Monday, October 26, 2009

Quite a good argument re gender neutral priesthood

Its on Clayboy (i.e. Doug Chaplin's blog), and entitled "Rescuing priesthood from Witherington’s “perfectly clear” NT". Read it all here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The interpreter Luke and his audience

Still working on my presentation on Luke's Gospel in Christchurch at the end of this week ...

One 'authorial intention' of Luke which we can be pretty clear about because he tell us it is his intention is to help Theophilus to be more sure of the things he already knows.

We also observe of Luke - to pick out one observation of many we could make - that his gospel, for one so close to Paul, is very light on understanding Jesus' death as an atoning sacrifice for sin. Indeed we could fairly readily argue that Paul's atonement theology is non-existent; that the necessity of Jesus being killed is that, according to Scripture, the Messiah must suffer.

Is it possible that Luke is negligent of atoning theology because this is not a matter of concern to Theophilus? If Theophilus, for example, is like the two centurions (of Luke 7 and Acts 10) then he is an upright man, generous to a fault, and keen as mustard on the God of the Jews but unsure whether truly welcomed into God's kingdom as a Gentile. By the end of Acts Theophilus should be in no doubt that the Messiah of the Jews is the Christ of the Gentiles, God's suffering servant for the world, who welcomes him into God's kingdom.

That is, Luke interprets the gospel of Jesus Christ for his primary audience.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Understanding authorial intention in the gospels

One 'trick' of gospel scholarship is to compare similar gospel passages, make a presumption about who is following whom, and deduce some characteristic or another of a gospel writer.

A case in point concerns today's lectionary reading from Mark 10:35-45 (just looking at one aspect). In Mark's version, James and John seek Jesus out and demand seats of power next to the throne. Jesus tips their thinking upside down and they emerge, for the reader, somewhat the worse for the occasion, arrogant upstarts that they were at that point in their careers as disciples. In Matthew's version, the request comes from the mother of James and John (20:20-21) which, most scholars thinking Matthew follows Mark, raises the question whether Matthew is safeguarding the reputation of James and John. Obviously they do not emerge with complete credit from the occasion, mummy's boys that they are (!!), but they are not as power and status hungry as in Mark's account. But is Matthew safeguarding their reputation?

I suggest it is hard to tell. It is possible that Matthew has better access to the reality of the occasion than Mark, so the mother asking is a more accurate reporting of what happened. But it is also possible that Matthew is concerned for the two brothers' reputation, writing some years after the event, in a time when James' lustre as a martyr for the faith is shining brightly, and John's mana as a senior apostle is growing.

Intriguing then is Luke's account of Jesus' teaching servitude to his disciples. In Luke 22:24-27 this conversation (or one similar to it) is placed later than Matthew and Mark, in the discourse at the Last Supper itself; no request is made by anyone, rather a general dispute breaks out as to which disciple is the greatest; and the names of neither James nor John (nor any other disciple) appear in the account.

Is Luke even more concerned than Matthew about the reputation of James and John? Does he edit the Markan account to make a point in favour of the later apostleship of Paul, namely that none of the Twelve was greater than another? Is Luke dealing with another conversation, similar to Mark 10:35-45, and chooses to omit a copy of Mark 10:35-45? (If so, then the question of whether Luke is saying anything about anyone's reputation remains in the air!)

When options have been canvassed we are left (I suggest) with a great deal of uncertainty as we try to guess the intentions of the gospel writers on some matters.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Questions

Paul Fromont at Prodigal Kiwi has posted a note about some questions, themselves from linked posts, with a reference to pilgrimage for three of them:

1. “Who is it that you seek?”

2. “How then shall we live?”

3. “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

I wonder if these are also hermeneutical questions. That is, questions we might profitably bring to the task of reading and understanding Scripture.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Where does time fly to?

I see some ten days has whizzed by since last posting here. That's partly because of working on my seminar on Preaching Luke's Gospel (see a post or two below). Now I am off on a school camp, needing to remember to think, pray, and prepare a sermon for this coming Sunday. Perhaps some inspiration will come re a little something for Hermeneutics and Human Dignity! One of the ideas percolating in my mind concerns the engagement between Scripture and culture (especially when shifts in culture occur within a generation, as appears to have taken place, and, indeed, continues to take place re human sexuality). There are arguments that cultural shift changes the way we understand Scripture (a good example being attitudes to divorce and remarriage). But then there are arguments that Scripture's role is to critique and to counter culture ...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not Only A Father: Motherly God-Language in the Bible and Christian Tradition

Just noticed, fellow NZ scholar, Tim Bulkeley, is writing a book on God with the title being the title of this post.

It's a book to which you can contribute as it is being written!

Find out more here!

(h/t The Dunedin School)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Authoritative interpretation within the Bible

I have really enjoyed reading a book on Bishop Jewel of Salisbury called John Jewel and the Problem of Doctrinal Authority by W. M. Southgate (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962). It got me thinking a little about doctrinal authority within the Bible itself:

(a) Consensus achieved over time: the canon of Scripture itself is an example of how an authoritative interpretation can be achieved through consensus - this the New Testament is received by the church as the authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament.

(b) Council referral: when certain questions arose in the early church they were settled with reference to a council (Acts 15).

(c) Consulting an apostle: when the Corinthians were troubled by some questions they referred them to the Apostle Paul.

(d) Christ's own authority: within 1 Corinthians Paul appeals to Christ's own teaching (1 Corinthians 7:10) as authoritative.

(e) Complementary collation rather than competition: the inclusion of the four gospels in the New Testament is a stunning example of the church living with variation in the authoritative interpretation of the life and teaching of Jesus. In theory the church could have chosen one and only one version of the Gospel, but it refused to do so. It accepted the four as complements rather than contradictions of each other.

In current Anglican controversy a bit of each of these strategies is being played out.

Some hope that, over time, if we are patient, gracious, and keep talking, a consensus will be achieved.

Some see the answer lying in councils. But which council? Lambeth 1998, for example, or GAFCON 2008 or General Convention 2009?

Quite a lot of consulting of apostles (i.e. their modern equivalents) is going on. But, again, who is right? JI Packer ... NT Wright ... G Robinson ... D Tutu ... R Williams?

Naturally Christ's own authority is invoked! Though curiously, for some, on one issue, it is the authority of Christ's silence on homosexuality, while for others it is the authority of Christ the upholder of the (whole of the) Law of Moses.

Then, as various views are circulating in the Communion, some wish to see the Communion decide on one, others want to attempt to hold all sincerely hold views together.

That's all I have for now.

I guess further questions to consider could include this: do our current controversies have more in common with one question within Scripture rather than another?