Research – Upcoming and Recent:

“ISRAEL’S SCRIPTURES IN GALATIANS” in The Old Testament in the New: Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament and other Early Christian Writings. Edited by David Lincinum and Matthias Henze. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (forthcoming; manuscript due June 2020).

This essay offers an overview of the issues and scholarly discussions of Paul’s use of the Scriptures in Galatians and builds on the Galatians commentary but especially on Paul and the Stories of Israel: Grand Thematic Narratives in Galatians. Lincinum and Henze’s volume will serve as a reference source for those researching in the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. Lincinum is a professor at the University or Notre Dame and Henze at Rice University.

“THE PAULINE LETTERS IN CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH,” in The Oxford Handbook of Pauline Studies. Edited by R. Barry Matlock. Oxford: Oxford University Press (available on-line; volume to be released in spring 2020).

MODELS FOR RELATING SIN AS A POWER TO HUMAN ACTIVITY IN ROMANS 5:12-21,” in Sin and Its Remedy in Paul. Edited by John Goodrich and Nijay Gupta. London: T & T Clark, essay submitted; forthcoming in 2020.

Goodrich and Gupta’s Sin and Its Remedy in Paul is a collection of invited essays from Pauline scholars on the neglected topic of sin in Paul. They are updated versions of the presentations in the Paul sections in 2017 and 2018 of the Institute for Biblical Research. The participants included Martin de Boer, Bruce Longenecker, and David deSilva. As Goodrich and Gupta described the session on Romans:

Often scholars examine Paul’s theology in terms of his “soteriology,” that is, the themes and constructs that comprise and influence his theology of salvation. This session takes interest in better understanding Paul’s soteriology with focused attention on Paul’s “sin” language (especially hamartia and its cognates, but also key synonyms). Sometimes Paul appears to present sin and disobedience as self-conscious transgression; at other times it is personified and treated as an enslaving power. Is there a model or perspective that can account for these? And what does this tell us about the Christological, Theological, and Pneumatological “remedies” to the problem of sin as Paul conceives of them?

“ISRAEL” in The Pauline Mind. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and David I. Yoon. Routledge Philosophical Minds. New York: Routledge, invited contribution due August 2020.

The Pauline Mind aims to be the most comprehensive reference volume on Paul’s life and thought (as his thought cannot be separated from his life), by discussing his environment and the person within it. Penetrating the mind of Paul means to place him and his letters within the environment of the emergence of the Jesus movement within the first century and how his ideas have had an influence upon the development of Christian thought.

“PAUL AND THE LAW: PRESSURE POINTS IN THE DEBATE.” Updated and expanded version of essay for the 2nd edition of Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on the Apostle. Edited by Mark D. Given. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature (submitted; forthcoming in 2019)

“THE RHETORIC OF CURSE IN GALATIANS 1:10: PERSUADING GOD,” in the Troy Martin Festschrift. Edited by Eric Mason and Mark Whitters (submitted; forthcoming in 2019).

Galatians 1:10, a puzzling verse, presents an array of interpretive problems: 1) the relationship of 1:10 to its immediate context; 2) the translation of peitho, whether as a synonym of aresko or with its usual sense, “to persuade”; 3) the translation of the Greek particle in the first clause (e) with either a conjunctive or disjunctive sense, which, in turn, yields four possibilities: a) Paul is trying to persuade/please people and God; b) Paul is not trying to persuade/please either people or God; c) Paul is trying to persuade/please people but not God; and d) Paul is trying to persuade/please God but not people. The connections between 1:9 and 1:10 suggest that Paul is indeed attempting through the language of curse to persuade God to call down wrath on the rival teachers. The language of curse is a rhetorically powerful means of persuading human beings as well. The danger is that rhetorical persuasion in antiquity could devolve into people-pleasing. The essay probes the Greco-Roman milieu of Paul’s thinking.

“LAW” in The Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, Benjamin L. Gladd, and Andrew David Naselli. Grand Rapids: Baker (forthcoming; manuscript due December 2019).

This essay provides an overview into the issues that scholars are debating over the New Testament’s use of the Mosaic Law, for a volume intended to serve as a reference source on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. The well-known New Testament scholars G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson previously published a Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker, 2007). They now welcome into their more topical labors former students Benjamin Gladd and Andrew David Naselli as co-editors. The new volume will likely be as popular as the previous volume and will certainly supplement it in essential ways.

