Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chapter Six Of Baukham

Last night I read chapter six of Richard Baukham's "Jesus And The Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" (see previous articles for links to purchase). The chapter is called "Eyewitnesses 'from the Beginning' " How can one trust that the eyewitnesses relied upon by the Gospel writers were the best sources for information concerning the acts and teachings of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry? Because these particular eyewitnesses had followed Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry and were still with Him at that ministry's end. These witnesses were active participants in Christ's ministry from beginning to end. The Gospels agree that the time span of Christ's ministry covered His baptism by John to His Resurrection. Some would argue that the beginning would also include those preliminary chapters concerning the birth and early youth of Jesus. However, the Greek words used to describe the commencement of Christ's ministry (archein, arxamenos) are used in the above mentioned time span. (Lk. 3:23, 23:5, Acts 1:1, 10:36) A parallel passage occurs in Jn. 15:26-27 when Jesus tells His followers that they will witness to Him since they had been with Him from the beginning, that is, after his baptism by John. Baukham states that when the word "witness" occurs in John's Gospel, it refers not to all believers but specifically to those who had been with Him at the beginning. (Baukham covers this in more detail in chapter 15.) In Luke's introduction to his gospel, he used the Greek word autoptai, which means first hand observer, when referring to witnesses. In fact, Baukham tells us, we are not to consider those Luke mentions in his introduction, eyewitnesses and ministers of the work, as two separate groups. We are to look upon them as those who first were active participants in Christ's ministry and taught what they saw and heard in their own presentations of the Gospel message. Baukham cites another scholar concerning Luke's introduction in dealing with the statement that Luke investigated these sources. The Greek word Luke used, parekoloutrekoti, does not mean to investigate, but "to follow the mind." What Luke actually said was that he fully comprehended the eyewitness testimony of those who had participated in Christ's earthly ministry from the beginning to the end. This qualified Luke to write a history of that ministry. This standard of writing histories based on testimony of those who participated in all the actions described can be found in other historical works of antiquity, such as the works of Josephus. The standard used by the Apostles to choose a replacement for Judas was that the new Apostle had to have been with Jesus from the beginning. Baukham spends the second half of the chapter examining a phenomenon he calls "Inclusio." (I don't know if this designation is of Baukham's own making or some other scholar.) In Mark's Gospel, Simon/Peter is the first name mentioned after Jesus began His ministry and Peter is the last name of a disciple to appear at the end. The same is true in Luke. This indicates that Peter had been with Jesus from the beginning to the end and that he was the main witness Mark relied on. Peter's influence extends to Luke's Gospel as Luke relied on Mark's when Luke wrote his own. This is what Baukham calls an inclusio, a way of framing the work to indicate that the witness most relied upon was present for the entire time period covered by the work. In John, there is an inclusio demonstrating again that Peter was with Jesus for the entirety of His ministry. Yet the first disciple mentioned in John was the disciple Jesus loved and this same disciple is mentioned last, after Peter. In fact, this disciple identifies himself as the author of the Gospel. So the inclusio of Peter is an inclusio within an inclusio, indicating that the disciple whom Jesus loved was even more qualified than Peter as a witness since he was with Jesus previous to Peter. Another inclusio is Luke's inclusion of Christ's female disciples. In Luke, they appear earlier in his Gospel than the others (Lk 8: 2-3) and they are mentioned at the end (Lk 24:6) This indicates that they may have been the sources to Gospel traditions unique to Luke's Gospel. No such inclusio appears in Matthew. Matthew was not with Jesus at the very beginning; he doesn't appear in the Gospel bearing his name until chapter 9. The inclusio does not appear in other writings that come down to us from that time, however, it does appear in works from later time periods. Therefore the phenomenon of the inclusio being a known literary device during the time period when the Gospels were written is merely speculation on Baukham and others' part. Since most literary works from that time period disappeared, Baukham and others believe that it is entirely plausible that literary works which contained standard literary practices that the Gospel writers emulated no longer exist. Therefore, however convincing Baukham's argument is here concerning the inclusio, this is the one part of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" that is not based on hard evidence. However, more analysis of inclusio appears in chapter 15.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our Lord's Use Of Scripture

The latest article I have read concerning the Old and New Testament relationship is "Our Lord's Use of Scripture" by Pierre Ch. Marcel, available in the April 2009 archives of . To be honest, I found Marcel's style eccentric; there were sections which I simply could not quite grasp his meaning. Too bad. I think that if the article were better written it would have been more useful. Included here are some of its highlights.

