful most people completely resented his reign ― it wasn’t right!

As to honor, kings are supposed to be esteemed, supplicate to no one. The honor of the country rests in the honor demanded by the king. David rejected this! This was a king who was despised by his wife because he stripped himself of his royal robes and danced before YHWH as he really was, a servant. David was a bastard and he never forgot his adoption by YHWH! Jesse was carefully careless when it came to presenting all of his children to Samuel yet David was purposely purposeful in his role as Jesse’ son.

The king is to require only the best and most qualified. David remembered Mephibosheth, the cripple. Kings were to live and die honorably, never acting beneath their right ― David feigned insanity and lived amongst the disheveled and disenfranchised for years. What. A. Fool. ― Unelectable. Unworthy of support is the only rational conclusion for a thinking person!

As for military, everyone knew who the enemy of YHWH was the Philistines. David had over many of them in his guard with some even being in his Mighty Men. The characteristics that were valued by other rulers of the day were despised in the eyes of David. He did not need good bloodlines, success at business or esteem by the masses but what he valued was something else ― something that doesn’t show up on a resume! When a true general is faced with an opportunity, they take it (in the name of YHWH no less). David repented to Saul for touching the anointed of YHWH even though he had been anointed king and was on the run from Saul the now renegade king. Humility looks good on shepherds but is loathsome on generals!

True kings are to never admit wrong or to lack an answer to a critical question. David openly repented before YHWH’s prophet. We have many psalms attributed to David where he awaits an answer from YHWH. Not only does he wait but he tearfully and desperately awaits a critical answer. David was not a perfect person but he was perfect for his role.

Solomon, David’s true son was nothing like his father. Yes, he was the wisest of the wise. Yes, he expanded the borders (almost to the extent promised to Abraham). Yes, he was the great temple builder. Yet, he was nothing like his father. While initially all of Israel ate from Solomon’s table, eventually their supplication meant forced labor for the homes of his baboons. Let that last sentence sink in. Homes. For. His. Baboons. Solomon knew little of service and knew less as he grew older. David was born ‘in sin,’ a bastard, so he knew nothing but service from his birth. In spite of this, he only learned to be the servant YHWH could use at the end of his days.

David was close to being the Great King but neither Solomon, nor his children, were even close to David.

“There is always next year!” That is the cry of the loser. Israel knew this well.

That is until…one could pray this and then fulfill these words.

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” … Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

“And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

As for the son of Abraham…

 

 

The Dark Side of the Moon – 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Pt. 2

A few weeks ago, I decided to see how some non-academic Christians would respond to the possibility of YHWH being the referent to Paul’s claim that ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. I presented this possibility in a weekly Bible study that I lead at the church I used to pastor. Long story short, it didn’t go well. Actually, that’s not accurate; it was a disaster. Not only did none of the attendees agree that this was right none of them were even willing to consider it.

(Just like, IMHO, some in the recent blogsphere who have completely overreacted to our current favorite pastor with foot-in-mouth disease’s comments regarding God hating people.)

Apparently, God’s love is so important that to talk of Jesus’ father blinding people so that they won’t see bordered on heresy. It is like everyone gladly acknowledges, in theory, God’s hatred of things (or people) yet we must never speak of it; It’s there but never comes into play — like the dark side of the moon. This hermeneutical insistence among Christians (that I know either personally or through forms of media) has always puzzled me.(I can’t think of a way that deliverance can be accomplished apart form judgment.) But, since I do not share the need to expunge hatred from God I will present the case for YHWH (or Jesus’ Father) as being the referent for this phrase. (Please note: I am not saying YHWH has to be the referent but, he could be the referent.)

Exhibit A for the current case must be the OT witness of God’s character. First, I must assert that the OT (or the NT, or any other non-canonical literature that I am aware of) EVER claims that YHWH loves everyone at all times in such a way that judgement is never an option. Actually, the opposite is clearly true. (For a particularly blunt statement see Prov 1[1].) While one could mention many passages, it seems that Isaiah 6:9, 10 are the most pertinent verses for the matter at hand.