“THE TRADITIONAL PROTESTANT PERSPECTIVE ON PAUL” in Paul in Perspective: Five Views. Edited by Scot McKnight and B. J. Oropeza, Grand Rapids: Baker, forthcoming in 2020 (manuscript submitted). Other contributors: James D. G. Dunn, John M. G Barclay, Brant Pitre, and Magnus Zetterholm.

Scot McKnight and B. J. Oropeza are preparing for a November 2020 release from Baker Paul in Perspective: Five Views. The “traditional Protestant Perspective on Paul,” my assignment, entails typically three interrelated claims: 1) Second Temple Jews adhered to a religion of works righteousness and legalism; 2) Paul, in response, emphasized God’s free grace over against human works; 3) That emphasis on sheer grace exclusive of works is characteristic of God’s saving, justifying activity. All three claims are disputed in modern Pauline scholarship. This volume brings the Protestant perspective into dialogue with  the new perspective on Paul (James D. G. Dunn), the grace perspective on Paul (John M. G. Barclay), the Paul-within-Judaism perspective (Magnus Zetterholm), and the Catholic perspective on Paul (Brant Pitre). James D. G. Dunn and John M. G. Barclay are arguably among the top five living Pauline specialists. Magnus Zetterholm published a widely-respected textbook on Paul: Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship (Fortress Press, 2009), and he includes there a section on my work. Brant Pitre, with two colleagues, is publishing a new book from Eerdmans advancing an innovative Roman Catholic reading of Paul. After each author presents an essay defending his position, the other contributors provide their reactions and critique. Each author then offers concluding comments on the discussion. This volume will be very helpful for those looking for an introduction to these scholarly debates, but the authors are all seeking to offer genuine contributions as well. The volume will be very useful in classrooms on Paul the Apostle.

“ISRAEL’S EXODUS OUTSIDE PAUL’S CORINTHIANS CORRESPONDENCE,” in Paul and Moses. Edited by Florian Wilk. Studies in Education and Religion in Ancient and Pre-Modern History in the Mediterranean and Its Environs. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck (paper due November 2019; forthcoming in 2020).

In 2019 Prof. Dr. Florian Wilk of the University of Göttingen convened an invited seminar of German- and English-speaking scholars to present papers and discuss Paul’s use of the Mosaic traditions in the Corinthian correspondence. Two of the papers–Ross Wagner’s and mine–were devoted to Mosaic traditions outside the Corinthian correspondence. Prof. Wagner limited his focus to Sinai traditions and the Law in Paul’s other letters, while my assignment was Israel’s Exodus. In this essay, I expand my critique of an Exodus grand thematic narrative in Galatians to Romans (see the corresponding chapter in Paul and the Stories of Israel). In his reflections on one of my essays in Scripture and Echoes in Romans (Fortress Academic / Lexington Books, forthcoming in 2020), Craig Keener cited Paul’s allusions to the Exodus as evidence of the Roman audience’s familiarity with the Jewish Scriptures, a conclusion which he recognizes I would disagree with. This essay casts doubt on such optimism, while also reviewing the problems with such a reading of Galatians.

“LUTHER ON THE SCRIPTURES IN GALATIANS—AND ITS READERS” in Semper Reformanda: The Enduring Value of Martin Luther’s Insights for Biblical and Theological Studies (submitted and forthcoming in 2019 or early 2020).

Martin Luther was arguably first a student of the Old Testament. He lectured on the Old Testament far more than on his beloved Apostle Paul. Luther was immersed in the Scriptural heritage Paul was drawing on in his writings. To what extent, then, was as accomplished an interpreter of Old Testament as Luther sensitive to the allusions and echoes that modern Pauline specialists have detected in the pages of Galatians. Luther demonstrated an awareness of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament but not the weaker allusions and echoes moderns have identified. This raises the question whether ancient audiences, largely illiterate and without the same years of intense study of texts, would detect such allusions and echoes. Perhaps Paul expected his close companions to interpret his letters and their layered use of Scripture for his audiences, but many of these letters served more than one community, and Paul appears to have written his letters so that the ancient listener would not need much knowledge of the Scriptures in order to follow the Apostle’s line of thought. Luther offers a sobering test case for modern Pauline studies of intertextuality.