How did Christ refer to the Old Testament: Scripture, the Law, the Prophets, the Law and the Prophets, It is written, etc. While Christ's various designations of the Old Testament does not describe the scope and limitations of the Scriptural Cannon, they do indicate that He believed the Old Testament existed as a complete, sacred collection of Jewish writings distinct from all other literature.

Christ interpreted the Old Testament in various ways:

He engaged in what we would call "Free Interpretation"; summarizing various Old Testament Scriptures in one or two sentences. Jn. 8:17, Matt. 19:5, 22: 37-39.

He gave interpretation to Old Testament passages: Matt. 11:10, Lk. 7:27.

Sometimes He would focus on one segment of a Scriptural passage, emphasizing its meaning: Matt. 26:31, 15:7-9.

Christ also practiced what Marcel calls "Exegetical Profundity". Two examples: In Matt. 15:9, which quotes Is. 29:13, Jesus combines both Hebrew and the Septuagint. In Matt. 13: 14-16, quoting Is. 6:9-10, Jesus shows a preference for quoting the Greek because of this passage's historic aorists.

In The Sermon on the Mount, in chapter 5, when Jesus states "It is said", He is not quoting Scripture, but man-made traditions which corrupted Old Testament interpretation.

When religious groups sought to trip up Jesus with their questions, such as in Matt 19:3-9, Jesus demonstrated unsuspected resources of Scripture for those who know Scripture and use it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus points to a wisdom, a profoundness which His disciples can escape dilemmas that human casuistry and rationalism propound.

Marcel emphasizes that Christ's use of the Old Testament establishes an important principle: Scripture interprets Scripture. In following this principle, Christ overruled contradictions and revealed heresies which spring from a lack of proper Scripture synthesis or any true spirituality. Examples: Matt. 19:6, Matt 22:36.

Here is a quote from Marcel's conclusion: "From the manner in which Christ quotes Scripture we find that he recognizes and accepts the Old Testament in its entirety as possessing a normative authority, as the true Word of God, valid for all time."

The bibliography at the end of this article refers to two other articles on this subject, one by R.V.G. Tasker and another by J.W. Wenham. I will read these two before I precede to the third article I had decided to read on the relationship between the Testaments.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Glory In The Cross: A Study Of The Atonement" by Leon Morris

Recently I drove to Fairmont WV to visit a Christian bookstore : "Praise The Lord Store." I found 3 items of interest for less than $5.00. One was a book published in 1966 entitled "Glory In The Cross: A Study In The Atonement" (I could find no direct link for purchase) by the late Biblical scholar Leon Morris. It interested me because of the praise my Systamatic Theology professor gave to a much more full treatment of the Atonement by Morris. I have completed it and will feature my impressions on it within a few months on my main blog. I am not sure but I think Morris was a Calvinist and I have a mixed view of his presentation.

Finishing The Job

When I typed my last entry, I neglected to type page one of my notes. I decided to rectify the situation by making these notes available. So, after one reads these notes, they should then go back to the previous article to gain a full understanding of "The Old Testament As Christian Scripture" by M.J. Evans. Links to this article are to be found in the previous post.

3 Propositions Concerning The Old Testament:

1. The Old Testament must be interpreted within its own context; the straightforward sense must be upheld if its claims as the Word of God are to be taken seriously. The Old Testament must be taken within its context to be taken seriously. But does this mean that the New Testament can be used only as a commentary on the Old Testament, but not as an exegetical tool of the Old Testament.?

2. The Old Testament, rightly understood, speaks constantly of Christ and must be interpreted in that light- Luke 24:27, 44-47, Acts 8:35, 28:23, 2Cor 1:20. Yet not all Old Testament prophesies and proclamations refer directly to Jesus. How can we take seriously the Christiological implications of a text without throwing overboard the original context?

