Views on what Paul meant by the term Justification subject to debate
Simon Gathercole, recently appointed to a lectureship at the
On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal has recently posted an opinion piece on the writings and influence of Tom Wright, who as the Bishop of Durham in the
Insights into Josephus and the knowledge of Jesus from the First Century
On Thoughts on Antiquity, the writer has put together a useful survey of the information known about Josephus' reference to Jesus Christ. Known technically as The Testimonium Flavianum, it represents what is attributed to Josephus, and what can be deduced as Josephus's original comments. Full details of the material together with an interface to compare different documents relating to the statement from Josephus are given on thiswebsite.
Our thanks to the author for the considerable work he has undertaken to put this material together in the public domain.
New information on first century burials
Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land,
When it was first discovered, it was almost a matter of embarrassment to the Vatican, as it was Catholic archaeologists who both discovered and deciphered the ossuary inscription almost immediately after the Pope had been announcing the discovery of Peter’s sarcophagus in the Vatican, located under the high altar. Simcha Jacobivici’s reference to this
Pfann’s material, while well documented, lacks one point to give it credibility. It appears to be self published on the web only and has not been subjected to peer review in a professional journal.
Notwithstanding, one factor appears to have escaped the minds of most associated with the death of Jesus or his apostles and others in the early church. There appears to be no early tradition of their burial sites. We know that Stephen was the first martyr of the church and within a few years, James the son of Zebedee was also killed by Herod Agrippa. Yet no tradition remains as to the burial sites of these men. One rare exception is that of James the brother of Jesus. Hegesippus, a writer from the second century, records that James was buried where he was slain in the
A really useful afternoon in San Diego
The exhibition is in three parts, starting with a general photographic and video introduction to
The museum has naturally anticipated that some periods will have a larger attendance than others. Monday, for instance, is a low attendance period while Sunday afternoon is peak. I’d recommend that you try to attend in one of the low periods. A helpful timetableis provided on the official museum site. The museum has wisely sought to control the number of viewers at any one period, but on a Sunday afternoon, there were just too many people to do justice to viewing. On the other hand it is great to see so many from
I speak of numbers mainly because it is desirable to get as close as possible to the enlarged photographs and documentation of the fragments. The documentation frequently poses a question of the viewer, but unless you can get close enough, it is a forlorn hope to respond. I also question what may have happened to the lighting of the scrolls when I was there. No lighting effectively illuminated the scrolls themselves with the exception of the Copper Scroll. Now, I appreciate that the lighting has to be controlled and limited for the preservation of the documents themselves. But the lack of direct lighting meant that the Scrolls couldn’t be fully appreciated in their own right given the subdued ambient light available in the room.
The Natural History Museum has joined forces with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Dead Sea Scroll Foundation to assemble this display. What is fascinating is that fragments held by the Department of Antiquities of
The exhibition ends with a focus on the interests of those who wrote the scrolls some two thousand years ago. Those issues as to humanity and its place in the universe are as relevant today as they were then. Here at Vision, we seek to address many of those issues.
What is the New Perspective all about?
Readers of Vision will realize we talk frequently about the apostle Paul. In the field of Pauline studies, we would appear to support what is known as the “New Perspective on Paul.” Yet for many, understanding the differences and the implications is not readily accomplished. It could take a book to effectively contrast Pauline perspectives.
Last week, Bruce Fisk posted a preliminary hand-out on his blog site “Crossings” showing the basic differences of the two approaches. Bruce is preparing this for use in his class New Testament Theology and Ethics at Westmont College Santa Barbara, California, where he is Associate Professor of New Testament. Good work Bruce.
Obviously, any table such as this can only represent an overview at a particular juncture. Both arguments continue to develop and change as a result of interaction. But as one reader commented to Bruce, despite the scholarly interchange in these areas, few commentaries provide this information and the laity, as a result, have little if any real conception of the differences. With acknowledgement to Bruce, his table is reproduced below. The color coding is supplied by Bruce. Names supplied are principal contributors to the discussion.
Lutheran / Traditional Perspective
Justification: how can sinners be made right before God?
Gentile inclusion: on what terms may Gentiles join God’s people?
State of 1st Century Judaism
Burdened by the Law; dead in sin; marked by hypocrisy and legalism; bound up with sin, death & law (in contrast to grace, life & faith).