PERI HAMARTIAS AS THE SIN-OFFERING IN ROMANS 8:3: A CRITIQUE” in Scripture and Echoes in Romans. Edited by Linda Belleville and A. Andrew Das. Lanham, MD: Fortress Press / Lexington Books (submitted; forthcoming in 2020); original paper delivered at the 2018 Scripture in Paul session at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

N. T. Wright’s first published essay is subjected here to a linguistic and contextual evaluation. Wright contended that the phrase περὶ ἁμαρτίας in Rom. 8:3 should be understood as a reference to the sin-offering, a position now viewed as certain by many Pauline specialists. Wright noted how sacrificial language imbues the contexts of 44 of 54 instances of the anarthrous περὶ ἁμαρτίας, a shortened form of the fuller τὸ περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας, used for the sin-offering. Wright then turned to the context of Rom. 8:3 and the lament of the “I” over unwilling sin, precisely what the sin-offering addressed. In fact, as Das shows, nine of Wright’s ten exceptions are not actually exceptions to his thesis. The presence of syntagmatic markers of sacrifice are decisive in each instance. Wright overlooked, however, how frequently the similar phrase περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας is used for individual sin in non-sacrificial contexts. Isaiah 53:10 also uses περὶ ἁμαρτίας in a generalized sense, “for sin.” While Philo uses the anarthrous phrase in sacrificial contexts for the sin offering, one Second Temple text follows the pattern in non-sacrificial contexts of using the arthrous phrase for individual sin. The author of Hebrews uses the anarthrous phrase for the sin-offering but not where the context is non-sacrificial. Other NT texts use the arthrous and anarthrous phrases in non-sacrificial contexts for sin and not the sin-offering. Thus the sin-offering, when present, is always signaled by a sacrificial context, but such a context is not clear in Rom. 8:3 as Paul discusses individual sin or the power of Sin in the verses that precede. Apart from those contextual markers περὶ ἁμαρτίας simply means “for sin.” The use of περὶ ἁμαρτίας for the sin-offering would represent an unprecedented and unsignaled shift in the meaning of the word ἁμαρτία, inconsistent with the two prior uses of the same word in the same verse. Paul does not elsewhere use ἁμαρτία for the sin-offering.

Craig Keener’s reflections on my essay in his invited (and helpful!) conclusion to Scripture and Echoes in Romans appeals to sacrificial allusions elsewhere in Romans 3:25, 8:32, and 12:1 (the Christian life as a metaphorical sacrifice)–although he concedes that I have offered a case elsewhere against an allusion in Rom. 8:32 to Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac (see my chapter on the Aqedah in Paul and the Stories of Israel). One may grant sacrificial imagery elsewhere in the letter, but that alone is of little value for the interpretation of Rom. 8:3. Keener concedes that the immediate context of Rom. 8:3 does not favor a sin-offering allusion. He also bypasses my essay’s discussion of the linguistic constraints that militate against the interpretation. In other words, the original essay offers a layered set of problems for the sin-offering allusion to which Keener is predisposed.

“CHRIST AS MESSIAH IN ROMANS” in Scripture and Echoes in Romans. Edited by Linda Belleville and A. Andrew Das. Lanham, MD: Fortress Press / Lexington Books (submitted; forthcoming in 2020); invited paper delivered at the 2018 Pauline Studies session at the 2016 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Christ is at the climax of Paul’s list of blessings granted to Israel (Rom. 9:4-5). This essay in Scripture and Echoes in Romans investigates the role of Israel’s Messiah in the Letter to the Romans. The essay first examines Second Temple messianic traditions, then how Paul uses the perplexing word Christos and, finally, how Paul adapts these traditions in Romans. Second Temple texts offer a variety of messianic notions, from little or no interest, to multiple messianic figures, to a Davidic figure. How, then, would the Roman gentile Christians understand a Jewish messianic figure, especially when there is no evidence for gentile familiarity with such a figure prior to the first Jewish revolt in 66-70 CE? Scholars have been divided over whether the word Christos is a proper name or a messianic title. The recent alternative of an honorific is the most likely option. With an honorific, the supernominal associations of “Christ” as Messiah may or may not come to the fore in any given context. The text of Romans must be determinative. Turning, then, to the letter itself, Rom. 9:5 is not especially helpful for Paul’s thinking regarding the Messiah. Romans 1:3-4, on the other hand, identifies Jesus’s Davidic lineage. Jesus is the Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead, a surprising twist in the Messiah’s fate. In Rom. 15:9 God’s activity on behalf of the Davidic Anointed One (Ps.17:50-51 LXX) confirms promises made centuries before to the patriarchs (Rom. 15:8)—and to David (2 Sam. 7:14). Romans 15:12 describes the “shoot (or root; ῥίζα) of Jesse” “raised up” “to rule the gentiles” (Isa. 11:10). Paul ignores the Masoretic text’s “ensign” or battle flag symbolizing Israel’s military dominance. He removes the Septuagint’s threatening “in that day” and recontextualizes the Isaiah prophecy in terms of missionary fulfillment. The praise of the gentiles in Rom. 15:10 is with God’s people rather above or below them. Christ died for his enemies and did not forcibly subject them. Paul has, in effect, reinterpreted and subverted those strands of messianic expectation of a Davidic ruling figure by placing them within a different framework. Paul does not otherwise expand on these expectations, likely to avoid Jewish ethnic, political, and military associations.

