Biblical Theology

A while back I posted on various Ancient Near Eastern sensitivities relating to “creation,” temple, “salvation,” etc., talking about the ways Jon Levenson‘s Creation and the Persistence of Evil. had both radically impacted my understanding of the Bible and had jump-started a new subset of my interests in ANE studies and contextualizing our Bible within its ancient worlds. Though this will probably sound arrogant, I recommend reading the earlier related post if you lack familiarity with what Levenson does in this excellent book…

For now, I want to share one of my favorite quotes from Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence. In part of the 1994 Preface, which itself warrants the price of the book, Levenson explains how and why he conceives of creation-thought, the persistence of evil, and the drama of divine omnipotence together in this exploration of the Hebrew Bible—how he conceives of these as “theodicy” (redefined) issues within the Hebrew Bible. In the midst of this discussion, on p. xvii, Levenson writes,

My failure to address the problem of evil in the philosophical sense, however, rests on more than my own obvious inadequacies. It rests also on a point usually overlooked in discussions of theodicy in a biblical context: the overwhelming tendency of biblical writers as they confront undeserved evil is not to explain it away but to call upon God to blast it away. (more…)

This is a re-post, of sorts…

Unlocking RomansDaniel Kirk’s new book, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God, is now available.

Many of the contributors of this blog, and certainly some of its readers, know Daniel Kirk. Daniel is a MDiv graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (2000). He subsequently completed a PhD in New Testament from Duke University’s Department of Religion, studying under Richard Hays, E.P. Sanders, and Joel Marcus, among others. He wrote a fascinating dissertation on Resurrection in Romans, how Paul re-understood and re-told the significance of Israel in the light of Christ. His advisor was none other than Richard Hays, whose writings certainly molded my thought on Paul and the communal significance of Paul for the church more than anyone else’s writings. Daniel started his job as a professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary this Fall.

During and since his time at Duke Daniel has written a fair amount concerning Paul and the significance of recent scholarship on Paul for the contemporary church. He penned a helpful response to Doug Kelly (Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS-Charlotte) on the New Perspective and Reformed Theology for the PCA’s online news site. He also published a two-part article in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (24 [2006]: 36-64, 133-54) arguing for a passive-obedience-only position both as Scriptural and within the bounds of the Westminster Standards. A shorter version of these articles is available online, as are google-documents versions of the original articles (1 & 2), which require some cleaning-up. Many of you have read, and probably frequent, Daniel’s blog. There, when he has time, he has continued to post refreshing communally and missionally-oriented reflections on Christ, the Bible, hermeneutics, and contemporary scholarship. His reputation as a cutting-edge but church-oriented scholar apparently grew enough that he was asked to present a paper on the New Perspective on Paul at last year’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Daniel has written and published other reviews, essays, and articles in more academically oriented contexts as well. (more…)

Reading Jon Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence several years ago radically impacted the way I read much of the Hebrew Bible. Parts of the Bible came alive in new and exciting ways, especially as I saw things charged with a new significance. Parts of the Hebrew Bible and topics within it became connected for me in new enrichingly deep ways. Challenging new ways for viewing God’s ultimate work in Christ opened up for me.


What did Levenson’s work do for me years back? Among other things, he introduced me to some of the dynamics and functions of ancient Near Eastern mythic-cosmic views of reality and how thought about temples, kings, creation, and “salvation,” all function interconnectedly in such views of reality… (more…)

Here is “The Message’s” take on Judges 5:15-16, from the Song of Deborah and Barak. It’s regarding the tribe of Reuben’s relationship to the God-led victory over the Canaanites:

“But in Reuben’s divisions there was much second-guessing.
Why all those campfire discussions?
Diverted and distracted,
Reuben’s divisions couldn’t make up their minds.”

Any commentary? Applications? Just plain honest thoughts that come to mind?

Many who read this blog are familiar with Judges 11 and its narrative of Jephthah, his vow, and his sacrifice of his daughter. For many this stands as one of the more disturbing narratives in the Bible. Phyllis Trible discusses it in her well known book, Texts of Terror.


Some find Judg 11.29-40, and the narrative’s lack of explicit condemnation, so revolting that they argue Jephthah devotes his daughter to perpetual virginity (or something else besides sacrifice). While I do not agree with such a reading (cleaning-up?) of Judg 11.29-40, I understand the drive to find some way to “deal with” such a disturbing text.


As already mentioned, one of the more disturbing aspects of the narrative for many is its (and God’s within the narrative) silence in terms of any explicit evaluative comment on Jephthah’s vow and sacrifice and its relation to the victory the Lord works. Such is typical of how Hebrew-Bible narrative often works. Understanding the function of this story in the flow of Judges, Judges’ presentation/characterization of Jephthah, etc., depends upon the subtle art of reading Hebrew-Bible narrative. But, I digress…


For now, I want to quote from a 1st century CE Jewish understanding: Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities (Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum), an extensive “re-telling” of Genesis through the death of Saul. What does everyone think? (more…)

Below I have quoted the ESV of Rom 4.22-25. What is the “it” to which the passage refers? To narrow this down to two possible options, is it, especially the third it, Abraham’s faith(fulness) or “our” faith(fulness)?


That is why [his faith] (it) was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (more…)

Studying Paul in his ancient Mediterranean horizon and the reception and handling of Paul in early Christianity are two of my primary areas of historical research. In view of this—and the Conn-verations blog’s focus on issues of hermeneutics and context(s)—every now and then I will try to post on Paul in Christian Origins.


During a short reading break I decided to type out something that has been swirling around my head since I recently read through Jubilees (a 2nd century BCE Jewish writing) again. The following passage stuck out to me in connection with something Paul does in Galatians 3.1-4.7.


Just to be clear at the outset, I do not think that Paul is necessarily writing with Jubilees in mind or that what Paul is doing is predicated upon some unique development within Jubilees. Rather, I prefer to view the following passage from Jubilees as a possible window in on certain ways things might have been understood by some(many?) Early Jews—thus, something that might have been “in the air” in Paul’s context.


But after this they [Israel] will return to me in all uprightness and with all of their heart and soul. And I shall cut off the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their descendents. And I shall create for them a Holy Spirit, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me from that day and forever. And their souls will cleave to me and to all my commandments. And they will do my commandments. And I shall be a father to them, and they will be sons to me. And they will all be called “sons of the living God.” And every angel and spirit will know and acknowledge that they are my sons and I am their father in uprightness and righteousness. And I shall love them. (Jubilees 1.22b-25) (more…)

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