9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10     Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”

Here, we find YHWH commissioning Isaiah the prophet with a message that appears to have no redemptive value whatsoever. The message, it says in verse 10, is to have the result that those who hear his message (this people) will NOT be repentant and thus be forgiven. On top of that, when Isaiah asks YHWH the duration of this negative purpose he is told that it will be, “until the LORD sends everyone far away,” and if anyone remains, “it will be burned again.” So, we have a very clear text that indicates the God of the Scriptures is very capable of hindering individuals from salvation.

Before moving on, I would like to mention some things about this passage that will aid one coming to a proper interpretation. The book of Isaiah seems to make clear that Isaiah did not always understand this as his purpose. Indeed, he attempted to persuade people to trust God. This language appears to be technical language for judgment or, to put it another way, they were no longer going to be given time to change their ways. God had reaching the point of no return with Israel (especially the leaders) and they were going into Exile for their idolatry.[2] In other words, it does not necessarily indicate that YHWH wanted every single person to be kept from repenting but that the nation’s fate was sealed. It also does not necessarily indicate every single Israelite was idolatrous.

Another text that is worth noting is found in Deuteronomy 29:2 − 4. It says:

Deut. 29:2   Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,  3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders.  4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.

In this passage we have a text that has YHWH claim that the Israelites needed YHWH to give them the ability to understand, see and hear (i.e., in a salvific way). This would seem to contradict the clear requirement of Deut’s message: Obey! But, the more likely understanding of this passage is to understand the verse as and editorial aside that is meant to be understood as, “Until this day, that is, until the day of the reader, the LORD…”[3] So, the statement was a retrospective observation about the reality of Israel’s past spiritual condition. This verse along with the previous interpretation, really make sense if one sees Paul alluding to this verse in 2Cor 3:12 − 15, which says,

“… Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;”

If the previous interpretation of the Deut. 29 is what Paul had in mind when he wrote 2Cor then things begin to make sense. Exodus demonstrates that Israel’s Wilderness Generation was hardened, in that they did not trust YWHW, and Deut claims that “to this day [of the reader which is now up to the time of Paul]” Israel still could not trust their God [in a salvific way].

If all of this is true, (I am persuaded of this!) then it would make YHWH as the referent of the phrase in question very possible.


[1] “Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.”
(Proverbs 1:24–28 NRSV)
[2] For a full discussion of this see, “A Foundational Example of Becoming Like What We Worship.” In We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, 37-70. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.
[3] For a full explanation see Biddle, Mark. Deuteronomy. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Smyth & Helwys Pub, 2003, 438.

Could it be Satan? – An Exegetical Inquiry into 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Pt. 1

This semester I have been attempting to determine the referent of the phrase  ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου in 2 Corinthians 4:4. For me, this text was never in question until I read a blog post by Michael Heiser. Previous to his post I had never actually considered any other referent than Satan as possible for this phrase (BTW, I have learned that is step one in producing really bad exegesis yet, it seems that I unconsciously keep committing this faux pas!). After the article, I realized that I needed to do some work on this passages so I took an independent study on the NT’s use of the OT to hash out my thoughts. During this course, I have come to realize that YHWH, in many but not all ways, would make better sense as the implied referent of the phrase.

Of course, after I had done all my research I attended SBL only to hear a marvelous paper by Frederick Long (from Asbury) that made a compelling argument for another unconsidered referent: Caesar. Not only did his paper thoroughly thrash me for lacking knowledge in the vast aspects of the Greco-Roman world, the session itself challenged the view of intertextuality as solely relying on texts. Dr. Long forcefully demonstrated and argued, in response to an objection, that intertextuality must not only include texts (i.e., written works) but inscriptions, coins, statues, even ceremonial rights etc. He claimed, following a scholar I cannot remember, that this view understands intertextuality as really being intertexturality (look closely), that is, this aspect of exegesis must include the ubiquitous availability of texts, symbols and such that may be echoed in a given cultural context.