Craig Keener’s reaction to this essay in his conclusion to the volume assumes that the Roman audience would have been familiar with Jewish messianic expectations. He does not account for, however, the essay’s evidence that Jewish messianic expectations are unknown in the Greco-Roman world prior to 70 CE. It is precisely such lack of clarity about what a descendant of David might mean that requires Paul to explain for his audiences in what the Davidic Messiah’s rule consists. Paul assumes only a basic level of familiarity with David as Israel’s most famous king of old.

REMARRIAGE IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY

 This work, the first of its kind, will offer a comprehensive examination of remarriage in the early Christian movement. An introduction will briefly survey the cultural acceptability of divorce and remarriage in the Jewish, Greco-Roman, and modern worlds. Even as historical Jesus researchers have lamented finding images of themselves at the bottom of the well, any study of remarriage must begin cognizant of the modern researcher’s social location. Taking into account the full range of recent methodological critiques of Jesus research, the first chapter will apply a variety of criteria—traditional and refined—to offer a surer reconstruction of a “historical Jesus,” who taught very strictly against both divorce and remarriage. The Gospels of Mark and Luke convey to their audiences the same rigorous (and counter-cultural) teaching. The second chapter will examine in detail the divorce and remarriage passages in Matthew’s Gospel, especially their exception clauses (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Although scholars regularly consider the exceptions modifications of Jesus’ teaching on both divorce and remarriage, they likely modify only Jesus’ prohibition of divorce. The Apostle Paul tackles divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7, the topic of the third chapter. He allows both a divorce between a Christ-believer and a non-Christ-believer and, most would contend, remarriage after divorce. Although several verses in the chapter may be construed as permitting remarriage, ultimately 1 Cor. 7 restricts remarriage to those whose spouses have died. The final chapter will trace early Christian teaching on remarriage through the beginning of the fifth century. The conclusion will briefly overview the changes that began in the fifth and sixth centuries in the Eastern church, the growing laxity in the Western church, and the early Reformation’s rejection, with Erasmus, of the firm stance against remarriage taken by the majority of early Christian writers after the New Testament. (submitted to a potential publisher)

Presentations – Upcoming and Recent:

University of Göttingen seminar May 2019:

PAULUS UND MOSE. ZUR DEUTUNG DER TRADITIONEN UM ISRAELS AM SINAI UND IN DER WÜSTE DURCH DEN VÖLKERAPOSTEL

The English-speaking scholars participating in this seminar alongside the European contingent include Richard B. Hays, Roy Ciampa, Scott Hafemann, and J. Ross Wagner.

Society of Biblical Literature November 2018:

PERI HAMARTIAS AS THE SIN-OFFERING IN ROMANS 8:3: A CRITIQUE”

Delivered at the Scripture in Paul session.

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas August 2018:

Invited to respond to an essay on Philo and Paul by an esteemed Norwegian colleague and Philo specialist, Prof. Per Jarle Bekken, at the 2018 meetings of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas in Athens.

Society of Biblical Literature November 2017:

Response to Matthew W. Bates, “The Christ Praises God Among the Nations: Toward a New Christological Model,” Scripture and Paul Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting (Boston)

Dr. Bates assumed Ross Wagner’s translation of Romans 15:9 as the basis for his Christological model. I therefore responded by drawing on the extensive grammatical critique I had offered of Wagner as well as a superior alternative translation in my earlier article,“‘Praise the Lord, All You Gentiles’: The Encoded Audience of Romans 15:7-13,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34 (2011): 90-110.