3. The Old Testament is the Word of God. It is not simply a historical survey of God's dealings with Israel, it also speaks directly as God's Word to us in our situation. True, but those who expouse this view are not entitled to ignore the actual meaning of the text. Evans give examples of how Bible studies ask questions about the text, such as "How does this passage relate to me?" and "What blessings can I get from reading this verse?" Evans labels such questions as invalid methods of seeking the text's meaning.

1-3 are valid, but how do we uphold all three at once? How do we practice Old Testament as scripture? In what ways do we use the New Testament in clarifying our understanding of the Old. If scripture is the word of God, then rightly discerning that Word has to be the key to everything else. Therefore, the question of the relationship between the two is not an academic one.

Some say that the New testament can be interpreted in light of the Old Testament, but not vice-versa. Can the New Testament be used to arrive at the meaning of Old Testament Passages?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Old Testament In Scripture" And "The Law In James"

(It appears that I made a major error when composing this article; I took two pages of notes on the first mentioned article, but when typed it up, I neglected to use page one. I thought something was wrong. I decided not to rewrite this article. If one reads the first article, which is only seven pages, then they could see what I failed to mention.)

I have begun reading articles for this blog that appear on the blog . The first two I have read are by M.J. Evans. The first article I read was "The Old Testament As Christian Scripture." (Click on this link and scroll down to March 16th.) Evans provides four views of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments:
1. The Old Testament as solely background or preface to the New Testament which is the only real scripture.
2. The Old Testament as the only real scripture with the New Testament being an interpretive gloss.
3. The Old Testament in its entirety consists of allegories of Christ.
4. Both Old and New Testaments are scripture; both are to be taken seriously in their own right. If this last view is correct, then what difference does the existence of the New Testament make in understanding and in interpreting the Old Testament? Evans gives us three possibility using the analogy of a photograph:
1. Is the Old Testament like an enlargement of a photograph which shows what was always there but not clear to the naked eye?
2. Is the New Testament like a color photo replacing a black and white photo of the same scene?
3. Is the New Testament like an old photo touched up and colorized to give it a sense of reality and clarity which may or may not reflect the original colors?

As Evans points out, the New Testament does not provide specific rules as to Old Testament interpretation. If we accept that it is legitimate to use the New Testament as an interpretive tool of the Old Testament, which method of interpretation is acceptable? To insist on one approach, Evans insists, ignores the variety of form and genre within the Old Testament itself and could therefore lead very quickly to error. While Evans accepts that Old Testament passages should be first interpreted in their own context, he warns against the tendency of some scholars who use the Old to interpret the New but believe to use the New as an interpretive tool of the Old is illegitimate. If we take for granted that the Old Testament text must stand within its own context first, how are we to employ the Old Testament as an interpreter of the New? Evans gives us six possibilities, but I will list only the first three:
1. As background; the context for ideas in the New Testament but more fully developed in the Old, such as the subject of sacrifice.
2. As salvation history.
3. As prophecy that reaches its fulfillment in the New Testament. The Old Testament points outside itself; it contains expectations and promises which are unfulfilled.

Evans states that if we accept that scripture, both Testaments, are the word of God, then the question of their relationship is no mere academic question to be inquired into by just theologians or just pastors.

This article contained a link to another article by Evans on the Old/New Testament relationship entitled "The Law in James." Evans asks three questions:
1. What does James refer to when he speaks of the Law?
2. What function does James ascribe to the Law? Is James saying that the Law is salvific?
3. What attitude or response does James call for from his readers toward the Law?

When James composed this pastoral letter, he assumed three things:
1. The Law is good; the Law brings freedom rather than bondage.
2. The Law calls for a response from its hearers.
3. There is a close correlation between being a doer of the Word and a doer of the Law.
James knew that those who heard his message knew that the Law was good and to speak against it was wrong.

According to Evans, James expects us to obey specific commands; James is not just concerned with a right state of the heart. However, he makes no mention of the ceremonial components of the Law. Nor does he specifically explore the relationship between faith and works in context of the Law. It appears that when James speaks of the Law, he is speaking of more than the Torah; he is also referring to the teachings of Jesus as Law.

Evans believes that James does not call on us to respond to the Law except in the context of our own salvation. The Law does not save, which some scholars believe is the message of James.

I hope to read two other articles on the Old/New Testament relationship soon.