Vibrant, dynamic, diverse; a religion of grace; pattern of religion: “covenantal nomism*” (Sanders); in (spiritual) exile (Wright)
*"Covenantal Nomism” (according to Sanders): the notion that the Israelite’s place in God’s plan is determined by the covenant which God established with Israel, and that obedience to the law is Israel’s proper response to God’s initial act of grace.
The Law in Judaism
Onerous burden for those who broke it; cause of boasting for those who kept it.
A gracious, delightful gift from God, “holy and righteous and good” (
Paul’s problem with Judaism
Legalism: it promotes legalistic works righteousness; merit theology; pride in accomplishments; faulty view of grace and works
Nationalism / racism / exclusivism / particularism: the role of the Law in establishing boundary markers, Jewish privilege (Dunn); “It is not Christianity” (Sanders)
Paul’s condition prior to conversion
A frustrated, guilt-ridden sinner who valued works over faith, and who struggled unsuccessfully to measure up to the Law’s demands (
A Law-keeping (blameless) Pharisee who denied Jesus was God’s Messiah (
Paul leaves his now-dead ancestral religion and its Law to trust and follow Christ. Paul rejects Law-keeping as impossible and/or pride-producing.
Paul is not “converted” from Judaism but “called” within it to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Stendahl). Paul didn’t so much convert from Judaism but to Christianity (Sanders). See
Justification by faith
The center / organizing principle of Paul’s Gospel: God’s gracious declaration that a sinner is right before God through his faith in Christ’s work. God’s response to human failure / pride.
A “subsidiary crater” in Paul’s thought (Schweitzer); a polemical / apologetic doctrine developed to defend the full status of Gentile converts and to refute Jewish-Christian efforts to impose circumcision, etc. on them.
Repent of dead works and trust in Christ’s atoning work to be justified / saved (
Jesus is the anointed, risen and exalted Lord over all nations (Wright;
Forward: from plight to solution: Law-sin-guilt à faith in Christ à justification apart from Law
Backward: from solution to plight (Sanders): Christ à various (unsystematic, inconsistent, incompatible) assessments of sin & Law (
Or: From plight to solution to plight (Wright): exile à Christ à sin / law
Theme of Romans
A “compendium of Christian doctrine” (Melancthon).
An occasional document defending the faithfulness of God (to the nations, to
Works of the Law (erga nomou, e.g.
Striving to do good; good works performed for salvation
Observing Torah; what pious Jews do; only bad when imposed on Gentiles; passé because it excludes Gentiles.
Pistis Christou (e.g.,
Faith in Christ (objective genitive; anthropological reading) (Dunn)
Faith(fulness) of Christ = subjective genitive; Christological reading (Hays)
Professor of Religion poses ultimate question
In his God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, like others before him, has denied the place of religion in our lives: we as adults should not teach matters of faith to our children. This idea has now been taken up by Hector Avalos, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at
The arguments that can be ranged against such an approach are probably fewer than people might think. Most Christian religions only pay lip service to the Bible. Any detailed study of Christianity shows that most of its major doctrines have no relationship to and are often in stark contradiction to the biblical instruction. So the majority of “Christians,” before reacting viscerally to the ideas of Avalos, should perhaps stop and consider that their belief systems and actions support his argument.
One respondent to Avalos takes the opposite approach. John F. Hobbins in his Blog Ancient Hebrew Poetry highlights the biblical instruction to care for the poor and fatherless and shows how far society is removed from Scripture. To Hobbins, and to this writer, society would be greatly enriched by applying the biblical commands.
The Bible is not old-fashioned and irrelevant to modern circumstances. Living the life of caring for others would be a witness against the rationality of Dawkins and his colleagues. In fact it is the dissonance between biblical injunctions and the way society operates that gets to the very heart of modern problems. But following "The Way" of caring espoused by the Bible would mean obeying commands established in another day and time. And obedience sits uncomfortably with our post modern age, for it implies someone else dictates our lives.
If only we could appreciate how ephemeral our ideas of liberty really are and that we are held in captivity to a destructive system. The first followers of Jesus Christ understood this connection. They showed their allegiance to the way of life He taught by their concern for the other members of their society.
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