Institute for Biblical Research November 2017:

SIN AND ITS REMEDY IN ROMANS

Often scholars examine Paul’s theology in terms of his “soteriology,” that is, the themes and constructs that comprise and influence his theology of salvation. This session takes interest in better understanding Paul’s soteriology with focused attention on Paul’s “sin” language (especially hamartia and its cognates, but also key synonyms). Sometimes Paul appears to present sin and disobedience as self-conscious transgression; at other times it is personified and treated as an enslaving power. Is there a model or perspective that can account for these? And what does this tell us about the Christological, Theological, and Pneumatological “remedies” to the problem of sin as Paul conceives of them?

The paper delivered in 2017 at IBR will be published in a forthcoming volume on Sin in Romans edited by Drs. John Goodrich and Nijay Gupta.

 Society of Biblical Literature November 2016:

THE RHETORIC OF CURSE IN GALATIANS 1:10

 Galatians 1:10 begins with a question that has proven difficult to interpret. Paul’s verb in that initial question (peitho) is regularly used for rhetorical persuasion, but some contend that it may also be used for flattery or people-pleasing, much like the verb in his second question (aresko). Lexical evidence, however, distinguishes the two verbs, and the second question is not a restatement of the first. Since rhetoric was often perceived by some in Greco-Roman world negatively as flattery or people-pleasing, the second question in 1:10 is a natural clarification of the first. Peitho thus bears its ordinary sense of to persuade, but what would it mean for Paul to persuade God? Or is Paul only trying to persuade people? Most interpreters have concluded that Paul is only trying to persuade human beings.

Galatians 1:10, however, is rhetorically linked to 1:9, which raises the specter that Paul is indeed attempting to persuade God. Paul phrases Gal. 1:8-9 with divine-passive constructions further embedded within conditional sentences. Paul is not himself cursing anyone. Despite the use of anathema from the Hebrew Bible (and from not the Greco-Roman milieu), the mention of heavenly angels and contrary gospels in the protases and the divine-passive constructions in the apodoses guarantee that the gentile Galatians will recognize the language of curse, to which Paul returns with different vocabulary in Gal. 3. In the social context of Asia Minor with the ubiquity of curse tablets, the evocation of a divine curse is a finely contextualized appeal to the gentile Galatians.

 Greco-Roman curses were not effective in themselves but depended on the speaker’s own authority and expertise, which often included identification with a god. Paul is therefore clear that he is sent from God and is one with that God. In fact, the letter closes, like a bookend, with Paul warning of the talisman-like mark that he bears (6:17). Even within the ANE context, a covenant entailed divine witnesses who enforced the curses, should a party break the covenantal oath. Biblical curses, of course, depended on the consent and activity of the one God. Second Temple literature thus attests to various individuals’ attempts to persuade God to enact curses. Paul too is handing those who dissent from his divinely-given message over to his God. Few commentators have recognized the rhetoric of curse as Paul attempts to persuade both God and his hearers.

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas August 2016:

IMPERIAL CULT PRESSURE ON THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT: MYTH AND REALITY RELATIVE TO PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

Recent research has rightly stressed the ubiquity of the imperial cult in the first-century Roman world of the earliest Christ-believers. A number of Pauline specialists have identified the Letter to the Galatians as offering evidence for pressure on gentile Christ-believers to join the Jewish community. The gentile Christ-believers had endangered the exemption that the Jewish Christ-believers as Jews enjoyed from participating in the imperial cult. Non-Christ-believing Jews could point to the Christ-believers as an illegitimate, mixed association that did not enjoy the legal exemptions granted to the Jewish community. With gentile circumcision and Law observance, the Christ-believing community would enjoy the same exemption from the imperial cult activities as the non-Christ-believing community.

This approach to the Galatian situation makes a number of assumptions: 1) the governing authorities were acting against illicit movements and associations in general; 2) Judaism was an officially recognized religio licita; 3) the governing authorities enforced the imperial cult; and, finally, 4) the early Christ-believing movement at the time of Paul’s letter was a recognizable entity and of sufficient significance to warrant state-sponsored persecution. Each of these assumptions is problematic. This paper will offer a corrective with implications for other studies of the impact of the imperial cult on early Christianity.

Projects:

Christian Standard Bible

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB), born out of an ongoing commitment to both scholarship and readability.  A transdenominational team incorporated feedback from pastors, seminaries, and conservative, evangelical denominations. The result is a Bible that faithfully and accurately captures the Bible’s original meaning without compromising clarity, helping you experience God’s truth as never before.  It is literally the best translation in English available, the most faithful to the original and the most readable. More