In the following posts I will do my best to make the best case available for all three possible referents. Hopefully, by the time I get to the view on Caesar I will have received Dr. Long’s paper so that I can properly summarize his view. Now on to the subject of this post: Could it be Satan?

When surveying the commentaries, monographs and articles one thing becomes immediately clear: Satan is so clearly the referent to the phrase in question that no argument is necessary to substantiate the assertion. (An error that ostensibly is not banished from the works of careful, trained scholars.) This was not always the case though. Amongst the patristic interpreters of this text Hippolytus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrosiaster and Didymus the Blind think that YHWH is the referent to the phrase. The most cogent justifications for identifying Satan as the god of this age/world seems to be:

  1.  1) The similarity with other language view: Eph 2:2. εν αις ποτε περιεπατησατε κατα τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου, κατα τον αρχοντα της εξουσιας του αερος. Here we find the writer of Ephesians claiming that those who were “dead” used to walk in accordance with the present age that was ruled by the prince of the ruler of the air. So, the logic goes that since the two verses share this language ―  the lexeme αιων along with the qualifier οὗτος, and the concept of authority αρχοντα/θεος ―  that supposing the link fair. If one wonders how Satan could be called θεος, then the reply would be that this is how he postures himself in this age.[1]
  2. The apocalyptic view which is best represented by C.K. Barrett: “The god of this age is a bold expression for the devil (cf. 1 Cor. 2:8), based on the commonplace apocalyptic presupposition that in the present age the devil has usurped God’s authority, and is accepted as god by his fellow rebels; only when in the age to come God establishes his kingdom will the devil be driven out.[2]”

Finally, while Hafemann does not have his own view per se, he does add a few more pieces of substantiating evidence explaining “how” this description fits into Paul’s understanding of Satan.[3] I believe he has contributed three additions to this theory:

  1. He notices Paul’s exclusive and careful use of νοηματα. Paul states the Corinthian saints are not ignorant of Satan’s “evil schemes” (νοηματα) whereas the unbelievers have their minds (νοηματα) blinded.
  2. There is an explicit (and unique) emphasis on Paul’s ministry attempting to “take every thought captive” to Jesus’ lordship.
  3. The thought that must be taken captive is the desire to reject Paul because of his suffering. If they do this then they we be misled (“thoughts taken away”) just like the serpent deceived Eve.

In the next post I will attempt to lay out the case for understanding YHWH as the ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου.

[1] Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, 126-27.
[2] Barrett, C. K. Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. London: Continuum, 1973, 130. Also cf. Furnish, Victor Paul. Vol. 32A, II Corinthians: Translated With Introduction, Notes, and Commentary. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008, 220.
[3] Hafemann, Scott. Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3. Peabody, Mass: Paternoster, 2005.

My comments on Willits, “Paul and Matthew: A Descriptive Approach”

Before sharing my thoughts on Joel Willitts article, I think I should share some of my thoughts on the “school-of-thought” to which he belongs. First, in many ways I am in agreement with his “assumption” that Paul was a Torah-observant Jew (although, I will state my concerns with this claim later). Second, while I have a certain affinity with this “assumption,” I do realize that it is an “assumption” so when arguments are built on that foundation the results ought to be held cautiously. Third, I cannot stand arguments that negatively critique other “shools-of-thought” for necessitating certain  “shaky” assumptions, yet, then they allow themselves that very freedom.

In the tradition of the One Minute Manager, I will start with my negative comments. First, I was a bit saddened when I realized that three of the four first articles of this book amounted to a three-on-one fight with David Sim (I am including the next article in the three). While I do not agree with all (or many) of Sim’s conclusions it would have been nice to allow him a chance to respond here. Maybe he was given a chance and he declined or was unable, I do not know, but it seemed a bit unfair. Also, so far in this work I have not come across an actual critique of Sim’s work but there have been many assertions that his work is wrongheaded.

Second, Willits claims that in order for Sim to, “convince a reader, one has to agree to several controversial conclusion ― built on a growing mound of educated guesses ― about both Paul and Matthew.” I would have like him to actually named some of these “controversial conclusions” so that I can hold him, that is Willitts, to his same standard of judgment. What is the definition of controversial in a “post-consensus” era (his term)? Unfortunately, as is the trend so far in this work, this luxury is not afforded to the reader. What scholar does not forward a hypothesis that is built on some assumptions? The Conservative Evangelical school? The F.C. Bauer’s school? The New Perspective school? I think all do it to a varying extent and these assumptions should be allowed inasmuch as they are clearly stated up front as unverifiable.

Willits of course is explicitly guilty of not allowing assumptions for others while allowing them for himself in the article when he says, “I will be conducting the study on Matthew and Paul with the assumption that both were Torah-observant Jews and members of a new form of Judaism that has recently been labelled ‘apostolic Judaism.’” Now, excuse me if I can conceive of this statement as “controversial.” Does this mean that his work is as valuable as Sim’s?  Not only that but what exactly does it mean to say Paul was Torah-observant? I mean, from whose perspective is this label considered to be accurate? Paul does make statements that would lead one to conclude that at least some of the time he does not “keep” the Torah from a strict perspective. On top of that, we have a statement by a member of so-called “apostolic Judaism” (James) that claims if one breaks even one command then they have broken the whole Torah. Would James have considered Paul to be Torah-observant? I think much more work needs to be done in explaining this viewpoint before it can be assumed without this assumption being a problem or, dare I say controversial[1]. I am not in disagreement with this “school,”  I am very excited about its promise, but, I do not think it is good to try and have one’s cake and eat it too.

Third, Willits claims, “apostolic Judaism was allogeneic,” i.e., when related to Judaism it is, “genetically dissimilar but belonged to the same species.” While I like the biological image and agree this is a good direction to try, his assertion seems to demand more than what he has stated ― while Judaism was not normative “apostolic Judaism” was normative. I am not sure that this is a safe assumption considering it is the very thing Sim has tried to exegetically demonstrate as wrong! It is at least possible that Christianity was not monolithic or normative in its early stages.

Fourth, when discussing the theme of judgment-according-to-works he assumes that both writers are working with the same definition of the theme. Would Sim disagree that in some way both writers had an understanding of judgment-according-to-works as a reality (even if they nuance it differently? If Matthew understood this judgment to be “works of Torah” and Paul has explicit statements that can easily understood as countering this claim (e.g., by works of the Law no one is saved), then it seems reasonable for a scholar to follow that path to its logical conclusion. For the life of me I cannot understand why Willitts “descriptive” project would not include Jesus’ command to his followers, which only appears in Matthew’s Gospel, that if they did not keep all of the Torah they would be called least in the Kingdom? One would think a description of this theme in Matthew would have to account for that statement.

Fifth, I completely agree with Willitts, who quotes Mohrlang, that the biggest difficulty in comparing Paul to Matthew is that of genre. I really wish his article would have teased out and/or demonstrated how this can skew ones exegesis. Unfortunately, he does not do this. Instead he states that his opinion regarding the production of synthetic comparisons between two corpa via exegesis, “are counterproductive and unnecessary.” Again, it is unfortunate that he does not follow through on this statement since I cannot think of one reason why this claim would be true! He does, though, leave us with a quote worth thinking about, “There is a high probability when Matthew and Paul address the same topic that they deal with it for different reasons and to accomplish different ends.” Ok, great proposition but can you demonstrate this?

Finally, I would like to reiterate that I am very friendly with this “school” and its direction. I do believe that scholarship will benefit from the work that is produced based on its new assumptions. Just because comparing Paul and Matthew is hard, or difficult, that does not mean that scholars should not attempt the endeavor. Willitts prefers caution while Sim (appears to) like paradigm busting. Both polarities have their benefits and drawbacks.



[1] I am well aware of and have learned much from the work of Mark Nanos and Anders-Runesson.